Top Five Most Exciting Lebowski Fest Moments

This is a giant toe cake
This is a giant toe cake
LebowskiFest.com

L.A. Weekly is celebrating The Big Lebowski's 15th anniversary with a massive cover story tribute! Check out our other Lebowski-themed stories. Not doing so would be very un-Dude.

I saw The Big Lebowski when it came out in early 1998 and left feeling fairly indifferent. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't love it the way I do now. I certainly had no idea I'd see it more than 100 times, or that my friend Scott Shuffitt and I would start Lebowski Fest in 2002 in our hometown of Louisville, Ky. -- which we did as a joke, by the way. Much to our surprise, 150 people attended; when we did it again the next year, 10 times more showed up.

Lebowski Fest since has expanded to 25 cities around the globe, celebrating the film with screenings, costume contests, live music and appearances by the movie's stars, all for the amusement of fellow fans, known as Achievers. (Fun fact: At the New York fest last year, every time Steve Buscemi tried to talk, the Achievers shouted: "Shut the fuck up, Donnie!")

Here are my top five Lebowski Fest experiences.

5. Going on The Price Is Right

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In 2005, while in town for Lebowski Fest L.A., 20 fans put on our green Achiever T-shirts and invaded The Price Is Right. An Achiever named Chelsea even got to be a contestant, winning a $1,200 cotton candy maker. During the commercial break, Bob Barker, in all seriousness, asked us what we had "achieved."

4. Dead Uncle Charlie

At the costume contest for Lebowski Fest Louisville in 2006, a group of guys from Kansas City brought a Folgers coffee can filled with the ashes of their Uncle Charlie. They used to regularly watch the film with him before he died of cancer, and his dying wish was to have his mortal remains entered into the contest as "Donnie's Ashes." He won second place.

Lebowski Fest founder Will Russell
Lebowski Fest founder Will Russell
LebowskiFest.com

3. The toe cake

The head baker on the Food Network's Ace of Cakes show is a Baltimore Achiever named Duff Goldman. He, God bless him, made a giant toe cake for Lebowski Fest Louisville in 2008 (above). About 4 feet by 3 feet, it took him 70 hours to complete; it depicted the severed toe (complete with green toenail polish) thought to belong to Tara Reid's Bunny Lebowski character but actually belonging to the German nihilist played by Aimee Mann. It was filled with Kahlua and vodka, and was devoured in about three minutes flat.

 

2. Shepard Fairey collaboration

I'm a big Fairey fan, and we contacted him in 2003 to do a Lebowski Fest poster with the image of Nixon bowling. Fairey, of course, had done a lot of work with Nixon's image and was game for this project. Only 300 were produced, and they've sold for more than $1,000 on eBay.

1. Jeff Bridges' jelly sandal

I finally got to meet Jeff Bridges, the Dude himself, in 2005, at Lebowski Fest Louisville. He and his band, The Abiders, performed; Bridges played guitar and sang, and they opened with "The Man in Me." He wore a bowling shirt and, even better, the very jelly sandals his character dons in the film. He let me try on the one for the right foot, even insisting I take my sock off for the full effect. It was a perfect fit, if a bit moist.

L.A. Weekly is celebrating The Big Lebowski's 15th anniversary with a massive cover story tribute! Check out our other Lebowski-themed stories. Not doing so would be very un-Dude.

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