The Dude abides. And so does that Dude over there.... and that Dude, with the really natty bathrobe... and that Dude, who looks a lot more Duderiffic when he's standing next to the guy dressed as Walter. There are a lot of Dudes running around the Wiltern at the first night of Lebowski Fest 2009, the impassioned fans' celebration of the Coen Brothers 1998 caper The Big Lebowski, and every single one of them abides. (Perhaps none more so than the one who leads us through the prayer of the Dude before the proceedings begin. Which you can, too, if you'd like to become an ordained minister of Dudeism.)
And so does Guinness Record-breaking, nine-year-old Japanese guitar wunderkind Yuto Miyazawa, whose rather un-Lebowski related presence was initially jarring to say the least. Thirty seconds into this warm-up for the feature film screening and guest appearances, however, and the kid had every Dude, Walter, Jesus Quintana, and even the guy in the corner in a wheelchair dressed as Lebowski himself eating out of the palm of his tiny hand. (We still can't figure out how he gets up and down the fret board so fast. Duuuuuude.) What more does it take to get people to have fun than some good music, good company, and a cocktail or two... well, beer and wine pretty and much everything except the Dude's drink of choice, at least until the reserves arrived. (Didn't they realize the run on White Russians was going to be so heavy they'd better stock up on extra milk?)
Eventually, the Achievers settle into their seats as Lebowski Fest founders Scott Shuffitt and Will Russell introduce the evening's special guests -- the Ralph's checkout girl! Coen Brothers MVP Jon Polito! Woo the rug-pisser! -- all leading up to an appearance by the real-life Dude himself, Jeff Dowd. Few dudes walking this earth can command such rapt attention from hundreds while basically rambling in and out of anecdotes and just takin' it eeeeasy, man. After a roll call for who's planning to come out for the second night of the fest in Lakewood, and a righteous greeting via "satellite" from the one and only Señor Jeff Bridges himself -- In character! Well, except when he put the Tron helmet on his head. Then again, we can imagine the Dude has had stranger things on his head many a time -- the film finally starts. Picture? It's okay. Sound? Kinda terrible, actually. But no one gives a damn, they know all the best lines anyway and are more than willing to recite them with abandon. You really can't beat a capacity crowd bellowing, "Shut the fuck up, Donny!" in unison.
For those who missed the party, here's a bit of Yuto Miyazawa tearing up "Crazy Train":
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And just for the hell of it, Dude:
Lebowski Fest continues tonight with costume contests and a lot of bowling, Dude, at Cal Bowl, 2500 E Carson St. in Lakewood. For more information, check out www.lebowskifest.com - and for any non-Angelenos reading, take note, the show's going on the road this summer!