It's a balmy Friday and just north of the Long Beach Airport, the Lebowski Fest 2009 crew has landed, ready to launch into the second night of their all-stops The Big Lebowski celebration by bowling the night away at Lakewood's Cal Bowl. The problem is, no one seemed to tell the local league players, who are still heavy into their games when the event's start time rolls around.
Scores of partygoers sporting “Little Lebowski Urban Achievers” T-shirts and The Dude's iconic yellow-and-brown “Medina Sod” bowling shirt, ladies in redhead bobs and green bathrobes (the iconic look of Julianne Moore's character, Maude), plus even more Dudes, Walters and Jesus Quintanas than had showed up at the Wiltern screening the previous night, are lined up outside the bowling alley waiting to get in and blast some pins to kingdom come. Some take advantage of the extra wait time to duck into M&M Soul Food next door to get some grub (mmm, cornbread and fried catfish), while others hold each other's place in line while they steal away into the bar for a beer.
At long last, the Fest staffers let the gang inside, but still hold them just in front of the alley floor until the last few games wrap up – a final precaution that proves worth the wait as everyone gets to witness one especially bad-ass Lakewood leaguer roll a perfect 300, erupting into cheers and applause. That guy must feel like a superstar.
Where the first night of Lebowski Fest was about gathering in a more formal setting (well, kinda formal…) to watch the film, tonight is all about cutting loose, as the multitude of fans — costumed and not, and some of the costumes are really extraordinary, like the guy dressed as a carton of half-and-half! — scramble into the building to secure a lane, and line up halfway down the concourse for their requisite White Russians. (Twice the size of the ones they were pouring at the Wiltern, at the same price. Why don't we hang out in Lakewood more often?!)
The Dudeism crew are signing up new recruits for $20 a pop, and the trivia and costume contests are in full swing. Liam O'Brien, the actor who portrays John Turturro's bowling partner in the film, mingles with fans and throws a few frames, coaxed into performing his trademark ball-cleaning-shimmy for the cameras later. Robin Jones, the perky blonde who doles out the evil eye to the Dude at the Ralph's checkout early in the film, is here again and this time she brought her identical twin sister. (Photo-op!)
Lu Jones, who plays the coffee shop waitress who memorably asks John Goodman's Walter if he couldn't just keep it down a little — “this is a family restaurant!” — shares stories about how many people still come up to her this day thanks to a role that was one of the briefest of her career, and in a nutshell encapsulates everything that tonight and pretty much every heartfelt celebration of geekdom is really about. That film (or show, or what have you) that strikes a chord and speaks to you, that can draw people together even when, as in the Coen Brothers universe, it's shot through with a particular lunacy… no, especially when it's like that. Hell, it's not every night that you get to shimmy down the lane and make a 7-10 split in your bathrobe.