Lebowski Fest, Night One
Beverly Hills was full of far more “achievers” on Friday — the handle Lebowski Fest co-founder Will Russell has applied to the hardcore fans of the Coen brothers' 1998 film. Lebowski Fest, held here in Los Angeles since 2002, brought about a thousand The Big Lebowski fanatics to the Saban Theatre, many dressed as characters from the film. There were many Walters with fishing vests and yellow-tinted glasses, Maudes, mostly petite women with bang hairstyles or wigs and some with horned Viking hats, Jesuses, in purple bowling attire and hairnets and, of course, plenty of The Dudes, long haired, robe and sunglasses wearing Jeff Bridges lookalikes sipping on $12 White Russians.
Some of the costumes were downright spot on (I had to examine one particular Walter Sobchak up close to make sure it wasn't really John Goodman). Others, meanwhile, merely made the effort. One particular short dark-haired swarthy man in a grayish bathrobe with black Chuck Taylor All-Stars on (The Dude wears jelly sandals, thank you very much) was such a slacker version of the quintessential slacker himself that the meta-ness of it all was almost too much to handle. Others were dressed only in Lebowski themed apparel — T-shirts that read “The Dude Abides,” “Mark it Zero,” or the less commonly repeated “Nice Marmot.” Yet one thing was clear: 15 years after the movie came out, the Lebowski liturgy is alive and well.
Friday night's event featured Lebowski poster art, an abundance of merchandise, appearances by actors from the film, and live music by The Kyle Gass Band. KGB took the stage with each member of the band dressed like a character from the film, while the Gipsy Kings' version of “Hotel California” played.
Gass himself came as Walter Sobchak, and the only nihilist I saw at the entire event was his drummer Nate Rothacker, who kept rhythm dressed in full-body red spandex, from the Dude's castration anxiety dream. The band performed their own version of Kenny Rogers's “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” to a crowd that was dancing in the aisles. Then, after playing a KGB original, “Man Child,” the group playfully went into the first few bars of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles. Instantaneous boos from the crowd rained down until guitarist Mike Bray, dressed as The Dude, put the kibosh on it and kicked off a cover of CCR's “Lookin' Out my Back Door.”
But the highlight of the night occurred shortly after when…
… Jack Black made a cameo to sing “Viva Las Vegas” with the band, entering the stage by running through the aisles and wearing an Elvis impersonator outfit that looked more like Evel Knievel with an Elvis hairdo.
After KGB wrapped up their set, a handful of actors from the film were introduced one by one, each delivering the catchphrase or body movement that is now immortalized in the film.
First came Lu Elrod, the waitress who took exception to Walter's loud swearing. Then Luis Colina, who played the Corvette owner. Then Jim Hoosier, who played Liam, The Jesus's bowling partner. Then Philip Moon, aka Woo, the carpet pisser. Jack Kehler, who played The Dude's landlord then came on and performed a piece from his “cycle”. And lastly Leon Russom, who played the sheriff of Malibu, put on a rather entertaining reenactment of his scene complete with a coffee mug to the forehead of a Dude lookalike.
The first night of the Lebowski Fest ended with a screening of the film. Audience members, yelled lines from the film as they happened, cheered wildly, and laughed vigorously. It was like one of those Rocky Horror Picture Show events, except more organic.
Personal bias: I've probably seen this film 200 times and often fantasize that I'm in particular scenes. Also, as a person of the Persian ethnicity, I feel very strongly about people urinating on nice rugs.
Overheard in the crowd: Any line from the movie. Incessantly. Also, from one achiever: “Can you imagine? ALL this came from one movie!”
Random notebook dump: There were so many White Russians served that the Saban ran out of cream.
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