White Russians were flowing by the pre-made bottle at last night’s Lebowski Fest at the Hammerstein Ballroom on 34th Street.
“I’m not sure why we are even offering a full bar,” the bartender told The Observer. As we took our creamy libations from her, an unshaven man donning a bathrobe, jellies and sunglasses pushed by us and ordered three more. “’Scuse me dude.”
On the “red carpet” – actually a number of the rugs depicted in the film, stitched together along the length of the entrance – we had been approached by a pair of middle-aged men in life-size bowling-pin costumes: Scott Shuffitt and Will Russell, co-founders of Lebowski Fest and authors of the book, I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You.
“We played in a really bad band and instead of practicing we would just quote lines from The Big Lebowski,” Mr. Russell said, recalling the inspiration for their first Lebowski-themed bowling party. “We thought ten of our friends would show up and we had like 150 people come out. Next thing you know, twelve hundred people are there.”
This was the first time the cast has reunited since the release of the movie in 1998. The event (minus stars) traditionally features a bowling party, costume contest, and a screening, but for this year’s simultaneous release of the limited-edition Blu-Ray version of The Big Lebowski and Jeff Bridges’ self-titled solo album, Universal partnered with Messrs. Shuffitt and Russell to bring the original cast together for the event.
Tickets for this year’s festival sold out in 48 hours, “quicker than any other event at the Hammerstein,” Mr. Russell announced to the room. “Take that, David Bowie!”
Spying John Goodman break free from the plethora of cameramen at the other end of the carpet, The Observer caught him before he entered the venue. We asked if, like his character, he was armed. “Yeah, I am,” Mr. Goodman said casually, a crazed look in his eye, before he broke into a hearty laugh.
Other actors took on roles not their own: “I’ll suck your cock for a thousand dollars” Julianne Moore told us, recalling Tara Reid’s line as her favorite from the movie. She was then mauled by a number of reporters eager to know what Maude named the Lebowski lovechild.
As T-Bone Burnett, Jeff Bridges’ music producer and the music archivist for The Big Lebowksi, gloated about Mr. Bridges’ new album, a work he described as “a beautiful, beautiful record,” a procession of emergency vehicles roared down 34th street, temporary deafening us both. “Rick Perry!” Mr. Burnett yelled over the din. “Rick Perry is coming to the screening!”
Later, following a cast Q&A marked by the more intoxicated members of the audience yelling lines from the movie before the cast even had a chance to speak (Steve Buscemi shouted “Shut the fuck up!” more than once), The Observer picked our way over to Jeff Dowd, the original “Dude” and the Coen brothers’ inspiration for the movie.
What message did Mr. Dowd have for aspiring Dudes?
“Are you fucking ready for this?” he asked, posing for a picture with a couple who had been to Lebowski Fest more times than they could count.
“Get as close as you possibly can to one woman,” he began, while shaking hands and posing for a few more pictures. “Intimacy is everything.”
He meant what he said, putting his arm around us, and pulling us in uncomfortably close. He hiked his leg up on the chair in front of us and gazed out over the crowd. “The Dude is the holy fool, like the King’s jester. He is the one guy who can tell the truth without getting his head cut-off,” he paused, looked us straight in the eye, and said: “We need to use that power to create the future.”
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