At Lebowski Fest 2009, That’s Just How They Roll

Maude Lebowski: “What do you do for recreation?”
The Dude: “Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.”

It’s a weird slice of irony that out of all the Coen brothers’ whimsical, idiosyncratic offerings, “The Big Lebowski” should be the one that’s garnered the biggest cult following. There was no doubt of that on Friday in San Francisco, where I was on the ground at Lebowski Fest 2009 — which is currently on a 14-city tour — sampling White Russians and bowling a few frames with various Walters, Dudes, Maudes, Donnys and scissors-wielding Nihilists.

Dudes

If you have no idea what that means, just know that it’s all a celebration of the quintessential slacker movie, which many have called the first cult film of the Internet age. Or as Jeff Bridges — who played Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski in the 1998 movie — said while attending a Lebowski Fest in Los Angeles last year, “I just think it’s a weird dream I’m having, man.”

Best Jesus

(Best Jesus)

It all began in 2002 when two friends, Scott Shuffitt and Will Russell, were working a tattoo expo in Louisville, Kentucky, and would pass the time quoting lines from “The Big Lebowski.” That gave them the idea to put on the first Lebowski Fest, where 150 people showed up. Now thousands attend the annual events in far-flung locations such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Austin, Seattle, London and Edinburgh.

“This is our generation’s response to the emasculation of the American male,” said Dude lookalike contest participant Andy Harrison (pictured in the lead photo above, right, with brother Tim Demoucelle of Mill Valley). “The film was never a big hit with audiences or critics, and Big Lebowski fans take pride in that. It’s like it’s our own secret; something we get that most people don’t.”

Harrison, a bookstore manager in San Francisco, throws his own Lebowski parties every four months.

“It’s a real San Francisco thing,” he said. ‘Fifty or so people show up and just celebrate everything the film stands for.”

Lebowski Fest is currently in San Diego (today and Monday), and moves on to Denver Aug. 8th and 9th.

(”It’s good knowin’ he’s out there, the Dude, takin’ it easy for all us sinners.”)