Legions of bowling Valkyries and castrating German nihilists are best found onscreen in The Dude's nightmares in the Coen brothers' cult classic The Big Lebowski and partying in bowling alleys at Lebowski Fest. The original Lebowski Fest was in Louisville in 2002, and the first New Orleans edition is Nov. 8-9.
On Friday at The Howlin' Wolf, there's music by The Dudes Abide, a Creedence Clearwater Revival and "Dude music" cover band made up of three past Best Dude costume-contest winners. The Catfish Orchestra also performs and there's a screening of The Big Lebowski.
On Saturday, there's a costume contest for individuals and groups, a trivia contest and unlimited bowling with admission at AMF All Star Lanes. (There's a large gallery of past costume contest competitors here.)
Lebowski Fest was founded by Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt. They used to moonlight selling T-shirts at conventions, and during down time, they'd quote from the movie's endless supply of memorable lines.
"At one convention in 2002, some guys we didn’t know next to us joined in and started quoting with us," Russell says. "We realized we were not alone. We were at this weird tattoo convention where these people were suspended by their ass piercings, and we were out of our element, but we were like: If they can have this weird tattoo and piercing convention, we should have a Big Lebowski convention."
Their first event was at a bowling alley in Louisville, and 150 people attended. The following year, 1,200 people went. In 2004, the festival featured its first band: My Morning Jacket.
"It was great," Russell says. "Jim James dressed as The Dude, the drummer, Patrick Hallahan was Walter, Tommy (Blankenship) was Jesus and Carl (Broemel) was a nihilist."
In 11 years, there have been more than 60 Lebowski Fests in 30 cities. All the film's principle actors have made it to at least one festival. Jeff Bridges (Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski) attended the Los Angeles festival in 2005. When Universal released the film on Blu-Ray, it staged a release event at a New York Lebowski Fest, and attendees included Bridges, John Goodman (Walter Sobchak), John Turturro (Jesus Quintana), Julianne Moore (Maude Lebowski) and Steve Buscemi (Donny).
Festivals also have featured appearances by a host of minor characters. At a California festival, the actor who played the Malibu police chief attended and re-enacted the interrogation scene with a Dude lookalike. That Dude lookalike is a festival regular and he became the trivia contest quizmaster.
Other minor role-players who have appeared at the festival include Jesus Quintana's bowling partner.
"Jim Hoosier, he plays Liam, Turturro’s bowling parter — he doesn’t have any lines; he just shakes his belly and shines his balls with Turturro," Russell says. "He's really popular."
But the fans make the festival, and the regulars go by the title "Achiever."