The 1st annual LebowskiPalooza, on the 1st annual Day of The Dude
By Robert "The Dude" King
The location for the first annual LebowskiPalooza was the Garrick theater on Garry St. in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Garrick was in my youth a functioning first run movie theater. I remember seeing The Phantom of the Paradise there. Most dudes don’t know that film, a campy, underrated 70’s rock opera by Brian DePalma with a killer soundtrack written by Paul Williams. You can check it out on Youtube, or buy the DVD on Amazon.com for 10 bucks. It’s well worth the money. It was a Winnipeg phenomenon in it’s time, and even spawned it’s own little one city fan festival known as PhantomPalooza, hosted right here at the Garrick just a few years ago. I daresay it had a hand in the inspiration of tonight’s little shindig.
As I walked up to the theater I had a view of the lobby, and all that I could see was a security guard. I was thinking that it did not bode well for a good turnout. The guard greeted me with a smile. He seemed friendly enough for a rent-a-cop. The lobby was sparsely populated, and I feared for a dull night. As the ticket taker tore my ticket, she mentioned that the trivia contest was still in progress. So I bellied up to the bar for a Bud, and made my way into the theater. As I paused to sip my beer I could hear the sound of a raucous crowd and my spirits began to lift. I rounded the corner and was happy to see a good sized crowd of about 300, and I immediately felt a relaxed happy vibe warsh over me. I was home.
A Jeopardy-style trivia contest was well underway, the question board projected on the big screen. When a contestant missed the answer, a roar of opinions erupted. I say opinions, because there was quite a variety of them for each question. Fellow dudes don’t always agree, but we can always agree to enjoy the argument. In the end, some suit named Brandt won the trivia contest. Fuckin’ know it all. Still, it got me smiling.
A couple of games were on offer for the early birds, the Ringer Toss and a Stonewallin’ Contest. Break Little Larry and win a prize. I doubt it was a green Gran Torino with brown rust colorations, but one of the contest prizes was a four pack of Sioux City Sarsaparilla, that’s a good one.
There was another a trio of contests, not including the obligatory costume contest as per LebowskiFest. I had missed the first, which was a clever twist on the usual quote-a-thon. A line was read out from The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, and the contestants had to supply the corresponding quote from the film. Quite clever, I was sorry that I missed it. The Bard Lebowski. When you’ve seen that, you’ve seen everything, and in English, too.
The third and final contest was another clever treat. The scene from the movie wherein Marty dances his cycle was projected up on the screen, as a reminder, and then the punters pranced each in their turn, trying their level best to do the little dipshit dance. Nigel, (pictured dressed as Knox Harrington) one of the festival organizers, offered a dazzling demonstration, which I daresay was a hard act to follow. I don’t recall the winner, but I did laugh to beat the band. It was a jovial scene, enjoyed by all who may be moved by such things as exuberant amateur slapstick.
At the intermission I made it my mission to duck outside to do a jay. It was a roach joint, potent and pungent, and quite apropos, I think, considering that it was the Day of The Dude. Once appropriately disoriented, I could enjoy the film in the fashion to which I have become accustomed.
It was a lengthy break, which allowed me to make my way to the back of the theater, which is quite roomy, with two levels, and seating for 600. At the right rear of the room I noticed a tall fella in a Dancing Marty costume who was dancing on the seats and bouncing off the walls. I wanted a seat at the rear so that I could observe the crowd response. The Marty Man rolled over my way to praise my costume, a Medina Sod replica shirt paired with cargo shorts and black Snap-On steel toe boots. I had the requisite black shades and uncut hair, and for the Day of The Dude, I shaved my Grizzly Adams down to a Dude beard. I was lookin’ about as dude as this dude can, at least from the waist up. My bottom half being Walter, I called the costume "DudeWalter".
There were at least a dozen people in costumes, maybe more. There was a dude in a killer Walter costume, (pictured on the left) Aaron, if I recall correctly, who is a fellow Dudeist. His third prize in the dance was a DudeFish sticker. His buddy (also pictured) was the Dream Dude cable repairman, complete with swinging hammer. One of the event hosts sported a rockin’ Maude costume. Next year we should see more.
The Marty Man introduced himself as Kieran, and asked if I wanted to join him and his friends. I was much obliged, and said so. The emcee for the evening had some presentations to make, and all the while Kieran was blathering in my ear about some LebowskiFest he attended in San Francisco. I missed some of the message, but I certainly enjoyed what could be considered the spiritual high point of the evening. A special honor was awarded to one of the guests, someone who had made the ultimate gesture of Dudeness. A fellow dude who could not be with us in the flesh, but he was certainly with us in spirit. In a Folger’s can. Our most modestly priced receptacle. The Ashen Dude, his widow and family received a semi-standing ovation, and our abiding respect. A powerful wave of dudely love and acceptance rose up over us and warshed away the weight of our sorrows. R.I.P., dude, The Dude Abides.
Trent, the emcee and host then mentioned some facts about the worthy cause to which all the profits from the show would be donated. None of which I can remember, save for the name of the charity, the Manitoba Alzheimer Society. As causes go, that’s a good one.
Kieran stood up, turned toward us and adjusted his package. His Marty/Cupid costume, which consisted of a white long underwear body suit and some plastic vines, was skin tight. I hadn’t really noticed before, nor would I have, without this comment.
"I was gonna stuff a sock down there, but I think it looks big enough, eh?" He said while tugging on his undies so that his junk jangled before us.
This was uncomfortable territory for me. "Jesus, I would rather it had been a sock." I said.
Kieran said, "I’m goin’ to the bar, you want a beer, Dude?"
"No, I’m good, but let me get out of your way first." I noticed that the seats in the Garrick theater are quite close together. "I don’t want you brushing past me with that fuckin’ thing"
As Kieran made for the bar, Dan began chatting. "My friend Kieran, he’s gay. Well not really gay, I mean, he has a girlfriend, but he’s kinda faggy. He won’t suck your cock for a thousand dollars but he’ll wear his underwear in public. And he’ll talk like a fag for hours." Dan was one hell of a wingman.
Kieran returned with the worst of news. The bar was closed.
I was somewhat surprised. "Hell’re you sure? Like closed, closed?"
"Yeah it’s fuckin’ closed. And they fuckin’ ran out of White Russians at 8:30. Who runs out of White Russians at 8 fuckin’ 30? Fuckin’ amateurs. I was at Lebowski Fest, San Fran man, this ain’t LebowskiFest. I mean this is O.K. and whatever, but this shit would not fuckin’ fly at LebowskiFest. They had me up there bobbin’ for apples in a fuckin’ toilet at LebowskiFest. Now that’s entertainment. And where’s the bowling? There should be bowling. Jesus, I need a fucking beer man."
As the film began to roll, we all relaxed and settled in for an evening with an old friend. When the credits rolled, I tried to get some applause going but they weren’t having it, so I gave up. As Walter started his spiel, Dan said "Hey did they miss the start?"
"Yeah," I replied, "the first scene was skipped." The DVD had begun at the title sequence, not the opening scene. Soon the crowd began to murmur, and the murmur escalated to cat calling, and then there was shouting from all corners of the room. A chant began, "FROM THE START! FROM THE START!" By the time of The Dude’s audience with The Big Lebowski, I was hearing some good natured, yet angry protests:
"OPEN THE BAR!"
"MAUDE DROP THE ROBE!"
"I HAVE ALZHEIMER’S!"
And that was just the dudes that I was sitting with, other folks had other complaints that I couldn’t make out. One of the host dudes finally took the stage and tried to fix the disk, many attempts later, when the crowd was good and wound up, The strains of Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds lilted through the the-A-ter. A wave of applause and cheering warshed from end to end and back again. Finally, the release that I was seeking had come at last. The false start was wrong, they sensed it instinctively, but all had been made right again. It was better this way.
So I had just settled back in for the duration when Dan whispered in my ear,
"Hey Dude, will you rat out us three if we burn one here?"
I couldn’t believe my fricken ears. Me? Robert The Dude? Rat you out? I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t speak. Finally I blurted out, "Will I what the fuck?"
Dan repeated, "Will you write about us if we do a jay right here?"
I twigged to my mistake. "Oh, uh, sure man, sure, cool, but those security guys might have something to say about it."
"Hey, we’ll smoke it and get kicked out, I don’t fucking care." They were eager for a confrontation. Perhaps they were closet Nihilists.
I didn’t want to encourage a violation of the fire code. I mean, smoking a controlled substance, in a public venue, that ain’t legal. "You don’t have to get kicked out for me to write about you, man."
"We want to smoke one and get kicked out, it’ll be worth it." Was the reply.
"Do what you want, I don’t care." I was secretly hoping that they would. It’s nice to know that the spirit of rebellion is still alive in Manitoba. A few minutes had passed and no smoke so I thought that maybe they had given up the idea. I was beginning to regret that I had poo-pooed their little pot protest. Soon I smelled the sweet funk of burnin’ weed and I inhaled deeply, the dank second hand smoke.
Dan leaned over and said, "Hey Dude, you want some of this? Just hold it in your hand so that it covers the cherry, and no one will see it."
"No, that’s O.K. man, I burned one outside right before the movie. I’m good." I said.
He replied, "I’ll blow it right in your face man. I don’t care. I’ll take the rap."
While I was mulling that offer over, he came back with this:
"Are you really here alone? There’s a guy over there who is here alone. Want me to introduce you?"
"Uh, no that’s cool, man." This was going somewhere strange.
"No it’s not like a gay thing."Dan said anxiously.
Did I say strange? Perhaps queer is the better word for it. "Jesus. You mean cleft asshole?" It was all that I could think of. When in doubt, quote the good Dude. The sound volume of the film was quite loud, preventing clear conversation, which explained his delayed and slightly puzzled reply.
"Yeah, I’m an asshole." He said.
Kieran must have heard that because he interjected, "Are you buggin’ the Dude? I need a fuckin’ drink." The three dudes put their heads together for a confab and hatched a nefarious plan.
Dan filled me in on the details. "We’re going for beer or Jack Daniels, or what-have-you." If we get some and we can smuggle it in past security, are you in?"
"Fuckin’ A." I wasn’t going to say no to an oat soda now, when I really needed one. "If you will it, it is no dream."
Kieran replied, "I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get you an oat soda, man."
As they were leaving Dan asked me, "Can we find you here, when we come back? Are you gonna be here in this general vicinity?"
"I’ve pitched my tent, and here I will stay. I’m rootin’ for ya, good luck fellas."
I settled in to watch the movie, but I kept thinking about the dudes on their quest for fire-water, which only made me thirstier. I was hoping for a speedy return and a successful deception of the doorman. Dehydrated and dazed from the roach-weed, I found that concentration came hard. I drifted into a semi-slumber, dreaming of oat soda…
I saw the scene in my mind’s eye. As I was walking down the stairs, those ridiculous stubby little movie stairs that collude to trip you up whenever you let your concentration down for a second, I heard some raised voices. "Then open the fucking bar, man!" My pulse quickened. I knew it was on, and I was about to walk into the middle of it. There were two guys working security at the show, a tall lanky black dude and a wee Chinaman.
As I rounded the corner, I saw Kieran struggling with the big black dude just inside of the door. The Wee Chinaman was beyond them in the foyer, hockey wrestling with Dan and Damon. As I stopped at the foot of the stairs, Kieran’s eyes caught mine .
"Dude!" Then he yelled at the guard, "Fuck you man, and fuck your fucking rules, I gotta get this beer to the Dude!"
At that moment, the entire scene slipped into slow motion. Kieran, leaning hard against the big fella, finally broke free, and Dan called out, "Dude, make us famous!"
Kieran jumped up onto the ticket taker’s table and then leaped forward toward me, as the table toppled backward and crashed down on the guard’s toes. He howled and fell to the floor, knocking Dan, Damon, and the Wee Chinaman over like drunken bowling pins. Kieran stumbled as he landed and almost fell himself. As he regained his balance and took another step toward me, a victorius smile began to crease his face. I could feel his hope, his sense of triumph, and it warshed over me like a warm bath. The moment was silent and surreal, before it was shattered by the shocking report of a gun blast. I heard the violent whine of a bullet as it zipped past my left ear, then I felt the shock wave on my face. I looked over Kieran’s right shoulder and saw the guard’s head above the table, then I saw a blast of fire erupt from his hand.
The bottle of beer in Kieran’s outstretched hand suddenly shattered into a thousand tiny shards of brittle brown glass and an explosion of beer foam. The beer splashed my face as the third shot, which I did not see, caught Kieran in the ribs. He missed his step, and fell with a thud at my feet. He died there, face down in the muck of his own oat soda, which was to be my oat soda, but now, will never be more than a stain on a carpet. Godspeed you, little soda. Oh, and you too Kieran. You were a dude, you will be remembered.
"Fuck that all to hell." I muttered aloud as I opened my eyes to see The Dude stumble his way through another scene. "I gotta get down there."
I fumbled my way down the stumble steps hoping that I could get to the lobby before the fireworks erupted. The lobby was quiet and empty save for Trent (one of the organizers) and the security dudes. I did get the feeling that I had just missed something. Shit. Too lazy and too late again. What became of those dudes, I don’t know. What I do know is that 3 thirsty dudes went in search of oat soda, and I never saw them again. Perhaps the good lord took ’em. Anyway, I was sad to see ’em go. Well, that’s not exactly true. I wanted them to go, I was sorry that they didn’t return. I was really looking forward to that oat soda. I might even have helped them get past Treehorn’s goons, or, I might have helped the security dudes. I could have gone either way. It was that kind of night.
Back up at the show, I took an interest in noting which scenes got the strongest reactions. Most of us had never seen The Big Lebowski in a theater, so this was a new experience in more ways than one. Not only the first time seeing it up on the big screen, but for most of us, the first time seeing a beloved film with a deep personal resonance surrounded by fellow friends of The Dude. For an audience of 300, truly a rare treat. The biggest laughs that I can recall both involved chairs. The scene where The Dude employs some dodgy carpentry skills to upgrade the security of his private residence, his efforts fell flat but the scene raised a hearty hale of laughter, as well, the unceremonious dumping of The Big Lebowski out of his wheelchair. Ah, slapstick, the universal language of laughter. The most rousing applause was garnered by the first coming of The Jesus, and the scattering of Donny’s ashes.
A final round of applause at the film’s end and we all shuffled out the doors. I paused to pose for some pictures with some other costumed crusaders of dudeness, and we all pledged to return again next year. As I walked out into the cool embrace of the blanket of fog that swaddled the city, I felt a strange sense of satisfaction, yet I didn’t want the night to end, nor should it, ever, I thought, if I can keep it alive in my heart, and make every day the Day of the Dude. In this way, The Dude Abides.