By Michael Rand
This weekend marks the arrival of Lebowski Fest Chicago, which is exactly what it sounds like: A festival in Chicago honoring all things Big Lebowski. What is this all about, you ask? Well, why not hear it from the mouth of co-creator Will Russell? RandBall regular reader and commenter Stensation is headed to Lebowski Fest; before it starts, though, he was kind enough to let Randball readers into Russell’s head with a little question and answer session. This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps:
Q Why and how did Lebowski Fest get started?
A It started as a border line joke. My friend Scott and I are big fans of the movie, always going around quoting it all the time. Basically, in October of 2002 we thought it would be fun to have a party with bowling. We thought it would get maybe 20 people. And we had 150.
Q And this weekend in Chicago?
A It’s three days long and will have probably a couple thousand people. We now have three or four Fests a year all over the country. We watch the movie Friday night, then become the movie the rest of the weekend by bowling, dressing up in costumes and of course white Russians.
Q You surprised it’s gotten this big?
A I am in this perpetual state of “What the …?” This was so out of the blue. I’m still scratching my head.
Q I heard the first Fest was alcohol-free
A Yeah, it was a Baptist bowling alley. There was also a sign that said ‘No Cussing.’ I made this CD with a bunch of songs and dialogue from the movie. We couldn’t play it.
Q [Redacted] is used something like 280 times in the movie. Pretty tough to quote it without cussing — what do you say, ‘This is what happens when you poke a stranger in the eye?’
A The edited version of the movie I’ve seen uses ‘This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.’
Q Are you a good bowler?
A I usually throw one ceremonial ball per Fest, and it’s usually a strike. But my best score is like a 186.
Q Obviously, you’re not a golfer.
A To my father’s chagrin, no.
Q Anybody famous attend your Fests?
A Jeff Bridges has come to one. And so has Jeff Dowd, the real-life “Dude.” We’ve also had the Ralph’s checkout girl, the angry neighbor with the Corvette, Little Larry and Quintana’s bowling friend Liam — among others from the film. No matter how small the role is, people worship them if they show up. They’re a huge hit.
Q This is the 10-year anniversary of the film, will Lebowski Fest be around for the 20th?
A Friday marks 10 years and one day since it was released, actually. And we hope to keep this up. We’re just along for the ride. As long as there’s still bowling, this will still go on.