The ‘Peg abides

Lebowskipalooza celebrates the classic Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski

Ayame Ulrich
Fans of The Big Lebowski will be out in full force on March 2 for the fourth annual Lebowskipalooza. Supplied

Inspired by the Coen brothers’ 1998 cult classic film, Lebowskipalooza is Canada’s biggest The Big Lebowski-themed event.

Started in 2009 by Lebowski-lovers Trent Whidden and Greg Skazyk, the fourth annual Lebowskipalooza (they skipped 2012) goes down Saturday, March 2 at the Garrick Centre.

Yes, the Urban Achievers of Winnipeg will be dressed up like The Dude, Walter Sobchak and Donny, playing Lebowski-inspired games, drinking White Russians and, of course, watching the film on the big screen.

And yes, Saturday is shabbos, but let’s face it man, you’re fucking Polish Catholic.

If you’re not getting these references, you’re not alone.

Following the success of the Coens’ Fargo, The Big Lebowski was a disappointment at the box office and received mixed reviews.

“When I first saw the movie I thought it was funny enough, but I remember thinking, ‘What did I just watch here?’” says Whidden, 43, over beers at the Granite Curling Club, joined by fellow Lebowskipalooza organizers Skazyk, Heath Graham and Nigel Moore.

“So I watched it again because I wanted to figure out what was going on and I liked it more the second time. It’s just one of those movies that gets better and better every time you watch it.”

If you haven’t seen the film, it’s basically a story of mistaken identity.

Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. The Dude, an L.A. slacker, avid bowler and White Russian connoisseur, is incorrectly identified as Jeffrey Lebowski, a millionaire with a physical disability.

Rugs get pissed on, trophy wives are kidnapped, ringers get tossed - in other words, hilarity ensues.

The problem for first-time watchers is that the plot is complicated by unusual characters, unconventional dialogue and dream sequences.

Without repeated viewings, you might think the film is about vaginal art or Creedence Clearwater Revival or the occasional acid flashback.

“Can you imagine it from the studio’s perspective?” asks Moore, 35.

“How do you promote a movie that nobody understands? But that’s what makes it the perfect cult film. It’s not easy to sell it to the masses or the general public, but the people who get it, love it.”

Given its convoluted plot structure, The Big Lebowski is a movie trivia goldmine. Winnipeg dudes (that includes girl dudes) will test their Lebowski knowledge at the Garrick.

Other games at the event include a Jackie Treehorn sketch competition, a ringer toss (containing Graham’s undies) and a Marty the landlord dance competition.

“We’ll have the white sheet that’s backlit. We’ll have the mat and the chairs and the ivy wrapped around the competitors,” Moore says, referring to a very funny scene in the film where The Dude’s landlord performs interpretive dance.

“We’ll ask people to recreate the dance sequence and it doesn’t matter how bad they are because it’s so bad in the film. The worse it is, the better.”

Yes, these dudes are committed to The Big Lebowski.

However, Bradley Greybeard’s dedication is on different level.

Greybeard (an alias) is a Dudeist.

A Dudeist is a follower of Dudeism.


“It’s kind of a religion based on The Big Lebowski,” says Greybeard, a 36-year-old father of two. “A lot of people see it as a joke religion, but it isn’t quite a joke.”

“There are a lot of people who actually do follow Dudeism and live their life by it. In a way it’s just a glorified fan club for Achievers who want to take it a bit further, but it’s also a philosophical religion like Taoism or Zen Buddhism.

“It’s not atheistic, but it’s non-theistic. For instance, there’s no God in Zen Buddhism. Unlike other schools of Buddhism, you don’t have to believe in reincarnation or even enlightenment. You can consider Dudeism to be like that. There’s no real set of tenets, it’s more about abiding in the moment. It’s a way of life that enshrines leisure, relaxation and friendship.”

Say what you want about the tenets of Dudeism, at least it’s an ethos (yes, another Lebowski reference).

It’s just one of those movies that gets better and better every time you watch it.

Trent Whidden, co-founder, Lebowskipalooza

Created by Oliver Benjamin, a.k.a. The Dudely Llama, in 2005, Dudeism’s official organizational name is The Church of the Latter-Day Dude.

Greybeard got ordained in 2007.

What does that mean? Loving bowling and hating The Eagles?

“We don’t worship The Dude or anything like that,” Greybeard says. “There are a lot of things he does that are deplorable, like drinking and driving and parking in handicap spaces. We don’t advocate chronic drug use or anything like that. It’s more about his approach to life, emulating his outlook - not acting like a burnt out hippie.”

Greybeard says he practices Dudeism by not stressing out, staying in the present and not putting too much emphasis on the superficial.

This makes sense, as The Dude isn’t superficial. He and Walter were fine with putting Donny’s ashes in a Folgers Coffee can.

So were two Lebowskipalooza supporters.

“We had this lady during the first year of the event show up with a vintage metal Folgers can,” Whidden says. “I talked to her and said, ‘Oh, you brought your own Donny.’ I was just joking around, but then she said, ‘Yes, my husband’s in here.’ I laughed, not taking her seriously, but then she popped the top and sure enough there were ashes in there.”

Yes, Paul Litke’s wish was to be put in a Folgers can.

In 2010, Lebowskipalooza honoured Litke with the Ultimate Achiever Award.

“She (Litke’s widow) came up onstage with him and told his story and the audience gave them a standing ovation, which was touching in a weird way,” Moore says.

“She leaned over to me and said, ‘He never won an award in his life, he would have absolutely loved this’,” Whidden adds.

Luckily Walter wasn’t around to ruin it.

“What was that shit about Vietnam?”

Tickets for Lebowskipalooza are $10 at and Music Trader. All profits from Lebowskipalooza go to the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the film rolls at 9 p.m. According to the Lebowskipalooza Facebook page, “Little Larries will be stonewalled at the door.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 21 of The Uniter (February 28, 2013)

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