There are few unlikelier heroes than The Dude.
I mean it’s not like we all grow up wanting to be shaggy looking men in dirty robes and jelly sandals. But Jeff Lebowski transcends his schlubby pothead body and represents something more: an attainable zen.
He may be a fictional character in a neo-stoner noir created by the Coen brothers, but he’s real enough that whole events—like this week’s Lebowski Fest at the Aladdin Theater—are based around his iconoclastic worldview.
In the twilight of Sunday night, I descended the stairs to my basement, sat in my broken blue La-Z-Boy and popped in The Big Lebowski. It was pretty much just as funny as I remembered (and you remember). Then I passed out.
Ten minutes later my phone was buzzing at my thigh. It was The Dude. What follows is a transcript of our conversation. Thank the clouds that I have Google Voice. All it takes to record a conversation is pressing the 4 key.
Daily Vanguard: Wait, hold on, is this really The Dude?
Jeff Lebowski: Yea, man. It’s me. Fffffishhhhhh.
DV: What’s that noise? Are you smoking weed?
JL: What? No, I mean, yeah, maybe, I guess. OK, sure.
DV: It’s cool. I just want to know what I’m dealing with.
JL: You’re dealing with The Dude, man.
DV: Yeah … Does it ever get confusing having a name like that? It’s not really a proper noun, is it?
JL: Well, no. I just … I just like it sorta because it is like that, man, not proper. My given name is such a downer. Do I really look like a Lebowski? No. I’m The Dude.
DV: People say referring to yourself in third person is an indication of deep-set narcissism, yet you do it all the time. Thoughts?
JL: Well, I’m obviously not that guy. Look, you’ve … you’ve seen the movie. I think that’s the best evidence against the idea.
DV: Yeah, but what do you make of the fact that you’re in your 40s, living alone, scrapping by on the coattails of a landlord’s insecurities? Not exactly the picture of a deeply caring person.
JL: Hey man, who said I was a deeply caring person? I’m more like an astral wanderer. My only rule is don’t hurt other people and they won’t hurt you. There’s, like, safety in being separate from other people.
DV: So you’re benign?
JL: Yeah, exactly.
DV: Hmm. What do you make of the fact there’s something of a cult of personality built up around you? Are you aware of it? I know you’re a fictional character and everything.
JL: Well, since I’m basically a figment of your hallucinatory mind, I know everything you know.
DV: Fair enough.
JL: To answer your question, I think that people like my persona because it represents a portion of the human wish: The Dude is mercilessly buffeted about by forces he can’t control. But, y’know, he knows there’s nothing to do about it. Most people can’t let go, but want to. Hence my appeal.
DV: I’m not sure that makes sense.
DV: Well, how is that a model for a functioning life?
JL: The Dude doesn’t answer questions. The Dude just lives.
DV: Let’s talk about the plot of your movie. Toward the end, you start referring to the whole situation as “this case.” Why?
JL: Well, man, it certainly becomes a mystery doesn’t it? Because it needs to be solved, it’s a case. Then again, a healthy drug regiment makes life a permanent mystery.
DV: What would you do if you ever got the money?
JL: That’s a good question. I think I’d get a new rug. Maybe another Credence tape.
DV: It doesn’t seem like you’re even really interested in the money.
JL: No, not really. But it was something to pursue, y’know? Sometimes The Dude needs goals.
DV: At one point, the Big Lebowski screams at you and says: “Your revolution is over … the bums lost!” Isn’t that sort of true? Aren’t you sort of the logical dead-end point of hippie culture?
JL: What? Huh? The Dude missed your point.
JL: OK, man, I gotta go.
Lebowski Fest will be kicking off today with a movie night at the Aladdin Theater, featuring performances from Har Mar Superstar and a Lebowski burlesque performance by Itty Bitty Bang Bang. This event will be 21 and over. There will also be an all-ages bowling party on July 23 at Hollywood Bowl with costumes, trivia and other contests. If you can’t make it to any of those, the film will be running at the Clinton Street Theater as well.