By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
Lebowski Fest returns to Tampa this weekend and proud we are of all of that.
This barnstorming celebration of even the tiniest details in the Coen brothers' stoner noir The Big Lebowski is back for two nights of live music, the movie, bowling and what-have-you. If you're not down with the abiding devotion of Achievers, you're out of your element. This isn't a cult; it's an ethos, expressed by merry pranksters through conversationally recited lines and surreal costuming.
After 60 Lebowski Fests nationwide, co-founder Will Russell has seen nearly every possible sartorial take on the movie, from character facsimiles to astonishing visual puns.
"We are still seeing costumes that we haven't seen before," Russell said by telephone from Louisville, Ky., where it all began in 2002. "I don't know how they keep coming up with new ones but they do."
No reference is too small; a woman at 2005's L.A. fest — where the Dude himself Jeff Bridges showed up — dressed as "Mrs. Jamtoss," shown in the movie only as a teacher's name on a teenager's homework.
"I really like costumes that are interpretations of lines of dialogue," Russell said. "Usually the more epic, bigger ones."
Like an Achiever encased in a large globe, with a rubber hammer bouncing off his head each time he moved, entering the "world of pain" threatened by John Goodman's Walter Sobchak. Or fans costumed as giant hands, tattooed with the word "life," as in the warning: "Her life is in your hands, Dude."
My favorite among four Lebowki Fest visits was a skillful combination in Los Angeles of Moses and Sandy Koufax, making literal one of Walter's many quotable lines. Russell's weirdest are the Achievers who brought their dead uncle's ashes. One of his dying wishes was to be entered in the contest as "Donny," the Dude's eventually cremated bowling buddy, played by Steve Buscemi.
Lebowski Fest Tampa begins Friday at Ybor City's Orpheum Theatre, with live music by Moonmen from Mars and Folkin' Up the '80s. A screening of The Big Lebowski follows. You can say the lines along with them, but do you have to use so many cuss words?
The party moves Saturday to University Lanes, where — unlike Goodman's character — Acheivers will roll on Shabbos, when lanes are available from 8 until midnight. White Russians are the drink of choice unless you prefer a good sarsaparilla. The costumes speak for themselves, so take 'er easy.
"It was a blast last time we were there," Russell said. "Ybor City is a very Dude-friendly place, lots of partying going on down there. And we wanted to go someplace warm during a cold winter. ... It is a nice, quiet little beach community down there."
We aim to keep it that way.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter. He is an Achiever.