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A Visit to the 2014 'Big Lebowski' Convention

There's been a weird arms race of costume obscurity going on since these started in 2002. A classic Dude getup may have once been a good way to get recognized for your effort, but not anymore. Now you have to dig deeper into that barrel to come up with...

Lebowski Fest, the long-running tribute to the cult classic comedy The Big Lebowski, came to Los Angeles for yet another trip down cinematic memory lane. These bizarre conventions happen periodically in 30 cities across the English-speaking world. People who have seen the movie a bunch of times get together to behave like the Dude and Walter: Dress shabbily, drink, go bowling, and yell catchphrases. Some also wear costumes.


In Los Angeles, on April 25 and 26, it was clear that there's been a weird arms race of costume obscurity going on since these started in 2002. A classic Dude getup, a well-executed Jesus-the-child-molester costume, or a nihilist in black with stuffed ferret may have once been good ways to get recognized for your effort, but not anymore. Now you have to dig deeper into that barrel to come up with something memorable.

No, deeper. Now scrape. Now you're getting it.

Maybe you'll recall that there is briefly a dog at one point in the movie, obscured by a carrying case. So a thing you could do is dress as a dog, and then, the whole night when people ask "Why a dog?" remind them that there was a dog, and they'll probably remember.

Both of these Asian guys had the same basic idea. Think about it for a second. Give up? They're the Chinaman who took Lebowski's legs in Korea! One wore a period paramilitary outfit. The other decided to be truer to Lebowski's account of events, and opted for what would probably be an elderly Purple Heart recipient's recollection of the hated Chinaman.

I asked if this lady was wearing a photo of a marmot, a-la the Dude's misidentification of the nihilists' pet ferret. Nope. That's a beaver. It's a beaver picture, because Maude Lebowski refers to a porn movie at one point as a "beaver picture." Remember? While I was talking to her, a guy suggested he take my camera and get a shot of both of us. So that's me with the lady wearing a beaver picture.


Was there a Soviet guy in the movie? No. But remember when they mention Lenin? That's this. Thing is, when your costume is someone who's been immortalized in millions of statues, you have to have the face shape for it. And granted, he took a stab at the goatee, which is the honest way to do a costume, but if it were me, and the day were coming, but I still just had stubble, I'd head to a costume store. Like Lincoln, the costume doesn't work without the exact right facial hair.

If you can easily recall the five seconds of the movie where Maude Lebowski is being lifted off her crane painting apparatus by two burly guys in overalls, this is a great double costume. If not, it's just overalls.

If you google it, you'll find out that "Branded" was a real TV show, not something made up for the "Is this your homework, Larry?" scene. You'll also find out that the main character really should have on a cavalryman's uniform, at least for the opening sequence. Again, that's if you google it.

This isn't so much a costume as a memorial on a shirt that this guy made. The one thing I was hoping to see at Lebowski Fest was a really excellent Brandt costume in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman. It would be hard, because clothes-wise it's just a conservative suit. But the right blond hair and nervous bluster would have really sold it. Oh well.

Does this have something to do with the "Over the line!" standoff scene? Close, but no. In between the memorable "the Chinaman is not the issue here," and "Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature," Walter says something about drawing a line in the sand.


Next to him is a guy in a "Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you." costume, which I also liked.

Sure, why not balls? My first guess was that this is what would remain after the nihilists cut off Lebowski's johnson. Think harder though. You'll have to recall what makes a man, according to Lebowski: "Is it being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost?" to which the dude replies: "Sure, that and a pair of testicles."

What had captured this guy's imagination was the scene where all the porn stars in Malibu use a blanket to toss that topless lady into the air. He's dressed as one of the guys, and because apparently he didn't have someone willing to dress as the topless lady (skin-colored suit?), he brought a prop lady. He had to carry his prop lady around all evening, and leave her lying face up on the table while he bowled. Make of that what you will, grad students.

These fun, chatty guys flew out from Australia for Lebowski Fest, and they dressed this way because "everything else had been done." I assumed they were the nihilists in negative, after the battle in the parking lot toward the end of the movie. I didn't give it a second thought, until I overheard something about them being a rash. There is a line about a rash.

Costumes show off the thing about yourself you want people to notice. You can draw attention to your good looks, if that's where your vanity is, or, through attention to detail, you can draw attention to your geekiness if that's what you're most proud of. The least successful costumes at Lebowski Fest—the embarrassing outfits that you have to constantly explain—are the ones that show the closest kinship with the characters in the movie.

Good on you if you're into that sort of thing.

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