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Vodka, bowling, costumes part of Lebowski Fest

  • Story Highlights
  • "The Big Lebowski" fell flat at the box office, but has developed a cult following
  • Film tells story of an aging hippie bowler turned bumbling detective
  • Lebowski Fest attendees dress like characters from the film, bowl, quote lines
  • Most of the fans stay in character the entire night
By Patrick Oppmann
CNN
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Tukwila, WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Dude was in the house.

Fans dressed as the "nihilists" from the movie "The Big Lebowski" draw attention at the fest.

Winners of the Seattle Lebowski Fest best-costume prizes pose at a bowling alley.

Actually there were 11 Dudes, all dressed in the bathrobe-paired-with-sunglasses look made famous by actor Jeff Bridges in the movie "The Big Lebowski."

The venue, a bowling alley outside Seattle, Washington, was the setting for the Lebowski Fest, the unofficial celebration of the Coen brothers classic.

When the film -- with its story of an aging hippie bowler turned bumbling detective -- opened in 1998, "The Big Lebowski" fell flat at the box office and with many critics.

Since then, however, the movie has developed a distinct cult following.

"These guys are not the 'Star Trek' fans, they are not the 'Star Wars' fans, they are a different class. They are not the nerds. They are the slackers," said attendee Scott Glancy.

Dressed like a wide range of characters from the film, about 200 attendees of Seattle Lebowski Fest watched the movie yet again, bowled, drank the film's signature white Russians and quoted each other their favorite lines. Video Watch highlights from the Fest »

There were plenty of Jeff "the Dude" Lebowskis, but also a handful of people dressed like his addled Vietnam vet sidekick Walter Sobchak, and sex offender nemesis from the bowling alley, Jesus Quintana. Others dressed up as lines of dialogue or set pieces, like the tumbleweed blowing across Los Angeles in the opening of the film.

Most of the attendees stay in character the entire night with a dedication that would make Russell Crowe or Robert DeNiro jealous.

"There's a certain community thing that goes on when you hang out and watch your favorite film," said Lebowski Fest co-founder Scott Shuffitt. "When you are watching it with 700 people who love it just as much as you do and everyone's quoting from it, it's just a really nice community."

Shuffitt and fellow founder Will Russell came up with the idea in 2002 while quoting lines from the movie during a slow day selling T-shirts at a tattoo expo in Louisville, Kentucky, where they live.

"People we didn't know jumped in and started quoting lines with us," Russell said. "We realized we are not alone with our obsession for this movie, and we thought, 'Hey man, let's have a party in a bowling alley for "The Big Lebowski" ' and never thought anything would come of it, and here we are eight years later doing it all over the country."

Since then, Lebowski Fest has been held 25 times in the United States and overseas. This year, the roving celebration of the movie will visit 15 cities, including Chicago, Illinois, New York and Washington.

Rachel Life, who dressed as Maude Lebowski, the film's eccentric artist and love interest for the Dude, said the fest brings a sense of community. "I love hanging out with freaks that are like me," she said. "We are letting our freak flags fly!"

Dude look-alike Kurt Michaels came for the feeling of being in on the joke.

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"It's just this cult following," he said. "So many people are in on something that the general public is not aware of."

And for Scott Glancy, it's about getting something -- anything -- out of an otherwise unfortunate natural resemblance to a character played by actor John Goodman. "It's my destiny," he said. "Where else can I come where I can be a superstar for four hours?"

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