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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: January 9, 2017

With robes and White Russians, Dudes will abide Friday in Portland

Written by: Ray Routhier
Rob Calder of South Portland, watches the action at Bayside Bowl in Portland in 2012 during a "Viva Lebowski" event. Another event centered around the film "The Big Lebowski" is scheduled for Friday at Port City Music Hall in Portland. Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Rob Calder of South Portland, watches the action at Bayside Bowl in Portland in 2012 during a “Viva Lebowski” event. Another event centered around the film “The Big Lebowski” is scheduled for Friday at Port City Music Hall in Portland.
Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

If it’s a new year in Portland, it must be time for another showing of “The Big Lebowski.”

The cult film about a good-hearted stoner nicknamed The Dude, who, along with some bowling buddies, gets caught up in a web of mayhem and merriment, came out nearly 20 years ago. Yet for a decade or more, events have popped up in Portland every year where revelers dress up as the characters, recite every line, drink White Russians (as The Dude does) and watch the movie.

The latest Portland screening of “The Big Lebowski” is slated for Friday at Port City Music Hall on Congress Street, and it will feature a trivia contest with bowling gift certificates as prizes, a host dressed as The Dude and lots of creative costumes. The venue holds more than 500 people, and based on the drawing power of “The Big Lebowski” in Portland, it could be packed.

Dave Cousins, dressed as "The Dude" from the cult classic film "The Big Lebowski" stands in the middle of a crowd of fans dressed as characters from the film. Cousins will host a screening of the film Friday at Port City Music Hall. Photo by Ryan Dlugosz

Dave Cousins, dressed as “The Dude” from the cult classic film “The Big Lebowski” stands in the middle of a crowd of fans dressed as characters from the film. Cousins will host a screening of the film Friday at Port City Music Hall.
Photo by Ryan Dlugosz

In past years, the music space One Longfellow Square hosted annual “DudeFest” events. Then there were the several “Viva Lebowski” events held at different places every year, including bowling alleys Bayside Bowl and Easy Day in South Portland.

The allure, fans say, lies in the mystic, almost spiritual feel of the movie — especially in Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of The Dude.

“There’s a spirituality to the way he runs his life, always trying to do the right thing, even though he’s incapable of it sometimes,” said Rob Calder, 43, of South Portland, who dresses as The Dude on occasion.

“He’s this unemployed stoner with a moral compass,” said Dave Cousins, 46, of Portland, another Dude impersonator. He finds it inspiring to see a character so simple and so plainly outside the mainstream, living life in a way that harms no one. “It’s good to have The Dude out there taking it easy for all us sinners,” Cousins said, paraphrasing a line from the movie.

Cousins will act as host for the Port City Music Hall event, asking trivia questions before the film. For several years, he ran “Viva Lebowski” events at various Maine venues, to raise money for charities and bring fans of the film together. This year, he didn’t have one planned, so he was thrilled when the organizers of the Port City Music Hall bash called him.

Meg Shorette, the talent buyer for Port City, has hosted “Big Lebowski” events at Central Gallery, an art space she runs in Bangor, so she felt like showing the film at Port City would make sense. Plus, the beverage manager for Port City and the State Theatre, Tim Sweeton, is a big fan.

The film comes from the quirky and complex minds of Joel and Ethan Coen. There are layers upon layers of meaning and little nuances you might not get right away. That’s why so many fans have seen it dozens and even hundreds of times. Sweeton says he sees something new every time he watches it. Just recently, he figured out that there are several jokes in the movie that are recycled. They are spoken in different scenes, in a totally different context and with different meaning. But they are the same lines, word for word.

Get yourself ready by watching the trailer for “The Big Lebowski”

Sweeton, like a lot of fans, has given much thought to the movie’s power.

“It tells a simple story, about a simple dude, who just wants his rug back,” said Sweeton, 37. “In a way, he is living the stoner’s dream — a quiet life, hanging out with friends, smoking weed and drinking White Russians. Wouldn’t we all love such a simple life?”

Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi and John Goodman in the cult classic film "The Big Lebowski" which came out in 1998. Photo by Merrick Morton

Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi and John Goodman in the cult classic film “The Big Lebowski” which came out in 1998. Photo by Merrick Morton


THE BIG LEBOWSKI

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (movie starts at 8 p.m.)
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $5, 18-plus.
INFO: Portcitymusichall.com
WHAT ELSE: White Russians will be served at the bar, a trivia contest will be held, and people are encouraged to dress in character.

SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW LEBOWSKI?
Here are a few samples of the kind of trivia questions that’ll be asked at the screening party for “The Big Lebowski” Friday.
A. What city does Jeffrey Lebowski hold the key to?
B. What band did “The Dude” claim he was a roadie for?
C. What is Bunny Lebowski’s real name?

ANSWERS: A. Pasadena; B. Metallica; C. Fawn Knudsen

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