The Way of The Dude Abides at Lebowski Temple of Merch | chelseanow.com

The Way of The Dude Abides at Lebowski Temple of Merch

href="http://1v9vs2crct23kkf8ttrqsixx.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/photo-lebowski.jpg"> class="size-full wp-image-607" alt="Photo by Jefferson Siegel Roy
Preston, co-owner of the Little Lebowski Shop, at 215 Thompson
Street, wears his usual work garb — a bathrobe, just like The Dude
— as he stands next to a cutout of Jeff Bridges, who plays the
iconic character in the Coen Brothers’ “The Big Lebowski.”"
src="http://1v9vs2crct23kkf8ttrqsixx.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/photo-lebowski.jpg"
width="600" height="400" /> Photo by Jefferson
Siegel
Roy Preston, co-owner of the Little Lebowski
Shop, at 215 Thompson Street, wears his usual work garb — a
bathrobe, just like The Dude — as he stands next to a cutout of
Jeff Bridges, who plays the iconic character in the Coen Brothers’
“The Big Lebowski.” BY KAMAKSHI
AYYAR
| Tucked away in a small storefront not far
from Washington Square Park is a store whose owner greets customers
while dressed in a bathrobe, slippers and a wolf’s hat. He isn’t
hung over, just mirroring the cult film character his shop is
dedicated to — Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski. The Little Lebowski Shop,
at 215 Thompson Street, is just one of many shrines, physical and
spiritual, raised in the name of the 1998 Coen Brothers movie, “The
Big Lebowski.” The film stars Jeff Bridges as The Dude; John
Goodman as his gun-toting friend Walter, who “doesn’t roll on
Shabbos”; and Steve Buscemi completing the trio as the meek Donny,
constantly being told to “Shut the f— up.” There are hundreds of
“The Big Lebowski” fan conventions held in bars and bowling alleys
(The Dude’s preferred hangout) globally, including one of the
largest, the annual Lebowski Fest, first held in Louisville in
2002. What started out as a bowling party of 150 fans quickly grew
into an annual pilgrimage for cinephiles from across the world,
with fests being held in New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and
even Edinburgh and London. For the more spiritual devotees there is
the Church of the Latter Day Dude, which advocates the religion of
Dudeism. The church’s website describes the religion as follows:
“Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll
strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others
— that is to say, abide.” If you’re so inclined, you can even get
ordained as a Dudeist minister and join the already initiated
150,000 brothers. “I’ve learned to let my inner Dude hang out,”
said Roy Preston, 40, describing his life’s mantra after his
experience over the last five years. With his Buddha-like smile and
come-what-may aura, he seems to be the embodiment of everything
Lebowski. But this wasn’t always the case. Five years ago, Preston
and his business partner opened a children’s bookstore at the
current site. “I wanted to be a tight-ass in a suit selling kids’
books to yuppie parents,” he said. But fate had other ideas. The
recession hit soon after the store opened, and Washington Square
Park, a block north, was closed for renovation, reducing area foot
traffic to practically nothing. After sinking into debt, the
partners decided to try running a souvenir store and a comic book
store, both of which failed miserably. Preston lost his house in
Red Bank, NJ, and was living in the back of the store, with a few
comic books bought from the Forbidden Planet shop to fill up his
shelves for company. After receiving an eviction notice from the
store landlord, he said, “If we’re going to get evicted we might as
well go out having fun.” And so he filled his store with pop
culture memorabilia, including “The Big Lebowski” T-shirts, which
turned out to be the best sellers. That’s when his partner and he
decided to dedicate the shop solely to the movie. He put a cutout
of The Dude outside the store, created a bowling lane in the
changing room and started wearing his robes and slippers to work
every day. After he ensured that the store had its fair share of
rugs (the root cause of all The Dude’s troubles in the movie), all
that was missing was White Russians, The Dude’s poison of choice,
which Preston, after much experimentation, learned reduced his
alertness. Instead he tried to complete the Lebowski experience by
covering the walls with quotes from the movie (“That rug really
tied the room together”), and even framing a letter left on his
front door by a drunk patron who thought this was “seriously the
greatest idea for a store I have ever come upon.” And it works. At
first, customers walk into the store with puzzled looks, curious
about the owner’s attire. But a few minutes later they start to nod
knowingly and smile. Preston loves it because everyone who visits
the store is in a good mood. “It’s just like hosting a party,” he
said. “All I have to do is smile and be nice.” Even the way the
store gained its fame is a coincidence. One night two men who had
just finished interviewing John Goodman for a PBS special on Jeff
Bridges happened to walk by the place and decided to come in. Two
months later, Preston got a call from PBS asking him to be part of
the special. On the day of the filming, Bridges showed up with the
recording team, and once the special aired on January 8, 2011, fans
flocked to the shop. In his Lebowski shrine, surrounded by
still-frame photos and T-shirts from the movie, Preston seems
content in his bathrobe and slippers. “It was a series of random
circumstances where terrible things led to good things — kind of
like the movie,” he said. “The Dude was happy and content even when
s— kept being thrown at him. That’s a good way to live.” Just
then, a customer walked in with the customary “Hey Dude!” greeting.
“Do you have any Donny T-shirts? My brother-in-law’s name is Donny
and he just never shuts the f— up!”

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