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Lebowski lovers: The Dude and the Zen Master riff in L.A.

January 11, 2013|By Hector Tobar
  • Zen Master Bernie Glassman and Jeff "Dude" Bridges at ALOUD.
Zen Master Bernie Glassman and Jeff "Dude" Bridges at ALOUD. (Gary Leonard )

The Dude held court in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Or his Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

Jeff Bridges, who played "the Dude" in the Coen brothers’ cult classic film “The Big Lebowski” was up on stage in Little Tokyo with the longtime Zen teacher Bernie Glassman.

They talked about rugs, marriage, Buddhism and parenting — and they led about 500 people in a short rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” It was all part of a natural, zesty little discussion sponsored by the ALOUD series of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

Bridges and Glassman are old friends with a new book out called “The Dude and the Zen Master.” It’s an odd and wonderful little work that makes use of the transcendentally funny characters and language of the 1998 film as the starting point for a relaxed philosophical discussion about a wide variety of topics.

The film opens with a couple of thugs peeing on the Dude’s rug. Which is a shame, because, as the Dude’s friend Walter says, “that rug really tied the room together, did it not?”

For Glassman, the rug tying the room together is “a big dharma moment.” Tying things together is what Buddhism is all about, Glassman said. “It’s about the rug. What is that rug? Love. Love is the rug that ties the room together.”

Bridges leaned back in his chair and nodded. The actor was wearing his grayish brown mop in a ponytail, a la the Dude. And to this longtime Big Lebowski fan, he most definitely sounded Dudeish, even when he wasn’t directly riffing off the Dude’s lines.

“My dad taught me all the basics of acting,” Bridges said, referring to his late father, Lloyd. Father and son acted alongside each other a few times. Bridges remembered “the joy with which he approached the work.”

The elder Bridges’ feelings about his craft could be summarized thusly, Bridges said: “This is fun. This is advanced pretend.” Acting wasn’t work at all to Lloyd Bridges. He was playing and working at the same time, Bridges said — or “plorking,” if you will.

“He ‘plorked’ big time,” Bridges said of his father. "He was a master plorker."

It was to illustrate the idea of plorking that Glassman led the group in singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." "It's very important that it be done, 'merrily, merrily,' "he said.

The Dude and the Zen master talked so long there was barely any time for questions from the audience. (If you missed the session, a podcast of the event will be posted online by ALOUD in a week).

When the very last question rolled around, Bridges and Glassman joked that it had better be a good one, and perhaps the “supreme question” for which many spiritual people search.

A young woman stepped to the microphone. She asked about the Lebowski cult, with its Lebowski Fest celebration, and its Church of the Latter-Day Dude. What, she wondered, would the Dude think of "Dudeism?"

“Excellent question,” Bridges called out. “It’s the supreme question!”

After thinking about it a bit, Bridges answered: “He’d be flabbergasted. And he would dig it.” 

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hector.tobar@latimes.com

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