Screening "The Big Lebowski" at the Prytania Theatre provided a refreshed perspective as I continue chatting with the inspiration for The Dude: Jeff Dowd.
JD: By the way, I was there for Jazz Fest one time and it was when Oliver Stone was shooting JFK, I was staying on their hotel dime, a rent-free hotel, and my ex, we'd been there like 20 minutes and we go over to the Sheraton or whatever was close to the Sheraton, you know we hit some really good place a few blocks away, probably in the Quarter, and we start eating oysters and crawfish and so a film crew comes in and it's one of the local news stations. And I'm sittin' there and, you know nobody's really pretty when they're eating crawfish, and I not very pretty if I'm eating a piece of toast, so you can imagine. They come up and they spot me and I'm a big bear and Jane, my wife, and they say, "Hey, can we film you?" And the reason they were filming was because there'd been, what-do-ya-call-it, a what's the thing with the red tide or something and it's some kind of dangerous thing that screws up the oysters.
LC: Yeah, the red tide, exactly.
JD: Well, the warning had just come out that afternoon, so here it was, like 6 o'clock or something like that… And he asked the question, "Are you going to stop eating these oysters and crawfish because of the red tide?" I looked over at him and said, "You gotta be kidding, right? No pain, no gain," you know? I said, "No, these oysters are to die for."
JD: So we happen to come back at 3 in the morning or something like that, 4, and—
(Jeff proceeds to tell me that his "These oysters are to die for" quote is all over the local news. He then told a risqué story that included former Miss America, Phyllis George, and then we moved onto the "religion" known as Dudeism before I finally realized that Fortuna’s cruel hand has intervened, and my recorder is experiencing a malfunction.)
JD: Are you positive that's what we were talking about?
LC: A hundred percent positive.
JD: Huh, well, good memory.
LC: No, it's that I've got shit written down. We were talking about Dudeist priests… as opposed to Judas Priest.
JD: (laughing) Good one. I think I like Dudeist priests more than I like Judas Priest.
LC: And you were telling me about the haiku generator.
JD: Yeah, just go to http://dudeism.com/haikutomatic.html, and it very cool because it automatically generates a haiku with lines [from the movie] like, you know, whatever, you know?
LC: I saw that you're writing a book called, "The Dude Abides: Classic Tales and Rebel Rants."
JD: "The Dude Abides: Classic Tales and Rebel Rants, Making our Future the Best of Times." Yeah, it's almost done. Actually, I've spent the last two months, yeah I'm in the editing phase but it's a memoir in one respect and it has a lot of classic tales, many of which people, you know, we've been telling for years in living rooms and bars, camping and boats, you know, whatever, people telling tales. Half of it, a lot of my best friends are people who like to tell stories, you know everyone likes storytellers. And plus it was a pretty good way for my friends like Chip and Joe and I to entertain women. We would tell stories together, you know what I'm sayin'? We'd finish each other's sentences, so to speak. Wait, let me see what this incoming call is… … … That was my daughter's mom trying to talk about curfew. She's gotta be home by 11:30. Anyhow, so go ahead.
LC: (All I could think was, "The Dude raising a teenage daughter – sounds like a great sitcom.") We were talking about your book.
JD: So, in one respect it's a memoir, and we liked to tell stories so a lot of these stories were told in L.A. and around, but I happened to be in L.A. at the right place, right time to meet a lot of people who've changed a little bit of cultural history or, let's say, like Neil Young for example, you know, Dennis Hopper, or a little bit of political or activist history or a little bit of entrepreneurial history. And so part of it, the underlying theme of the book is that you and your colleagues and your friends and your family and your community members, if you get together, you know, like 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 of these, it's amazing that that force becomes, you know, more than the sum of the parts. And whether that's the Beatles or the Stones or Steve Jobs and Woz, you know, Wozniak. Is Wozniak's name, Steve? Yeah, yeah. Or Bill Gates and Paul Allen… My friends Dawn and Ivan, for example, run something called Peace Jam http://www.peacejam.org/ and they are taking kids at risk, well I'll tell you the story…
(Then he told me about Ivan (Suvanjieff), a punk rocker and manager of Creme Magazine, and Dawn (Engle), who worked for Jack Kemp, conservative republican from Colorado and how Dawn met the Dali Lama and realized she needed to change her life and stared working with Ivan. Two teens showed Ivan their new gun. They began talking and the kids said the only cool guy the teens knew of who didn't carry a gun was Desmond TuTu. Ivan went to work the next day and asked Dawn, what if they got Nobel Peace Prize winners to mentor kids. Not only did TuTu come on board, 14 other prize winners got involved right away. The point of the story was that he tells plenty of funny stories about Dawn and Ivan, as well as the roots and state of their cause.
Apparently, there are also stories of mushrooms he took in Colombia (hongos in Spanish), "stuff about the future," a chapter on romance "And how men aren't really doing their part and some women aren't either, yadayadadyada." Something about traveling with the Rolling Stones when he was 17, "Which is a whole other story.")
The book will be available as a book or as chapters that can be downloaded one at a time with actor friends reading chapters.
JD: And I'll read chapters too, as long as I get a, someone to teach me not to mumble too much. Do you know that 70% of all books in Japan are read on phones?
JD: Mostly women's romantic novels. But, you know, to know where we're gonna be a year or two from now, just always watch what's going on in the far East, you know? China, Japan, Korea, you know, that's where we're gonna be. My background is in the sight and sound business and the movies and you know I was around a lot of music, you know, why not use that as part of the story I'm tellin' and the time and the place I'm telling' about always? I mean, music is our life, you know?