When last we spoke, Jeff Dowd (JD,) the inspiration for The Dude in "The Big Lebowski" proclaimed, "I mean, music is our life, you know?"
LC: Well, speaking of music being our life, are you familiar with the Rebirth Brass Band song, "Do Whatcha Wanna?"
JD: I know the band, I'm not familiar with (then a short coughing fit), just send me a link.
LC: Well, it's sort of like an anthem for this city and it seems like a perfect fit for The Dude, so what's your relationship to New Orleans?
JD: Well, not as much as I used to, you know, I've been down there for Jazz Fest a couple times, but here's a classic New Orleans story. One of my best friends, a guy from Cornell, where I didn't go but I audited classes but (I think he said, "my mother taught there when I was a senior in high school"), but all my friends became, you know, went to Cornell… But I don't wanna look like that Republican Senator from Illinois who claimed (??? peraps, Mark Kirk)… but pretty much everyone who went to Cornell thought I went there… I was spending more time in class than anyone…
But anyway, there's a guy named Deane Rink, who's probably one of the most erudite people I've ever met, did shows like, "Carl Sagan's Cosmos" (then an entire list of amazing accomplishments) and Deane is married to a woman named Tami Lynn. And if you're familiar with New Orleans music, you know who Tami is, (???), the Neville's, they'll say, "Yeah, she was my best friend growing up."… And Tami played with Mac, she played with Dr. John, so I'd hung with her about (???)… so, this is one of the only funny Katrina stories. Tami's mother, who's in her 80's, lives down, you know, when Katrina comes. So they go down there, you know, Deane and Tami live in Tribeca, in New York, and so they go and they bring her mother back. Now, Deane be white and Tami be Black, okay? But her mother's old enough, so she's got Alzheimer's, which is one of the reasons they had to bring her back, right?
JD: Everyday, Tami's mother gets up, wakes up and goes, "Tami! Tami! Who's that white man living in our house?" She goes, "Well, that's my husband, Ma, Deane." So, it's like "Groundhog Day" every day. You know, like how long since Katrina? A few years and she still does that, "Who's that white man?" And then they have to explain it to her every day. By the end of each day she's very friendly with Deane and the next day, she wakes up and doesn't know who the hell he is.
Tami, you know, is New Orleans through and through and she has her own stage at Jazz Fest often, you know, still… So, in that sense, I've hung with them down there and Tami is, so really one of my very best friends is from down there… But she's of that group, those guys, they're all the same age, you know, growing up together, Mac, the Nevilles, Wynton Marsalis and all those guys and she was one of them and she was like the woman of all those guys…
LC: She was the Shirley MacLaine to their Rat Pack.
JD: Yes! That's exactly was Tami Lynn was. Also, I was involved with a movie called, "Belizaire the Cajun" with Armand Assante and Robert Duvall.
LC: When was that?
JD: It was the first year of Sundance and a good friend of mine, this guy named Glen Pitre, a filmmaker in New Orleans, who you should meet. I will put you on the phone with Glen right now. He's a major music and cultural guy down there, a film guy…
Actually, here's another weird kinda funny story about Katrina. Glen is shooting on IMAX in the wetlands, okay? So he's down there and at one point, they decided they wanted, they needed to build a little lake, a miniature lake and so they had miniature houses and stuff like that, you know, like one quarter scale or something like that, to show a flood. And they flooded it to show what it would look like if it ever flooded and three days later, you know, they've already built the thing, they spent like one fourth of their budget on it, and along comes Katrina.
LC: We had that on "Hell Ride." We paid to do a dust storm and then the next four days, we had a dust storm that nearly shut us down everyday.
JD: And a dust storm ain't cheap either.
LC: No, it ain't. And it's not cheap to cover up a real one either.
JD: So, from the music, the food, the drunken', you know, the first time I went down there, we went to one of those outdoor uh… daiquiri shops, right? It might have been near the Garden District. It looked like a converted McDonald's type thing, or KFC. And they have like all the drinks in the world and one of them was White Russian.
So we get some White Russians and, you know, a couple of the women kept drinking them after that, but I tried one and it's a milk shake that gets you high. And, you know, it's actually pretty good. It does give you a nice little buzz, but we didn't really drink them for awhile but Joel and Ethan (the Coen brothers, who wrote, directed and produced, "The Big Lebowski"), of course, are always looking for comedy or satire or something, picked that because it's a better drink to riff off both with sight gags and funny stuff, you know, calling it a caucasian, you know, you could have him pouring the non-dairy creamer and (???) a White Russian when he's at Maude's place and stuff like that. So now I drink them because everywhere I go, people want to buy me one, right?
JD: And you don't wanna be a shmuck, you know, and say, I'll take a Maker's Mark on the rocks, you know because they want to have a White Russian with The Dude. So, because of that, I'm not going to disappoint people… so I do end up drinking a lot of them.
LC: But I would think people want to get stoned with The Dude more than drink a White Russian with The Dude.
JD: Well, most want to do both, okay? (me laughing) It's been a long time when I come into a town and I have to bring any pot, you know?
LC: That's an advantage to being The Dude.
Next week, The Dude reveals how a party for the Coen brothers' debut film, "Blood Simple," and a Rat Pack connection led to "The Big Lebowski" being set in a bowling alley.