CATEGORIES On the Scene

If I closed my eyes and pointed to a list of films the Coen Brothers made, there is no doubt that any one of the titles I landed on would be amazing. You can always count on the duo for top-notch performances, sharp writing and rich visuals -- the last of which is one reason their 1998 cult classic comedy, 'The Big Lebowski,' is perfect for our Famous Movie Locations list. When you think of The Dude (Jeff Bridges), one doesn't exactly think of style or finesse -- he's more at home in a pit-stained t-shirt and bathrobe than anything else. His favorite haunt, however -- the retro-licious bowling alley at the center of The Dude's universe and shenanigans -- adds a touch of class to the slacker's life, and "really ties things together" (as much as the infamous rug). It's not just a place for beers and bowling; it's the place from which a series of hilarious, surreal and bizarre events are concocted surrounding a ransom and kidnapping scheme.

The kidnapping involves Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid) -- the trophy wife of one "Big" Lebowski -- who has the same surname as The Dude. A case of mistaken identity brought them together and the millionaire Lebowski eventually commissions The Dude to deliver the ransom to Bunny's kidnappers. That is, until Walter (John Goodman), one of The Dude's close compadres, plans a scheme to keep the cash.

Location as Character:
The Hollywood Star Lanes is never officially renamed in 'The Big Lebowski,' but that doesn't seem particularly important. What is important is how the brightly-lit, old-school bowling alley serves as a perfect foil for The Dude. The audience spends more time at the lanes than they do in Dude's small (and surprisingly clean) apartment. This home away from home is perfect for our man Jeffrey Lebowski, because it's as anachronistic as he is. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Lebowski spends his time in a bowling alley where scores are still kept by hand and the amenities of most modern lanes would be sneered at.

The site serves as a clubhouse of sorts for our gang of merry misfits. It's the meeting place where all the major plans come together and where Lebowski returns after things have gone horribly wrong time and time again. It's surely comforting to the character, with its retro vibe and colorful cast of league players -- a no-frills location for a guy who's comfortable donning a milky, White Russian 'stache.

Historical Significance: The Hollywood Star Lanes opened in 1960 and was the area's only go-to bowling spot for 43 years. This 24/7 locale had all the amenities any favorite late-night haunt should have: a cocktail bar, jukebox and celebrities to gawk at and rub elbows with. With its vintage neon signs and retro decor, it should come as no surprise that the local community was devastated when the popular 10-pin alley was knocked down in 2003 to make room for a new elementary school.

Fun Facts: Though the closing of Star Lanes was a strike for its patrons, they can always revisit lucky lane number seven at Lucky Strike Hollywood; the new bowling alley wanted to pay its respects and purchased lane seven from Star Lanes. But the only thing you'll be bowling on it is a glass or two after a long night: Lucky Strike Hollywood used the former bowling lane for its bar top. Some of the vintage signs and retro items are on display there, as well.

Directions: You can rub Lucky Strike's bar for good luck and old time's sake at 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028. To get there by car, take Highway 101 to the Hollywood Freeway and head west on Sunset Blvd. toward Vine St. Turn right on North Highland Ave., then make a left onto Hollywood Blvd.

If you'd like to head over to the original site where Star Lanes stood, visit 5227 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Los Angeles. Take Highway 101 to the Hollywood Freeway and head Northwest on Exit 11B toward Buddy Holly Dr., then merge onto the Dr. Turn left at Universal Studios Blvd. West and make another left at Cahuenga Blvd. West. Turn left to merge onto US-101 South and take exit 7 toward Western Ave./CA-2 West/Santa Monica Blvd. Make a slight left at Lexington Ave. and then turn right at North Western Ave. Take the second left onto Santa Monica Blvd. (signs for US-101 North Hollywood Freeway) and the school should be on the left (altogether about 5 miles).

Visitor Info: Lucky Strike Hollywood has a pretty strict dress code after 7PM (it's also 21-plus only during that time). That means The Dude, Walter and Donny would have never actually bowled there. The lanes are open Mon. -- Wed. from 3PM to 12AM, Thurs. -- Fri. from 12PM to 2AM and Sat. -- Sun. from 11AM to 2AM. You'll have your pick of amenities -- anything from private lounges, to pool tables and DJs, to classic photo booths and large projection screens. Most importantly, there are 12 lanes to bowl on. Call 323-467-7776 for further information.