“He’s a Sex Offender, With a Record”: Har Mar Superstar @ Lebowski Fest

I used to be into some awkward shit during my Junior High and High School years.  Not much has changed.  I would unsuccessfully try  to pull off such things as Coen Bros. film festivals at my house, pre Fargo.  They didn’t go over too well; nobody else was down to sit through films like Blood Simple or Miller’s Crossing for too long.  When The Big Lebowski was released, I went with my friend Crackbaby to see it in the theater.  I really enjoyed it, but it took a while to fully grow on me.  Eventually, it reached the point where I absolutely loved it.  Based on my prior experiences with an extreme lack of interest from all around me, I never had any reason to believe that the rest of the world gave a shit about this film at all.  Over time, it’s become strikingly obvious that the Coen‘s film, which garnered relatively low box office numbers upon its release, had slowly gained its own cult film status with a sizable fanbase.

In 2002, two men by the name of Scott and Will realized that they could exploit the popularity of the film and formed a convention-like festival based around it.  Since it’s creation, the festival has grown and grown each year.  Publications like Maxim, Spin, and even the Wall Street Journal have praised Lebowski Fest, rating it as a must attend event.  By this year, it has already become a nationally touring force across the continental US, with a two-day stop in each of the towns that it hits.  The first day is lightly performance-based and includes a viewing of the movie, while the second day involves bowling and a costume competition.  “Exploit” may not have been the best word for me to use, considering that the creators are legitimate fans.  Then again, it may just be the perfect terminology to employ; this festival is not cheap.  I was brought out  to Lebowski Fest this year by two things.  The first reason was the fact that I actually won a pair of passes to it, so it was free.  The second, and possibly more important reason, was that Har Mar Superstar was scheduled to perform.


Har Mar Superstar
Lebowski Fest
July 20,2009
Fremont Outdoor Cinema

My “special lady“, Kim, and I met up with M. Hersted at a local pub and then headed over to the show.  The Fremont Outdoor Cinema isn’t really a cinema at all, it’s actually just a parking lot.  The outside wall of a building is painted to project movies off of, weekly throughout the summer months.  I saw Easy Rider there when I was 15, so it’s been around for a long time.  Lebowski Fest tickets were $20, for the paying crowd, and that was just for the first night.  I was wondering how they were going to regulate entry fees for something like this, until I noticed that the festivities had actually been moved to the inside of the building that contained the projection wall.  Someone held a clipboard with a Will Call list that I, apparently, wasn’t on.  I talked my way through anyway.  It’s not the first time that I’ve had “work it” because of a guest list issue.

One of the main advertising angles was an appearance by Jeff Dowd, the real life inspiration for the character of  The Dude.  As mentioned in the film, Dowd actually was part of the Seattle Seven, members of anti-Vietnam group the Seattle Liberation Front who were charged with “conspiracy to incite a riot” at a courthouse back in 1970.  He was standing out front and taking pictures with those who wanted them, but he looked as if he’d much rather be smoking his cigarettes with a White Russian than white soccer moms and accountants.  Some random attendee dressed like Jesus Quintana came by and people began walking past Dowd to take pictures with him, instead.  A couple of other guys were selling posters of a Big Lebowski version of The Last Supper.  We finished smoking our cigarettes and went inside to see what this whole scene was really about.

The venue is nice and, although it’s only located about a block from my old apartment, I had never been inside before.  I knew that they would occasionally throw random events in there, like the Halloween rave Freak Night, and It was clear that there was plenty of room to do so sufficiently.  There was a merch booth selling shirts and other Lebowski related shit, 3 large screens set behind a stage, and a bar towards the back.  The screens were showing a short documentary about the festival and there were couches and seats, already completely filled with patrons watching it.  We went through the 21 and over section to get a drink.  “Uh, I’m just gonna go find a cash machine“.  A tallboy of Rainier and a small plastic cup filled with an incredibly weak White Russian cost me $10.  The ATM fee was $3 alone and I actually tipped them.  “Fucking goldbrickers!‘  What was I paying for exactly?  After the hype died down, I Har-Mar-upclose-glovescouldn’t figure out the difference between this and a Star Wars convention, except that there was less to do.  I was still psyched for the Har Mar show and assumed that things would pick up.  We moved towards the back and sat on the floor in the only spots left available.

After the video ended, the two creators of the fest took the stage dressed as bowling pins.  Between them was some guy dressed in a sweater and glasses to resemble The Dude from the film.  He looked as much like Jeff Bridge‘s character as any out of shape man who grew his hair and beard out to do so.  His connection?  Just some guy who they met from attending the festivals.  They thanked people for coming out and announced that Har Mar would be doing a special performance created for the night, later.  I went back out to smoke again and returned to see SeanHar Mar SuperstarTillmann on stage, dressed in a nuditard and wrapped in vines.

There was a sheet on stage that was lit with his silhouette and Tillman was reenacting the “cycle“, The Dude‘s landlord‘s dance quintet.  People were into it, but it didn’t last long.  After the dance routine, Har Mar picked up the mic and the disco ball kicked on.  He started to speak with his usual profanity and, for some reason, there were kids in the crowd.  “8 yr old’s, dude.”  He strutted around sensually, with a Ron Jeremy physique and a porn star-chic mustache, to original jams like “Body Request“.  He slowly pulled the vines from his hair mid-song and then whipped out his patented pseudo-headstand moves, which involves the portly entertainer supporting himself on his shoulder and the side of his face, while he continues to sing into the mic.  By this time, I had already scurried up to the front, hopping through to the all-ages section to get a closer view.  This was also around the time that I think he began to lose the rest of the crowd.  Still upside down, he was thrusting his hairy thighs into the air and performing little scissor kicks.

Har Mar‘s routine is very physical and his musical style consists of R&B and soul funk dance tracks in the vein of Prince and the Revolution.  I first heard of him when he did a show with my friend Mac Dawg, who used to perform a similar routine as a balding, scantily clad, hairy chested man singing R&B keyboard jams.  That show was at a place called Arrowspace in Olympia, Wa that eventually closed due to, what I believe was fire code violations.  The White Stripes, supposedly, played there before their big break, as well.  It was a small makeshift venue that was only about the size of my one room apartment.  Since then Har Mar‘s star has risen tremendously.  You may remember him as the disco champ Dancin’ Rick, the man who Ben Stiller lost a dance-off to in the Starsky and Hutch movie.  His last album, The Handler, came out in 2004 and helped boost him into stardom.  Since then, Tillmann has continued to tour with a rhythm section consisting of Fabrizio Moretti (The Strokes) and Tony Bevilacqua (Distillers) and working on other projects, such as Sean Na Na with Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs/Gutter Twins) on backing vocals.  His work with Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) and producer Boom Bip, as Neon Neon, was nominated for a 2008 Mercury Prize, he’s written tracks for acts as varied as The Cheetah Girls, and he took the stage last year to perform “Electric Feel” with MGMT at the TIM festival in Brazil.  Though his star status may have slumped in the US, Har Mar is still extremely popular overseas.  He is even a spokesperson for both LYNX deoderant and Vladivar Vodka in the UK.  Sure, they love him overseas, but the crowd at Lebowski Fest wasn’t coming around as smashingly.

Har-Mar-to-the-skyTillmann continued his seduction by peeling off his nuditard and down to nothing but a pair of leopard print, Paul Frank briefs.  Covered in sweat, he ran into the crowd with his wireless mic.  Writhing and working his pelvic thrusts, he climbed onto the arms of couches that had families still seated in them.  He squatted down, gripping his mic as he sang into it.  He then stood up, working his area alarmingly close to the faces of middles aged men and women that were in hysterics, partly from the humor and partly just from fear.  He reached down into his crotch and then reached up to his mouth, blowing into his fist as if his hand was exploding open and sending seductive magic into the sky.  He did this same move again later in his show and, I may just have been caught in a trance, but I swear I saw glitter release and fly out into the air.

When he returned to the stage, he caught his breath long enough to request that somebody get him a “fucking White Russian“, which he sipped on stage in his underwear.  He clicked his iPod to the next track, grabbed a pair of white jeans from a pile of clothes on a stool.  He slowly pulled them on as he performed his vocals.  He threw his hands up into the sky like an evangelist and put his hand to his ear like Hulk Hogan summoning more encouragement.  He continued to sing his erotic grooves while leaning back, dropping to all fours, crawling towards the crowd shirtless, and then rising to his knees with a tightly gripped mic to his face.  He finished it off by standing with his back to the audience with one fist pumped high.  He was screaming out things like, “Give it up for me!” and “I’m fucking awesome!

Tillmann asked if anyone minded if he did his show “backwards” because he wanted to put on his socks.  He continued to slowly rerobe throughout the rest of his performance.  Next came a pair of silver shoes and his elbow-length, fingerless gloves with gold mermaid-like scaly sequins.  Still crooning, he pulled a Prince and The Revolution shirt with the sleeves ripped off over his face and, finally, finished off the ensemble with short-sleeve Menudo sweatshirt.  The artist continued to run out into the audience intermittently and climbed up and down the few stage steps on his hands and knees.  Sometimes he would just crouch down to sing , pointing his ass directly at the audience.  One woman was taking photos on the opposite side of the stage that I was.  Tillman stepped down to grind her while she was shooting and then, smoothly, grabbed and made out with her, before continuing his verse.  I don’t know if he knew her or not, but she went along with it and then went back to getting her photographs as he danced away.

He busted out favorites like “Cry 4 Help” and “EZ Pass” but also incorporated a couple of new tracks from his upcoming release, Dark Touches.  The one that I distinctly remember was a song called “Tall Boy“, which was originally intended for Britney Spears and, subsequently, rejected by the pop-star’s management.  She missed out, that song was the fucking jam, but I guess her “people” aren’t into perpetuating the image that she drinks oversized containers of low-quality beer.  Superstar continued to request praise from the unprepared audience and even demanded that they applaud like they wanted to “fuck” him.  I saw the petrified look on a 12 year old boy’s face that was sitting with his mother in the front row.  It was priceless.  “I have two more songs“, Tillmann began.  Then he finished by explaining that he had to them “Contractually“.  He announced that the next song would be “DUI” and asked if anyone in the audience had ever been charged with one.  When no one responded to his question, he stated that he knew that the people of Seattle must have DUI‘s and that’s why they have all the “fucking bike messengers“.  I saw that same 12 yr old‘s face smile after that one.  He finished off his set strong with the undeniable groove of the song  “Power Lunch“.


As I walked by to my “seat” I noticed people booing and talking shit.  “We’re talking about unchecked aggression here, dude.”  I also saw a few others staring at each other with looks of awe and confusion.  These weren’t the types of looks that just said, “Woah, that was much more than I had expected.”  They were more like reactions of, “What just happened?!  I was experiencing some tracers and then all I remember was an image of a neon leprechaun, vertigo, and…. I think… maybe a memory of some unicorn wrestling, demons, and blood.  I went blank, but…. did someone rape my face?!  WAIT!  Where are the kids?!”  As far as I was concerned, my night was made.  There’s nothing that I enjoy more than realizing that nobody else in the room is enjoying what I am at all.  Har Mar did his whole act at full-force and didn’t miss a beat, with or without positive crowd feedback.  He’s a true showman.  This entire Lebowski function was fueled by a crowd mentality, anyway, so no one was going to speak up too loud, without being sure that everyone else agreed with them. “These men are cowards.”  We went outside for a smoke and saw a Tillmann pulling drags off of one of his own.. shirtless, no less.

We came back in and caught the last 15 seconds, or so, of a JeffThe DudeDowd speech, which must have lasted about 5 minutes at the most.  I don’t really think that much more could have been expected from a man who was the inspiration for one of the biggest slackers in the history of cinema.  Next on the agenda was a screening of the film itself, but first, we were told that there would be a special surprise.  The lights went down and the projection screens were quickly broadcasting a pre-recorded video message from Jeff Bridges.  Dressed as “The Dude“, Bridges apologized for not being able to make an appearance at the festival and explained that he was busy with prior obligations.  The actor placed on his old TRON helmet, to reference that his duties were related to his involvement in the upcoming sequel {see our previous post featuring TRON trailer & footage from Comic-Con}.  My back was aching when the opening credits rolled.  We were sitting on the floor and trying desperately to adjust to our obstructed view.  People screamed and cheered during the intro and then continued to call out the lines throughout the rest of the film; often at the wrong times and often not even the correct lines.  Others stomped around carelessly and knocked over the drinks of strangers.  “Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”  Some guy tried to post a chair up right in front of me, but noticed that I was looking pissed.

Am I blocking your view if I sit here?
Am I really?
Yes, you are.

He moved, but I couldn’t figure out why I was sitting in a room and watching a film that I already owned with a bunch of squaking dipshits around me.  “Fuck it dude!” I decided to leave.  On my way out, I noticed the two creators of the festival sitting in a luxury tour bus out front.

Lebowski Fest isn’t exactly an “officialCoen Brothers event and has become its own entity.  That is, if you don’t count the endless amounts of unofficial Coen related merchandise, film viewing, poster art, etc.  I understand why The Big Lebowski is considered a “cult film”; it wasn’t a box office hit, but slowly grew an underground fanbase.  My question is, “At what point does the popularity of a film push it beyond that status?”  The wikipedia page for “cult film” defines them as films that have acquired a “highly devoted but specific group of fans.”  I agree that the fans at Lebowski Fest are highly devoted but, as someone who actually has enjoyed the film since its original release, I did not feel a connection with the middle-class families and frat boys in attendance.  I did not attend the second night with the bowling , costume competition, and trivia, but I’m sure that there was more of an opportunity for the crowd to communicate with and meet each other on a personal level.  Still, I would expect a “cult” film to have a convention once a year in a specified location, not to have the ability to have a multi-city tour across the the country over a few month period.  Like I said, I have no frame of reference as far as the bowling night goes, but I can’t honestly say that it’s worth it to pay for a function like this.  Beyond the $20 entry fee for the first night and the overpriced drink fees, the second night costs another $25 for the bowling event and the fine print reads “Bowling is general admission and not guaranteed“.  Not guaranteed?  If Har Mar Superstar wasn’t there, I would have felt that the night was a bust, because it would have consisted of little more than a video playing.  The Portland event featured a burlesque show in addition to Har Mar, while most of the stops don’t even have him on the bill at all.  If you are planning to attend the event, I would suggest checking in to what specifically is going on in your town first.  This “fest” is not for the type of people who need to write a check for 69 cents, like the fictional character that it is intended to praise.  It’s not exactly a “festival” and it isn’t really a convention either, but I guess that people seem to enjoy themselves.  I actually enjoyed myself too, but it was because of Sean Tillmann‘s performance and not  in spite of it.  To me, the most fascinating thing was that, for all the people who consider themselves to be part of some kind of counter-culture, Har Mar Superstar proved to be far too “counter-culture” than most of them could ever handle.  “Fucking amateurs!

Har Mar Superstar‘s new album Dark Touches is scheduled for an October, 2009 release date and Tillmann will also be featured in the new roller derby film “Whip it!” with Ellen Page.  Until then, enjoy this classic footage of the dance idol singing “Cry 4 Help” and working his moves for industry execs in his attempt to get a record deal. {yes, that is hot sauce that he’s squirting onto his naked body}

{click images to enlarge}

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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