Randy Quaid has starred in several dozen movies, earning an Academy Award nomination in one of his earliest, The Last Detail with Jack Nicholson, but his greatest drama continues to play out, in real life. And increasingly, it’s turning into a tragedy.
Nearly two months after The Daily Beast reported how the actor and his wife, Evi, a former Helmut Newton nude model, have retreated to the remote Texas town of Marfa chased by a tsunami of unpaid bills and felony changes against them, the story is getting ever more bizarre. Specifically:
- They have failed to appear at four separate criminal court hearings.
- The police officer who arrested the Quaids has been fired—and blames pressure on authorities from the actor and his wife.
- Evi Quaid is developing a museum to her husband’s film career, in possible violations of local zoning laws.
- A Texas neighbor has accused them of vandalizing his house.
- Evi Quaid sent a letter to a theater critic, containing nude pictures of herself, holding a gun.
Let’s start in court. On October 19, Randy and Evi Quaid were supposed to appear in a Santa Barbara court to face charges of burglary, fraud, and conspiracy after they’d skipped out on a $10,546.96 bill at the San Ysidro Ranch resort hotel. After they didn’t show up, Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter tells The Daily Beast he began official extradition proceedings to force the Quaids from Texas back to California to face the music.
Evi Quaid sent several nude photos of herself to the writer, including one showing her sprawled on a bed with a gun in her hand.
Judge Clifford Anderson allowed the Quaids to choose another appearance date. They picked October 26 but then sent word they couldn’t make it. Next, the Quaids selected October 29—and ignored that date as well. The judge sent word that their case was on for November 2, their fourth chance to step forward and get this trouble behind them.
But on November 1, Judge Anderson received a long rambling letter on Randy Quaid stationery. It read similarly to the erratic missives often written by his wife, Evi.
The letter sidesteps the main charge—that the Quaids knowingly presented a bogus credit card to cover the cost of their pricey stay at the San Ysidro Ranch, the scene of their wedding 20 years ago. It instead argues that the hotel insisted upon upgrading them into a suite that was twice as expensive as they room they’d asked for, giving the Quaids the impression that the lower room rate would apply. The letter claims the hotel made “unusually urgent demands for payment” during their stay, and then pulls the celebrity card when explaining why the couple simply walked away from hotel.
“Five-star establishment clients are allowed to leave the hotel at the end of their stay without stopping by the front desk. In fact, it is expected they will do so,” Quaid, older brother to the more famous Dennis Quaid, wrote the judge. “This is the way my wife and I have always departed these hotels…” The letter goes on to take a snide swipe at Ty Warner, the hotelier whose holdings include the San Ysidro Ranch Resort.
“Apparently, the rating on Warner’s [$425 million bond] debt is in jeopardy of being lowered because of a squeeze on his cash flow… Warner’s unfortunate financial situation has caused me to wonder if his pursuit of my wife and me isn’t for the benefit of his debt service specialist, and if Evi and I, because of our notoriety, aren’t being used as a convenient tool...”
Notoriety is the operative word there. For the past two years, the Quaids have been piling up problems, from a lifetime ban from the Actors’ Equity union (following allegations that the pair harassed and humiliated cast members at a Seattle theater production, and that Evi physically attacked the union’s 76-year-old receptionist, to numerous large, unpaid bills, to expressed fears by Evi that unnamed assassins were out to kill them.
They fled their digs in Beverly Hills and landed at a warehouse property they own in tiny Marfa, a blip on the Texas landscape 375 miles almost due west of Austin, with a population of fewer than 2,500, where they’ve proceeded to make enemies.
Almost immediately after Deputy Sheriff James Davis arrested them in September on the California warrant, Evi filed a formal complaint against him. She then parked a box truck outside the sheriff’s office festooned with a hand-painted banner taking direct aim at the officer: “Deputy James Davis takes payments... call & make offers." The deputy is now suing for defamation.
On November 3, The Daily Beast has learned, after a 31-year career in law enforcement, James Davis was suddenly terminated. His attorney, Jason Snell, tells The Daily Beast the deputy was given vague reasons, “like he violated procedure on using department cars.” Snell says he strongly suspects pressure from the Quaids.
Back at the ranch, Evi squabbled with one of her neighbors in Marfa about his satellite dish that she said encroached on the Quaids’ property. When it was later ripped from his roof, and his house was marked with spray-paint, the neighbor filed vandalism charges against her. Police are investigating. Meanwhile, the city is examining whether the Quaids violated the town’s building code as Evi charges ahead with converting part of their warehouse to a museum in honor of her husband’s film career.
And Evi hasn’t forgotten about some of the people on the West Coast. Following up on the Seattle show that led to the couple’s lifetime union ban, Evi earlier this year set her sights on a local theater critic. She sent several nude photos of herself to the writer, including one showing her sprawled on a bed with a gun in her hand. Her note was just as puzzling, “Here is my German stuff. What about these pictures will your editor guarantee there is a good story and tie to the play that’s really funny and about production.” Huh?
Meanwhile, in Santa Barbara County—the scene of the hotel stay-and-dash that started this latest drama—the legal community wonders if court appearance number five, set for December 15, will be the charm. Will the Quaids actually show up? What will happen if they don’t? As it stands now, they face a maximum of up to three years in prison.
Until recently, it was also unclear who would represent them. A source within the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office tells The Daily Beast that two local attorneys refused the Quaids as clients when they failed to provide an upfront retainer. Finally, they recruited Robert Sanger. (Sanger did not return several phone calls before deadline, and numerous attempts to contact the Quaids have been unsuccessful. Sanger is used to clients who don’t pay on time, and have to be dragged into court (sometimes in their pajamas). He used to represent Michael Jackson.
Investigative journalist and syndicated columnist Diane Dimond has covered the Michael Jackson story since 1993 when she first broke the news that the King of Pop was under investigation for child molestation. She is author of the book, " Be Careful Who You Love—Inside the Michael Jackson case." She lives in New York with her husband, broadcast journalist Michael Schoen.