Nancy Jo Sales – Vanity Fair January 2011
They’re spending nights in their car, on the run from the same shadowy cabal—“the Hollywood Star Whackers”—who may have killed Heath Ledger, possibly sabotaged Jeremy Piven, and could now be targeting Lindsay Lohan. No, this is not the plot of Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Randy Quaid’s latest movie. It is what he and his wife, Evi, swear is really happening to them. With the Quaids in Canada, the author probes their nightmare reality, which has alienated friends and family, and turned the couple into outlaws.
Evi Quaid called from a pay phone in Vancouver to say that she and her husband, Randy, the actor, had tried to drive to Siberia, but they “couldn’t figure out how to get there.” She said, “We’re running for our lives.” She wanted me to meet them the next day in Vancouver’s Chinatown—which couldn’t be arranged any other way, as the Quaids don’t use cell phones anymore, because, Evi said, “they’re tracking us.”
“They” were “the Hollywood Star Whackers” the couple had been talking about in television interviews ever since they arrived in Canada in October, seeking asylum. The “Whackers,” they said, were the same people who may have “killed” David Carradine and Heath Ledger, possibly set up Robert Blake, and could now be targeting Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. “Are either of you mentally unstable, schizophrenic, or on drugs?,” Andrea Canning asked on Good Morning America. “Do you think we are?” demanded Evi. “No!” said Randy.
I found the Quaids sitting in their car outside a Chinese tearoom on a block glowing with red and yellow neon lights. Nobody was around. It was night. Their car, a black Prius, was crammed with stuff—clothes, coats, shoes, papers, a pillow, blankets, and an excitable Australian cattle dog named Doji, who was hoarse from barking while he was in the pound when his owners were being detained by Canadian immigration.
The car smelled of fast food and dog pee and Randy’s cigars. I asked the Quaids if they were living in their car. “Only on nights when we’re too terrified to leave our stuff or don’t feel secure,” Evi said. “We used to have a Mercedes. This whole ordeal has forced us to become incredibly green.”
“Priuses are deceptively roomy,” drawled Randy, who’s originally from Houston. “We’re tall people, and the legroom is important.”
Randy Quaid, who is 60, was nominated for an Oscar for The Last Detail (1973), won a Golden Globe for his performance as Lyndon Johnson in LBJ: The Early Years (1987), and has appeared in more than 70 other films, including Independence Day (1996) and Brokeback Mountain (2005). He has worked with countless legends of the film industry (Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Milos Forman, Hal Ashby), meanwhile earning a reputation as a great actor. He is probably best known, however, for his over-the-top role as “Cousin Eddie,” Chevy Chase’s schlemiel cousin-in-law in the Vacation comedies—something which irks him.
When I came upon him, Quaid—who is six feet four with a pudding face and large, flat green eyes—was wearing Buddy Holly glasses, a blue shirt, an Armani blazer, and a purple tie; he looked slimmer than in years past and surprisingly stylish for a man on the run. “I call it ‘the Failure-to-Appear Diet,’ ” he said, joking about his and his wife’s not showing up for a string of court dates in Santa Barbara.
The Quaids were arrested in September of 2009 for defrauding an innkeeper, conspiracy, and burglary after skipping out on a $10,000 bill at Santa Barbara’s San Ysidro Ranch hotel; in September of 2010 they were arrested again, for residential burglary and entering a noncommercial building without consent, after squatting in a house in Montecito, California, which they had formerly owned. There was a warrant out for Evi’s arrest on the second set of charges. (The first case was resolved, with the charges against Randy dropped and Evi getting three years probation and 240 hours of community service after they settled their hotel bill.)
Evi had also been charged with resisting arrest at the Montecito house. “They hog-tied me!” she told me.
Evi, 47, a former Hollywood “It girl” who once modeled nude for Helmut Newton and put up a show in a gallery in L.A. consisting of giant photographs of her pierced vagina, was dressed in a black YSL blazer, vest, pants, and combat boots—fugitive chic. She was wearing a bejeweled Prada belt that looked expensive. She was verging on emaciated, tense and jittery.
“We haven’t eaten at a table in a restaurant like this in 18 months,” Randy said as we settled into a corner of the brightly lit tearoom, which was otherwise empty. Both Quaids were glancing nervously around.
“They’re hunting us,” Evi said. “It’s really happening. They’ve got us in a spiral. ‘Don’t let up on ’em. Drive ’em off the road. Starve ’em to death.’ ” She was slapping her hands together for emphasis. “ ‘Pull their money out of their bank accounts.’ ”
“I guess I’m worth more to ’em dead than alive,” Randy said mildly.
People started noticing there was something seriously amiss with the Quaids about three years ago, when Randy left the Broadway-bound musical Lone Star Love and was then banned for life from the Actors’ Equity Association, the stage union, for physically and verbally abusing his fellow performers. Then came the arrests and the couple’s bizarre appearances at various court dates: They wore pink handcuffs. Evi carried Randy’s Golden Globe and had a “valid credit card” affixed to her forehead.
By the time they arrived in Canada, calling themselves “refugees” and claiming they were targets of an assassination plot, the Quaids had gone viral.
I asked them when they believed their troubles began. They said it was in Marfa, Texas, the rural artists’ community where Giant was shot. They said they had traveled there in the summer of 2009 to “look at ranches and stuff” and erect a “Randy Quaid museum.” (They’d been fixing up a building in the middle of town—reportedly without the proper permits.)
Already, Evi said, “something really weird had started happening with Randy’s mail. His royalty and residual checks weren’t coming. We were really, truly panicked.” Adding to their unrest was the recent demise of the actor David Carradine, a friend of Randy’s whose death from apparent auto-erotic asphyxiation in Thailand the Quaids believed to be suspicious.
“They”—the aforementioned Hollywood Star Whackers—“decide, O.K., if we knock off David, then what we can do is simply collect the insurance covering his participation in the television show he was working on overseas,” Evi said. “It’s almost moronic, it’s so simple.”
She said she also suspected Jeremy Piven’s falling ill from mercury poisoning was another sign of a dastardly plot by the Broadway producers of Speed-the-Plow to collect insurance money. “It was an orchestrated hit,” she said. “They could have put mescaline in his water bottle.” Jeffrey Richards, one of the producers of the play, declined to comment.
While the Quaids were in Marfa, Evi, always a colorful personality, became embroiled in a local battle between the police and sheriff’s departments. At a town-council meeting, “she’s getting in the mayor’s face,” said Randy, grinning affectionately. He calls Evi “a character.” The Quaids were on the side of the Marfa cops, which made it all the more awkward when a deputy sheriff came out to arrest them after being informed that they were wanted by the Santa Barbara police for defrauding an innkeeper. It was now September.
“It was evil Mayberry,” said Randy.
The Quaids maintain it was all part of an insidious plan. “It’s a conspiracy with the police in Santa Barbara,” Evi insisted, claiming the San Ysidro Ranch (where she and Randy were married in 1989) had tricked them into switching to a more expensive room when they stayed there in June of 2009, after which the hotel repeatedly put through charges of $73,000 on their Chase credit card, she said, rendering it incapable of processing payment.
She said she never received the bill for their $10,000 stay, as she believed Randy’s mail was actually being rerouted into a phony probate file set up by the Hollywood Star Whackers in the name of “Ronda L. Quaid”—but more on that later.
A spokesman for the San Ysidro Ranch denied all of the Quaids’ claims, saying, “We attempted to contact them for payment many times, via phone and mail. We contacted the police in coordination with a collections agency.”
Rod Forney, the Santa Barbara detective who handled the warrant for the couple’s arrest, said he had first tried to settle the problem on the phone with Evi, but she “hung up on me. She was very rude.”
“Forney was heavily involved in the Michael Jackson setup,” Evi alleged—this was something she’d determined after seeing the detective’s picture on Google Images, where there is a shot of him going in to testify at Jackson’s 2005 trial for child-molestation, in which he was called as a witness for the prosecution.
Forney called the allegation “ridiculous,” saying, “I was never near Michael Jackson, ever. I wasn’t even the one assigned to the case. I [just] helped serve the search warrant on Michael Jackson’s private investigator.”
“You have to keep in mind that David [Carradine] had just died,” Evi said, “and Robert Blake—the whole thing was fake. I believe he was set up. And I was really convinced and still am that there were people trying to kill us, really kill us.” She told me that one day when she was visiting a ranch outside Marfa and talking on her cell phone she had heard a voice say, “If you kill her, there’s a lot of money in it.”
“Someone cut into her phone,” offered Randy.
A source with the Santa Barbara P.D. explained that the real reason they had gone after the Quaids so aggressively was that their investigation had turned up other instances where the couple had run out on hotel bills in California. They reportedly had unpaid charges at the Bel-Air in Beverly Hills ($17,000), the Biltmore in Montecito ($500), and San Francisco’s Nob Hill Hotel ($55,243). “This isn’t just a hotel trying to screw these guys,” the source said. “This is a behavior. It’s a pattern.”
Evi insisted, meanwhile, that they had paid all the bills in full.
All About Evi
‘What the hell happened to Randy Quaid?” asked the New York Post in October, after the Quaids fled to Canada. It’s a question no one who knew them before their meltdown seems to be able to answer. Evi was “out there, but you didn’t see this coming,” says a Los Angeles socialite who met the Quaids in the 90s soon after they were married.
Randy and Evi met in 1988 when he was shooting Bloodhounds of Broadway, a Madonna vehicle filmed in New York. Evi, 24 at the time, was a production assistant assigned to drive actors to the set. “She was wearing cowboy boots” on the day they met, Randy said; she lost her way driving him to work. He proposed to her at a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey, near where she was living, that same night. “Then we went home and brushed our teeth and fucked,” said Evi. “When we brushed our teeth it was like we’d been doing it all our lives. There was a kinship,” said Randy.
“Madonna was funny,” Evi said. “She tried to seduce Randy away. She said, ‘Randy, don’t you wanna come back? Jennifer [Grey, who also starred in the film] and I, we’re gonna have a ménage.’ ” She laughed.
Madonna and Jennifer Grey would not comment.
For Evi—born Evzenya Motolanez, the daughter of an academic, George Motolanez, who had taught Russian at Middlebury College—this sudden immersion in the Hollywood scene was intoxicating. She had so far lived the life of a classic, athletic preppy girl. Her mother, Louise Nicholas, came from a family that was in the trucking business in New Jersey; her uncle by marriage was Martin Revson, one of the founders of Revlon. She rode horses and skied and went to “five boarding schools in four years,” she said. But that was New England, not Rodeo Drive, where she soon developed a liking for shopping.
“She was quite a little shopper,” said Evi’s socialite friend. “She bought very expensive, stellar clothes.” “She was always out on the town, dressed to the nines,” said another person who knew her. “There was something fascinating about her—she was always changing her look.” “She had impeccable taste, very uptown,” said someone who works in fashion. Evi was known to some in that world as “All About Evi” for the way she worked her way up L.A.’s social ladder.
She appeared in Vogue twice in the 90s, once in a feature devoted to her style. The piece lavished praise on Evi’s collection of Alaïa micro-dresses, Geoffrey Beene gowns, Kelly bags, and leather jackets by Chrome Hearts—for which she was an early “muse.” She was famous for giving away clothes as the seasons changed. “Her garage sales … are legendary in L.A.,” said Vogue, which also mentioned how Evi had “traveled to Germany to pick out her magnificent Holsteiner horses … Duer du Veu, Comero, and Linus.”
After living for three years in the Montecito house, the Quaids moved to a rented home in Beverly Hills. After that, they were always on the move, staying in posh rentals—Steve Martin’s former house in L.A., a home of Lauren Bacall’s in the Hamptons. When they weren’t renting, they were living for long stretches in high-end hotels such as the Bel-Air, and the Carlyle, in New York.
“Our schedule for 10 years was never-ending,” Evi said, with Randy doing back-to-back movies, “and then he starts these Miller beer commercials where he’s getting a shitload of money and they’re flying us around on private planes and doing these private parties in Texas. He was earning a lot of money,” she said. “He was earning tons of money.”
Brother from Another Planet
It wasn’t until the late 80s, “when the Vacation movies were turning profitable,” Randy said, that he started getting big paydays as an actor. Quick Change, with Bill Murray, in 1990, was his first million-dollar role. Throughout the 70s, he’d done small-ish parts in a lot of wonderful films. Peter Bogdanovich cast him in The Last Picture Show when he was still an acting student at the University of Houston; Quaid came to Hollywood on his 21st birthday. Then there were What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Midnight Express. It was a “glorious” time to be in Hollywood, Quaid said—“the inmates were running the asylum and you could make any kind of movie you wanted.”
He didn’t want to make Vacation, he said, “but Chevy [Chase] called me himself,” and the role not only proved to be very lucrative but established his niche as the “best friend who’s goofy, the sort of comic-relief thing”—a stereotype he disliked.
Apparently Evi didn’t like this image for her husband, either. “She wanted him to be Dennis”—Quaid, the actor, Randy’s younger brother—said an old friend of Randy’s. (Evi said, “Dennis is not my type.”) “She tried to mold his career to be that,” said another friend. (“No,” said Evi.) “She took him wardrobe shopping to develop Randy into a leading man.” (“Randy does not need help playing a leading man,” Evi responded. “Randy’s my leading man.”)
“When their relationship began, the impact she had on Randy’s life seemed positive,” said Randy’s old friend. “He was a bumpkin character actor, content doing that—an incredibly talented guy, doing research and all that stuff. He wore T-shirts and jeans. Evi gave him style. She took him to Armani, Lucchese to get some boots. He didn’t want to play Lenny in Of Mice and Men for the rest of his life.” (Quaid co-starred in a 1981 TV production of Steinbeck’s novel with Robert Blake.)
“But after he did Days of Thunder,” in 1990—in which he played the second lead—“he became disenchanted and found that regular parts were not as interesting as character parts and maybe he was in the right place after all,” said his other friend.
People who knew them speculate that Evi’s aspirations for Randy were entangled in her competition with Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid’s former wife and Evi’s sister-in-law from 1991 to 2001. “She was jealous of Meg,” said a former friend of Evi’s. “Meg was a star and Evi wanted to be the star.” Evi would not comment on this. “She had artistic ambitions,” said a friend of Randy’s. In 1999, Evi directed Randy and Michael Caine in The Debtors, a film whose release was blocked by its backer, Intentional Software founder Charles Simonyi, reportedly because of his objection to a scene involving a “squirting rubber penis.” “I love that movie,” Randy said.
Meanwhile, Evi says it was Meg Ryan who was jealous of her—“She was always copying my style,” she told me, “my clothes, my furniture, or just things I would do.” (Meg Ryan declined to comment.) And then, Randy said, there was “the big family blowout” that happened after Ryan left Dennis Quaid to be with Russell Crowe.
When Ryan left Dennis, Randy and Evi say, she took with her some of the art in their house; and so Dennis asked Evi to find him a piece to cover a blank space on a wall. Evi brought over an Andy Warhol titled Russell Means—it was a massive silkscreen on canvas of Means, an Oglala Sioux activist who led a group of Native Americans in a symbolic takeover of Wounded Knee in 1973.
“I didn’t even think consciously ‘what Russell means,’ ” Evi said; but it could have been interpreted as insensitive by a man whose wife had just left him for a man named Russell. “It turned into, like, a play,” Evi said, laughing, “it was insane, with Dennis screaming at me and Randy screaming at Dennis and their mother screaming at both of them. It was kind of funny, to tell the truth.”
“I love my brother. I miss my brother,” said Randy.
Dennis Quaid would not return calls for comment.
‘The strange, grifter-ish behavior” began toward the middle of the 2000s, said someone who knew Randy and Evi Quaid. Many people seem to have heard the story of how Evi once agreed to lease a strip of “their” property on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills to their next-door neighbor, veteran talent manager Sandy Gallin, who wanted to expand his driveway, but then it turned out that the Quaids didn’t own the property at all—they were only renting it. Gallin declined to comment.
“Sandy Gallin was trying to buy our mailbox!” says Evi, who denies agreeing to lease the piece of property. “It was a scam to get Randy’s checks!” Gallin also declined to comment on this.
Sometime in 2006, when their high-powered neighbor threw a party—a star-studded affair with Calvin Klein and Barbra Streisand in attendance—Randy and Evi blasted music from the animated movie Home on the Range (2004) from speakers lodged in their trees. It was Randy singing a song from the film, for which he had done the voice of a villainous rancher, Alameda Slim.
The police were called—by the producers of Entourage, who were trying to film nearby and couldn’t because of the noise—and “then all of a sudden we hear screaming like you cannot believe,” said someone who was at the party. People assumed it was Evi Quaid. When I asked Randy and Evi about the incident, they confirmed their part in it, laughing.
But these oddball antics prepared no one for what would happen in 2007: Randy’s expulsion from Actors’ Equity for bad behavior on the set of Lone Star Love—a retelling of The Merry Wives of Windsor set in the 1860s in which Randy was cast as Colonel John Falstaff. The musical would have been a coup for Quaid; if it had gone to Broadway, it would have fired up a career comeback that had begun with his 2005 appearance in Brokeback Mountain. (In 2006, Quaid sued the producers of the film for $10 million, claiming they had misled him into believing that it was an indie production, causing him to take a lower fee, when it was really a big-budget release. “The circumstances of him dropping the suit are as mysterious as the circumstances under which he filed his claim,” a Focus Features spokeswoman said at the time.)
Two weeks before Lone Star Love, then in rehearsals in Seattle, was set to move to New York, Quaid “called in sick and was not seen again,” said Jack Herrick, the composer and musical director of the show. (Randy denied this, saying, “I would never walk off any show.”) “We had got a lot of warnings from people in the industry that [the Quaids] were dangerously unhinged,” said Herrick, “but Randy had been entirely charming and won the creative team over in the casting process.”
Problems began when “Evi became more and more involved, and as that happened it became more and more contentious,” Herrick said. A major issue was Randy’s costume, over which he insisted he had final approval. “He ended up in a very strange costume of [his and Evi’s] creation,” said Herrick. Randy dyed his hair beet red and wore a codpiece the size and shape of an official N.F.L. football. “It was a huge cock,” said Evi. “It was fucking great. It looked like gay Vivienne Westwood.”
Creative disagreements on Lone Star Love degenerated into “screaming matches,” said Herrick. Evi was constantly filming rehearsals with her video camera in violation of union rules (“I was not a union member,” Evi said) and writing “threatening e-mails about contractual obligations.” (“Yes, to the producer Bob Boyett,” she responded.) She also sent several people on the production a photograph of herself lying naked on a bed holding a pistol, which Herrick referred to as “The Naked Gun E-mail.” “I also sent the half-naked cop photo of me by Helmut Newton with the words ‘Eat me,’ ” said Evi.
According to someone who worked on the production, the Quaids smoked pot in Randy’s dressing room, and “I saw cocaine being used in their hotel room by friends of theirs.” Evi denies this. Evi also wrote an e-mail to someone else in the show saying that she and Randy had taken “too much” Ambien one night, causing them to have “psychotic paranoid reactions. I really wanted to jump out a window. Randy felt like a serial killer.” Evi confirmed the bad Ambien reaction, saying, “We got a doctor to give us a sedative and it was over.”
But the last straw for the producers and the 25 cast members who signed on to the Actors’ Equity action against Quaid were preview performances where he slapped an actor in the head four times in the process of knocking his hat off and ad-libbed lines about the “gynecological instruments” of an actress.
“They were accusing Randy of Falstaff’s character traits!” Evi argued. “He’s supposed to be a lascivious monster.”
The Quaids also claim that the producers of the play were trying to “kill” Randy. “They were leaving things on the stage,” Randy said, on the mark where he was supposed to jump through a curtain during part of the performance. “It never happened,” said Herrick.
“It was the insurance money!” Evi said. “We thought, They just want to blow up the production.” But even after Randy left, the play continued with other actors.
At his Actors’ Equity hearing in Los Angeles in January of 2008, Evi became irate when she was told she couldn’t film the proceedings, calling it a “Nazi plot” and kicking a 76-year-old secretary in the shins.
Randy was fined $81,572 for the two lost weeks of work on the show (which he has not paid). “It was an extortionist nightmare from Bob Boyett,” Evi said. “I have no idea what they are referring to,” said Boyett.
“It would be like herding cats to get a producer [of a Broadway show] to be part of a conspiracy,” Herrick said.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Randy of the debacle of the play, “because I put everything I had into it.”
Chainsaws and Shovels
‘Once the play thing happened,” Evi said, as the three of us drove around Vancouver in the middle of the night, “I wanted to figure out why we were being accused of so much bullshit and why people were trying to kill us.” So in 2009 the Quaids contacted Becky Altringer, an L.A. private eye featured in the 2006 documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated.
Altringer, who filed three lawsuits in small-claims court against the Quaids in 2010 for nonpayment of more than $15,000 (the cases have now been settled), said on the phone, “The Quaids wanted me to find out who was trying to kill them. The ‘union mob’ in Evi’s mind was Actors’ Equity and the Screen Actors Guild.” After Randy left Lone Star Love, “Evi’s stability changed,” she said. “I saw her get worse in a matter of weeks. Heath Ledger, Chris Penn—it all happened [around] the same time. So I thought, O.K., maybe there are some solid concerns here.
“So I started researching. And there really is no mob, nobody was out to kill them, it was all coincidental, and every one of these actors died at their own hands [Heath Ledger died of an apparent drug overdose and Chris Penn of a “cardiac event”]. But when I tried to tell Evi that, she went nuts and said, ‘No, you’re wrong.’ ”
In the summer of 2009 the Quaids stayed with Altringer and her partner for three days. “They had nowhere to go,” she said. “They had no car—all their cars were repossessed. I kicked them out on June 27. Then Evi went nuts.
“Three weeks they rented a mobile home from me—it was my partner’s mom’s—after we kicked them out of our house. I was literally going insane from Evi and her dog. She let it urinate in the house; she took our dinners out to the dog—roast beef. She woke up in the morning and said the mob was here—they have chainsaws and shovels; they’re going to bury us. I said, Evi, that’s the gardener.” Evi denied all of Altringer’s allegations.
The detective also said she saw Evi “snorting a powdered substance. I saw her snort a whole pill,” which Evi told her was Demerol. “I just about gagged.” Evi said she sometimes snorts crushed Demerol for migraines, as “it goes straight to the right side of your brain.”
Evi said of Altringer, scoffing, “She’s unstable.”
“Why do people believe someone like her—and not us?” asked Randy.
Quaids v. Hollywood
‘I always notice patterns,” Evi said as we glided around downtown Vancouver at night, “and this truly isn’t paranoia—it truly isn’t.” It was hard to wrap my mind around the web of intrigue she was spinning, with her nonstop rapid-fire delivery, a tale out of Thomas Pynchon, or perhaps just Law & Order: Los Angeles, that somehow involved the death of Michael Jackson and the “framing” of Mel Gibson. “I’ve spent three years figuring this out,” Evi said, detailing how her investigation had taken her to courthouses, record bureaus, and morgues, how she’d been knocking on strangers’ doors, looking for information. Randy listened intently, driving. I thought about how on Good Morning America he’d said how “very alive” he felt because of all this.
But I didn’t really understand the gist of all of Evi’s crazy talk—“It’s theft and murder!” she said—until I read the 220-page lawsuit Randy filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2010; it was voided after his $905 check for court costs bounced. The allegations in the aborted lawsuit—none of which an investigation by VANITY FAIR found to have had any merit whatsoever—all begin with a house Randy and Evi bought in Montecito, California, for $1.35 million in 1989.
The lawsuit alleges that a cabal of crafty Hollywood lawyers, estate planners, and accountants maneuvered to turn the house into a sort of at-the-ready cash machine full of endless equity, all in Randy and Evi’s name. The City National Bank allegedly went along with the scheme because the evil coterie had made it a beneficiary of the properties bought with the Quaids’ stolen equity. “The allegations against City National Bank are absurd, and they reflect a very sad state of affairs,” the bank responded when contacted by VANITY FAIR.
In 1991, the Quaids claim, they allowed this same diabolical group of lawyers and accountants to handle the sale of the house to a Hollywood executive; however, in 2010, they say, a bank employee somehow alerted them to the fact that the house had never actually been sold (as it was being used as an equity ATM) and so they were still the rightful owners. They claim their signatures on the deed selling the house were forged and that “an F.B.I. handwriting analysis” can prove it.
And this is why, they also claim, they were staying in the house when they were arrested for squatting in September 2010—because it is still theirs. But the house now belongs to a woman named Lannette Turicchi, the president of a media-and-event-promotions company, Falling Upwards Productions, and the wife of Scott Turicchi, president of J2 Global, a communications company. They both sit on the board of the John Paul II Cultural Center, in Washington, D.C.
“If Turicchi even exists,” Evi said, “she’s a placeholder” for the nefarious cabal. The Quaids said that they also suspected Lannette Turicchi may have been involved in the “theft” of their Mercedes-Benz—which was in fact taken by a repo company.
When contacted by phone, Lannette Turicchi didn’t really want to talk about any of this. “All I did was buy a house,” she said, sounding irritated. She has told the Santa Barbara police that the Quaids caused around $30,000 in damage to her Montecito house, which is not her primary residence. She took out restraining orders against the couple after they came to her home in Pasadena and harassed someone who was there. “I just wanted to see if she was there, and she wasn’t,” Evi said triumphantly.
But back to the plot: starting around 1983, Randy’s lawsuit goes on, the corrupt clique set up a fake living trust in order to steal more of his money, including residuals he was still owed by Warner Bros., which released the Vacation movies. They allegedly used a falsified probate file for a fictional, deceased Santa Barbara woman named Ronda L. Quaid (“Rond-ALL Quaid? Randall Quaid?,” Evi kept repeating meaningfully) to cash Randy’s checks at City National Bank and deposit the money into the fake trust account.
“Ronda L. Quaid never existed!,” Evi insisted. “No one ever has met her. She was supposedly a schoolteacher. But you go to the county and you pull the probate file and it’s $7 million in cash. How would a schoolteacher have that? It’s Randy’s royalty stream. I’ve researched everything. There’s no body. They’re just trying to merge the two identities in order to cash the checks.”
“They’re runnin’ my checks through that probate file,” Randy said grumpily.
But Ronda L. Quaid did exist. She was born in Burbank, California, in 1949 and died of cancer in Santa Barbara in 2005. She graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in art history and taught art in several Santa Barbara elementary schools. She was married to a man named Joel Quaid and had a son named Alex. She liked to ride horses, and wrote for equestrian magazines like Horse Illustrated. “She was in our book club. We were like sisters,” said her old friend Sheila Varian.
“Ronda was blessed with the gift for living in the humor and irony of life,” said her obituary in the Santa Barbara News. Perhaps she could have found something funny even about Evi and Randy Quaid’s conspiracy theory.
A perusal of her probate file, which is entirely ordinary, reveals that Ronda was worth about $1.5 million—not $7 million—most of which can be accounted for by the value of her Santa Barbara house. Her ex-husband, Joel, is a health-care practitioner who races Ferraris; he is the holder of U.S. Patent No. 5919136, for a “device for evaluating anorectal function.”
What you find out when you call some of the 17-plus people named in Randy Quaid’s lawsuit is that they are fearful of and for the Quaids. They are angry and they are upset. Several of them told me of having seen a pitch for a reality show that Randy and Evi had sent to a production company. Called Star Trackers, the show has Evi and Randy playing a Bonnie-and-Clyde-like couple that hunts down the Hollywood Star Whackers. The first sentence envisions the couple shooting off the head of one of the people named in the lawsuit. This person said he briefly hired security.
“Some of the people they were suing,” said Lloyd Braun, Randy’s former lawyer, now the head of the production company BermanBraun, “are some of the nicest, most reputable people in Los Angeles, incredibly honorable people who cared about Randy.”
“I still care about Randy,” said John Kelly, of Bresler Kelly & Associates, Quaid’s former agents, who were also named in the lawsuit. “He played a very important role in my life as a young agent, and we experienced a lot of great times together, both professionally and personally. I’m sorry to see him going through all this stuff now. I don’t know why he would go after all these people who cared about him, but that was 15 years ago, and I can’t say I really know Randy anymore.”
Many of the people I spoke to said they missed the “sweet,” easygoing actor they used to know—“He was a doll, a total doll,” said Braun—and many pinned Randy’s downfall on Evi. “I said to him over and over, Your wife is out of control,” said a former business associate. “She was an out-of-control spender. I think it’s pretty obvious that they spent all the money. They lived a lavish lifestyle.”
“Over a 10-year period I spent $50,000 on Donald Judd furniture and [bought] 200 pairs of Manolo Blahniks. That equals approximately $125,000,” said Evi. “Randy’s royalty stream is [being] stolen.” The Quaids filed for bankruptcy in 2000, owing the I.R.S. $412,000; the state of California had several tax liens against them totaling more than $207,000.
“When I first knew Randy he had these really good circles of friends; he had his church group, his golf group, his actor buddies. Evi engineered the estrangement of Randy from anybody that pre-dated her in his life,” said another former associate. (“Standard M.O. for all wives,” Evi said.) “You found yourself scratching your head asking what the fuck happened to him.”
“The major question for all of us is what spell she has over this fellow,” said someone who used to work with Randy.
United They Stand
‘He’s been in this business for 40 years, and I’ve been watching his back for 25,” Evi was saying, raising her voice. “Why do you think he’s alive?”
It was the next day, and we were at a picturesque home on the water on Vancouver Island belonging to Catherine Sas, the Quaids’ immigration attorney. “Ssshhh, ssssshhh,” she was telling Evi. “Calm down.” Sas had been trying to suggest that Randy should consider going back to California for an upcoming court date on his squatting and vandalism charges. Evi, who had found out she could stay in Canada and apply for citizenship, since her father was born there, had said she was “never going back to Santa Barbara.”
“Have they investigated Lannette Turicchi and our claim she doesn’t own the house?” she demanded.
“That’s called a trial, and you have to be there,” Sas told her.
“I want a trial, Evi,” said Randy.
“Randy, you’re crazy!,” Evi said. “They’re crooks!”
“Evi, here’s another possibility,” said Sas. “You stay in Canada and he goes down.”
“Yeah, Randy and I are married,” Evi said, holding up interlocking fingers.
“Evi, I’m gonna go down,” said Randy. “I wanna go down.”
“They want to kill you Randy!,” Evi screamed.
Randy frowned and said, “No they don’t.”
A little while later he was drinking a martini while Evi went out to walk the dog. I asked him where he thought all this was going.
“Well,” he said, “what I’d like to do and what I’m able to do, I’m not sure if they’re two different things. What I’d like to do is put all this behind me and resolve it in some way that’s favorable to us, because I do believe we have many grievances against a lot of people.
“I just always wanted to be left alone to go into a creative space,” said Quaid. “I had to go there a lot because I was working a lot, and I didn’t have the interest of sitting in my trailer in between scenes and going over my bank statements. My main concern was putting a good performance on the screen. But at the same time it was always like I was never able to get ahead, and that felt weird. I just thought, Well, are we spending that much money?
“My accountant, he sent me a letter behind Evi’s back. He said, Your wife is spending so much money—she’s gonna drag you into the poorhouse! They were trying to separate us, divide us, and it really affected me. Like I started looking at Evi sideways, like, This bitch. Yeah, Evi was going into Hermès; she was going into all the stores, Chanel—the whole deal—but now I know if you total up the bills they’re just a little fraction of what I was capable of paying for. I was making enough money for me to comfortably support Evi and her shopping.
“They wanted to separate us,” said Quaid, “because Evi is very intuitive and very smart. She’s the smartest person I know. You can call her crazy, you can call her whatever you want, but she is my lifeline, and if she wasn’t with me, I don’t know where I’d be.”
He stared off into the distance, waiting for her to come back.
Additional reporting by Ted Travelstead, Alison Forbes, and Laura Griffin.