In 2015, while actor Randy Quaid and his wife, Evi, were living in a Canadian hotel, hiding from a sketchy, if imaginary, organization that they called the ‘Hollywood Star Whackers,’ they filmed a video that was supposed to send… some kind of message to News Corp and Warner Brothers. Quaid, whose pointy knit hat and long white beard made him look like an out-of-work garden gnome, ran through his long list of grievances with both companies, before putting a paper Rupert Murdoch mask on his wife and simulating sex with her.
As their dog barked either its encouragement or its embarrassment, Quaid alternated between shouting Murdoch’s name and emitting some disturbingly resonant grunts. “I’M BAAAAAACK!” he screamed at the video’s, uh, climax, which wasn’t entirely accurate.
Although Quaid had become a VHS-era icon with his performances as a NASCAR team owner in Days of Thunder, a heroic alien-abductee in Independence Day, and as eternal scene-stealer Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Vacation series, he hasn’t had a film role since playing a tennis coach in 2009’s direct-to-DVD comedy Balls Out. Since then, he seems to have busied himself on social media, and making more than 200 YouTube videos that all focus on the ‘extreme’ part of ‘extreme close-up.’
Last week, when Caitlyn Jenner announced that she was running for governor of California, Quaid expressed his support on Twitter— and then a couple of days later, he suggested that he might want to see his own name on the ballot too. “I’m seriously considering running for governor,” he tweeted. The prosecutorial corruption in California (esp Santa Barbara & the [city of] Bell scandal) is rampant; and I promise that if elected I will clean up the District Attorney Offices throughout the state.”
Although a pair of actors have previously served in that office— Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan—Quaid is an even stranger choice. His political experience is limited to playing Lyndon Johnson in a TV movie and doing dramatic readings of the former President’s tweets. There’s also the issue of the decade-old criminal charges that he’s still facing in the state.
Quaid’s detour toward the bizarre seems to have started in 2008, when he was cast in Lone Star Love, a Texas-themed Shakespeare adaptation. After he refused to wear his character’s costume (he kept trading it for a distractingly oversized codpiece), repeatedly hit a fellow performer in the head, and improvised some sexually charged dialogue about “gynecological instruments,” the show was cancelled before its opening night.
After more than 40 of his costars filed a complaint, Quaid was kicked out of the Actors’ Equity union, given a lifetime ban from rejoining, and fined more than $81,000 to cover the other actors’ wages. (A rep for Quaid told Backstage that he couldn’t have been banned by Equity, because he’d already resigned until September 2050.)
A year later, the Quaids skipped out on a $10,000 bill at the San Ysidro Ranch hotel in Santa Barbara, failed to show for their court date, and warrants were issued for both of them. They were later arrested by Presidio County Sheriff’s deputies while they were staying in Marfa, Texas, reportedly looking for the right location to build a Randy Quaid Museum. The charges against Randy were ultimately dismissed, while Evi pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor. “You pay your bills when you leave,” Randy told reporters after his hearing. “I supposed that’s something we can work on.”
In September 2010, they were charged with felony vandalism for moving into—and allegedly trashing—the guest house of a home that they’d previously owned. They no-showed on the judge again, and another pair of warrants were issued for their arrest. A month later, they fled to Vancouver, seeking asylum in Canada because they believed that a group called the ‘Hollywood Star Whackers’ was trying to murder them, the same way they believed the Star Whackers had killed Heath Ledger and David Carradine, framed Robert Blake for murder, and tried to poison Jeremy Piven. (“Are either of you mentally unstable, schizophrenic, or on drugs?” a Good Morning America host asked both Quaids at the time.)
In a truly bonkers 2011 Vanity Fair profile, Evi Quaid said that they’d originally hoped to drive to Siberia, but “couldn’t figure out” how to pull that off. “We’re running for our lives,” she said. “They’re tracking us.” The uber-paranoid pair even lived out of their Prius for a time, which writer Nancy Jo Sales said smelled like “fast food, dog pee, and Randy’s cigars.” (A private investigator hired by the Quaids told the outlet that “nobody was out to kill them,” a reality that they both seemed unwilling to believe.)
By 2015—about the time Quaid was printing full-color Rupert Murdoch faces in their hotel room—he was notified that he would be deported from Canada, after his citizenship application was denied. The couple tried to cross the border into Vermont, where they were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, sent to separate correctional facilities, and held on $500,000 bail each. A judge in California wanted to have them extradited to the state to face those still-outstanding vandalism charges, but a Vermont judge ruled against that, and allowed the couple to remain in the state.
That’s apparently where they’ve been ever since. Four years ago, Quaid claimed that “some very powerful people” told him that he should run against Bernie Sanders in the state’s next senate race. That never happened, and neither did the reality show that was supposed to accompany his campaign.
Although there are SO MANY questions surrounding this entire situation, two of the biggest are why Quaid would want to serve as governor, and why he’d want to move back to California in the first place. (VICE reached out to Randy Quaid for comment, but did not receive a response.)
A spokesperson for the Santa Barbara district attorney recently told the New York Times that the vandalism charges against the Quaids are still outstanding, although that alone wouldn’t necessarily be enough to keep him from serving in public office in the state. Although any candidate who is convicted of a felony is “legally obligated” to disclose that info, the only felony charges that flat-out disqualify someone from holding office are bribery, embezzlement of public money, falsification of public account records, forgery, malfeasance in office, perjury, vote buying, and other ‘high crimes’ like treason.
As of this writing, Quaid hasn’t officially declared his candidacy, although nine other people have, including Jenner, single-named billboard model Angelyne, businessman John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, tech exec-turned-pastor Sam Galluci, former U.S. Representative Doug Ose, and former adult film performer and AVN Hall of Fame nominee Mary Carey.