Courting Disaster: What Went Wrong With Randy Quaid

Is there an explanation for the renegade behavior of the actor and his wife?

October 20, 2010, 3:03 AM

Oct. 20, 2010— -- "Lights, camera, action!" is music to the ears of movie actors. Unfortunately, the same phrase also works well when those celebrities get asked to pose for mug shots.

Actor Randy Quaid -- the older brother of actor Dennis Quaid -- and Randy's wife, Evi, have matched sets of police-station photos. But the public may know them best, not for their legal transgressions but for their habit of not showing up in court when the law summons them.

Their latest bad?

The Associated Press reported Monday that a judge issued two $50,000 arrest warrants for the Quaids, who were no-shows at a court hearing related to their arrests last month on suspicion that they illegally squatted at the guest house of a Montecito home they once owned. Each Quaid faces a felony vandalism charge.

Santa Barbara Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter told, "At the moment, the district attorney's office has no information as to their whereabouts."

How did Quaid go from popular character actor to someone who takes up residence in someone else's house?

According to a November 2009 People magazine article, published about six weeks after the Quaids were arrested in Texas "for allegedly running out on a $10,000 hotel bill at the exclusive San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California," friends of the couple pinpointed an event that initiated the downward spiral.

"Friends believe the Quaids' downward spin began after a dispute with the Actors' Equity Association," reported People. At the time, Quaid was starring in the musical "Lone Star Love" in Seattle.

"In October 2007, 23 AEA members filed complaints with the organization, claiming Randy was exhibiting oddball behavior and missing rehearsals. He was subsequently banned from the organization," reported People.

The article noted that the couple had hired Becky Altringer, a private investigator to investigate the actors who made complaints about them. Altringer told People, "After that, [Evi] flipped. That's when she started saying everyone was against them, and now she's saying I'm against them." Altringer is reportedly suing the couple for breach of contract to recoup $19,000 she says she's owed.

Did Peers Influence Quaids' Behavior?

In the article, a longtime friend of the couple, said: "Randy always had a good reputation. He was so sad when he talked about [the incident in Seattle]." But the story also revealed that in 2008, a management consultant contracted to AEA was granted a restraining order by a Los Angeles court, after she said the Quaids had come to her office and threatened her.

Another longtime friend of the couple also claims being "threatened" by Evi. Regarding Randy, other friends said they "can't reconcile the man they see in the mug shot with the 'teddy bear' they know."Did these seemingly incendiary events, related to the couple's behavior, help create a trajectory to the legal issues the couple faces now?

It may be impossible to connect the dots, but other experts have weighed in about the missed court dates.

"It amounts to pretending that something distressing doesn't exist, otherwise called denial," said Paul S. Appelbaum, a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry, medicine and law at Columbia University. "At some level, most people will register that the summons to appear in court is for them, but it's what the mind does with that information that's important."

Appelbaum noted that peer groups can influence how people respond to court dates by saying, "Oh, you don't have to go." And, in some cases, he said, all you need for a peer group is one person, who can be your spouse or other intimate.

Another factor that can create a no-show mindset is how much they once got away with. "People who are talented, smart or athletically gifted are often allowed to avoid unpleasant realities," said Appelbaum, noting it might be something as simple as being excused from chores because you're in a school play.

"Once you feel entitled, it's very hard to think of yourself as unentitled, even if you're not in demand or fielding phone calls," said Jim Cohen, a professor of criminal law at Fordham Law School whose expertise is psychology and criminal law. "People who consider themselves entitled are not happy being told what to do."

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