Star Whackers and Shakespeare: A Dispatch From ‘A Night With the Quaids’

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“Ran-dy! Ran-dy! Ran-dy!” chanted a group of tattooed and tarted-up rockabilly girls gathered out front of the Rio, an indie art-house theater in Vancouver, on Friday night. They, along with about 150 other twenty- and thirtysomethings, were here for “A Night With the Quaids,” as in Randy and Evi Quaid, the fugitive traveling celebrity freak show. Randy eventually emerged from the theater and posed for a few photos with a cardboard cutout of two local radio personalities who sponsored the event. He wore a black suit and a black shirt unbuttoned to reveal a swirl of gray chest hair. His oversize belt buckle hugged his big, round belly. At six-foot-four, he towered over the lineup. “What’s with the red carpet? Don’t people know Dennis isn’t here?” scoffed a teenage boy.

The crowd, a mix of film nerds, young couples on dates, and a handful of seniors, filtered into the theater. A couple of tough-looking women had cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon confiscated at the front door: “Go 'round the side of the building and chug ’em,” advised the security guard. In the cramped lobby space, people queued up for M&Ms and plastic cups overflowing with locally brewed draft beer. The theater (with a capacity of 445) was about two thirds full, and a stage with a drum kit had been set up at the front. “I just wanna know how weird Randy Quaid can get,” said a middle-aged biker with a thick beard and long ponytail. “I should be selling pizza by the slice out front to all these hipster doofuses.”

Finally the movie ended and Quaid, along with his band members (the Fugitives) walked out onstage to a standing ovation. “Show us your cock” came a scream from the back. “I think you’ve seen enough of that,” he said. “Welcome to Canada!” another cried. “Thank you, darling, glad to be here.” Evi was at the foot of the stage filming the entire thing. The band played three songs: “Mr. D.A.,” a tirade against shady lawyers; “Will We Be Together Then,” a romantic (and truly quite lovely) ballad; and “Star Whackers,” to which the crowd sang along with the chorus (“I’m talking about whackers. Whackers. Those cheesy star whackers”) while a handful of tipsy women danced in the aisles.

Cue the first scene: Randy Quaid, butt naked, but for a floor-length fur coat, wanders around a field repeating the same Shakespearean verses over and over. (“Rock star!” shouts a man from the back of the theater.) And so begin 88 minutes of completely random visuals, including Quaid with a deer skull fastened to his head with a seatbelt; Quaid wandering in the desert (the movie was filmed in west Texas and Mexico) with an automatic weapon, trying to kill his naked, fur-coat-wearing self; multiple close-ups of Quaid’s face, red and sweaty, with chapped lips, burst blood vessels on his nose, and spittle in the corner of his mouth; Quaid repeating strange rants over and over (“the American male human is retarded. He will die for us if we keep his brain soft and juvenile, like mutton. We want him stupid. We need him stupid”); donkeys having sex; Quaid naked, down on all fours, chewing grass; Quaid running through the desert with the fur coat flapping behind him and his flaccid penis jiggling back and forth; calves at a ranch being branded while Quaid plays violin outside the pen; Quaid’s rich, deep voice delivering Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech in its entirety three times in a row (a woman boos; another screams, “shut the fuck up!”). All in all, a hot mess.

Finally the movie ended and Quaid, along with his band members (the Fugitives) walked out onstage to a standing ovation. “Show us your cock” came a scream from the back. “I think you’ve seen enough of that,” he said. “Welcome to Canada!” another cried. “Thank you, darling, glad to be here.” Evi was at the foot of the stage filming the entire thing. The band played three songs: “Mr. D.A.,” a tirade against shady lawyers; “Will We Be Together Then,” a romantic (and truly quite lovely) ballad; and “Star Whackers,” to which the crowd sang along with the chorus (“I’m talking about whackers. Whackers. Those cheesy star whackers”) while a handful of tipsy women danced in the aisles.

“It was artistic, yeah, but I thought it was going to be an actual documentary about star whackers. I’m mad because it was advertised completely wrong,” complained a woman. The Q&A got under way, and she got right to the point: “Randy, are there stars getting whacked?” “Yes,” he said. “Is there a way to show that or prove that in a documentary?" She asked. "I came here tonight hoping for some answers. I paid $25 and you got my money, and I got no answers and that’s not fair. Was Heath Ledger whacked?” Quaid replied, “I believe he was one of the healthiest young men I had ever met, he played Australian football, he was a superb athlete, and I do believe that there’s a definite possibility that he was murdered, yes.” Evi jumped in: “This docu-drama was about Randy and me; it’s a hypersurreal aspect of what it is to be pursued, and we put it into an impressionistic form.”

And on that note, shortly after midnight, five hours after the doors first opened, the Quaids left the building.