Increasingly erratic behavior has friends worried – and police taking action
Credit: Anthony Moore Rex USA

A towering Texan with an easy smile and some 68 movies under his belt, Randy Quaid has been known over the years as an affable character actor. On the Austin, Texas, set of his most recent film, Balls Out: The Gary Houseman Story, Quaid charmed his castmates.

“He’s a really nice guy and insanely funny,” says actor Allen Evangelista, who recalls how Quaid spent his downtime tossing tennis balls to his costars. “Everyone was just trying not to laugh when he would improvise. He’s really down to earth just a cool guy to work with.”

That image is a far cry from what the actor – who even brought charm to the National Lampoon’s Vacation series’ repulsive character, Cousin Eddie – is known for these days. Quaid, 58, and his wife Evi, 45, were arrested in Marfa, Texas, on Sept. 24 for allegedly running out on a $10,000 hotel bill at the exclusive San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., last June.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

After the Quaids skipped four voluntary court appearances – the last one was to have been last Monday – the Santa Barbara DA was proceeding with extradition measures to bring the pair from Texas to California when they eventually posted bond on Thursday. The Quaids will now appear in court in Santa Barbara on Dec. 15 to be arraigned on felony charges of burglary, defrauding an innkeeper and conspiracy.

Their Texas attorney, Rod Ponton, says their bill has been paid in full, and that the charges don’t fit the alleged crime.

“They were never on the run from the law,” Ponton tells PEOPLE. “They have a history of 20 years of staying at [the San Ysidro Ranch], and they have a history of always paying … There’s a lot of misinformation out there about this. It’s much ado about nothing.”

A rep for the San Ysidro Ranch confirms that the establishment has received payment.

Name-Calling the Cops

Misunderstanding or not, the Quaids’ troubles are deepening. After resisting arrest on Sept. 24, Evi later accused the arresting officer, deputy James Davis, of corruption – and made her point with a sign claiming “Davis takes payment$” taped to the side of a white truck parked on the town’s main street. Suing Evi for defamation, Davis included in legal papers a letter he says she sent claiming that he was “fraudulently arrang[ing]” the Quaids’ arrest and that he “organized this against tax payers best interest [and] planned to extort money.”

Davis says he was not acquainted with the pair at all before their arrest.

An Enduring Marriage

Those who know the couple well paint a picture of a nomadic pair madly in love but prone to erratic behavior, particularly on Evi’s part.

Their life together started out happily enough. Randy Quaid, elder brother of actor Dennis Quaid, met Evi Motolanez in 1988 when Evi was hired as a production assistant assigned to drive Randy to and from the Manhattan set of Bloodhounds of Broadway. “She didn’t know her way around New York, or wouldn’t have the toll fare,” Evi’s father, George Motolanez, says with a laugh. “And the rest is history.”

Within weeks, Randy proposed. “I was sort of expecting it, actually,” Evi told PEOPLE in 1989. “It was just so obvious that’s where it was going.”

Motolanez, who has been estranged from his daughter since a confrontation about her marriage a few years ago, tells PEOPLE he believes the Santa Barbara charges stem from a misunderstanding. “These are nice people,” he insists. “Evi is very flamboyant and really into that Hollywood scene. She has a real artistic flair. Randy is a great guy.”

What Went Wrong?

Friends believe the Quaids’ downward spiral began after a 2007 dispute with the Actors’ Equity Association. While Randy was starring in the musical Lone Star Love in Seattle, 23 AEA members filed complaints with the organization in October 2007, claiming Randy was exhibiting “oddball” behavior and missing rehearsals. He was subsequently banned from the organization.

“After that, [Evi] flipped,” says California private investigator Becky Altringer, who befriended the couple after they hired her in June to investigate the actors who made complaints about them. “That’s when she started saying everyone was against them, and now she’s saying I’m against them.”

Adds a longtime friend of the couple: “Randy always had a good reputation. He was so sad when he talked about [the incident in Seattle].”

Restraining Orders

In January 2008, several people connected to the AEA’s Los Angeles office sought restraining orders against Evi, alleging “systematic, constant and personal harassment.” Susan Wallace, a management consultant with a contract with the AEA, was granted a restraining order by a Los Angeles court after she said the Quaids came to her office and threatened her.

“I feared both Mr. and Mrs. Quaid could physically attack me,” Wallace said in her statement. According to Wallace, Evi shouted “I’m going to get you” and called her a “Nazi bitch,” while Quaid used his 6 ft.,4 inch frame to “intimidate” her. Wallace also said Evi harassed her by phone, email and in person, claiming she was holding back “performance reports” Wallace knew nothing about.

Altringer, who is suing the couple for breach of contract to recoup $19,000 she says they owe for her work she did on their case, says she’s had a similar experience with Evi. “She’s been threatening me since June, saying she is going to ruin my credibility,” Altringer says. “I told her she needed help and she got mad at me. She got in my face and said I was crazy, and I [said] I think you need some help.”

From Fun to Fanatical

Another longtime friend of the couple’s says she has been similarly “threatened” by Evi Quaid, including assertions that “everyone is out to get” her.

How to explain this portrayal of the Quaids’ behavior? Friends say that until fairly recently, Evi Quaid was always a fun person to be around – “very giving and generous,” says one. As for Randy, friends can’t reconcile the man they see in the mugshot with the “teddy bear” they know.

“Randy’s very nice, like a big old cuddly bear. I’m shocked,” says the friend. “This is not the Randy we saw before.”

Whatever the truth is, Ponton says the entire affair should end December 15 at the Santa Barbara courthouse. “It’s just a minor deal that’s going to probably get worked out,” he says. “They’re both nice, reputable people. They’re artists, they’re a little different, but they’re not criminals.

With reporting by ALICIA DENNIS