Remembering Actor John Quade & The Black Widows

“He had a unique face”, a classmate in Kansas said as he scrambled for the words. “What you saw in films, we saw at school.” Quade did have a unique face and it was as if John was born to play the villain. It worked, at least on film. But with many tough guys in real life “he was a big teddy bear”, as his wife recalled (Quade died seven years ago).


Like many of the other Black Widows biker gang actors in the film Every Which Way But Loose, Quade was a friend of Clint Eastwood’s, often appearing as a rogue or bad buy in his and other films and on television. Once you saw that Quade was in a film or TV show, you knew right away that:  a) he was going to be a bad man…  and b) a problem arose: he would pick on some poor innocent person, but that… c) he would receive his own comeuppance in the end. Quade is best remembered as Chola in Every Which Way But Loose and its sequel, among his many other film and TV roles (Papillon, Roots, among others). John was a big libertarian and once ran for Congress under the slogan: “Not just another pretty face”.

And his pep-rallying, historic-sounding speeches to jump start his Black Widows for another round of getting their asses kicked was spectacular:


Dan Vadis was also in some Eastwood films. In Every Which Way But Loose, he was “Assistant Head Biker”. In The Gauntlet, he played a would-be rapist biker whom Clint Eastwood made jump from a moving train. Dan had started out as a muscle-man in those cheap sword-and-sandal movies of the late 50s and 60s. He was hot-tempered and was said to have once punched-out Shelley Winters on a movie set, for which he got fired. There is also the legend that Dan could throw a football farther than any pro quarterback (I guess this included contemporary Roman Gabriel – a noted deep-ball threat for the Rams). Sadly, Dan died of a bizarre drug overdose in his car out in the desert back in 1987 (acute ethanol and heroin-morphine intoxication). He was just 49.


Roy Jensen was another character actor who had once played pro football in the Canadian League. Jensen later did character work and starred in about one-hundred films. Roy played “Secretary Biker” in Every Which Way But Loose. You may recall his famous line: “Put down that gun lady!” as Ma (Ruth Gordon) shotgun-blasted the Black Widows to smithereens from her front porch in a rundown area of the San Fernando Valley. Roy died in 2007 of cancer at the age of 80.


Character actor, Bill McKinney, was in several memorable roles, including one as the hillbilly rapist to Ned Beatty in Deliverance, a role which was ignored by the Academy. But McKinney is best remembered as the villain, Capt. “Red Legs” Terrill, in Outlaw Josey Wales. Bill died five years ago at the age of 80. If you needed somebody to play a real dirt-bag character, you called Bill.


And today we honor them all – along with Manis who played Clyde the orangutan in the greatest motion picture of all time!



Topeka Capital-Journal.