John Belushi

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John Belushi
John Belushi 1973.jpg
Belushi at Second City, 1973
Birth name John Adam Belushi
Born (1949-01-24)January 24, 1949
Humboldt Park, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died March 5, 1982(1982-03-05) (aged 33)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Medium Film
Television
Music
Stage
Years active 1971–1982
Genres Musical comedy, Physical comedy, Improvisational Comedy, Variety
Influenced Chris Farley, Artie Lange, Horatio Sanz
Spouse Judith Jacklin Belushi (1976–82; his death)
Parent(s) Adam Belushi (father)
Agnes Belushi (mother)
Relative(s) James Belushi (brother)
Belushi as a senior in high school, 1967.

John Adam Belushi (/bəˈlʃi/; January 24, 1949 – March 5, 1982) was an American comedian, actor, and musician. He is best known for his "intense energy and raucous attitude"[1] which he displayed as one of the original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, in his role in the film Animal House and in his recordings and performances as one of the The Blues Brothers.

During his career he had a close personal and artistic partnership with fellow SNL actor and writer Dan Aykroyd whom he met while they were both working at Chicago's Second City comedy club.[2]

Belushi died on the morning of March 5, 1982 in Hollywood, California at the Chateau Marmont, after being injected with and accidentally overdosing on a mixture of cocaine and heroin (a "speedball") at the age of 33. He was posthumously honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on April 1, 2004.

Early life[edit]

John Belushi was born in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Agnes Demetri (Samaras), was the daughter of Albanian immigrants, and his father, Adam Anastos Belushi, was an Albanian immigrant, from Qytezë.[3] John was raised in Wheaton, a Chicago suburb, along with his three siblings: younger brothers Billy and Jim and his sister, Marian.[4][5] Belushi was raised in the Albanian Orthodox church. He attended Wheaton Central High School, where he met his future wife, Judith Jacklin.

Early career[edit]

Belushi at Second City in Chicago, 1971

After starting his own comedy troupe, in 1971 he was asked to join the cast at The Second City.[2] At Second City, he met and began working with Dan Aykroyd.[2] He was cast in National Lampoon Lemmings,[1] a parody of Woodstock, which played Off-Broadway in 1972.

In 1973, Belushi and Jacklin moved together to New York where Belushi worked for National Lampoon magazine's The National Lampoon Radio Hour, a half-hour syndicated comedy program where he was a writer, director and actor.[1] Jacklin became an associate producer for the show, and she and Belushi were married on December 31, 1976.

1975–1979[edit]

Belushi became an original cast member of the new television show Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1975.[1] His work at SNL included Samurai Futaba,[1] and, with Aykroyd, the characters Jake and Ellwood Blues known as The Blues Brothers.[6] In 2011 Jane Curtin stated that while at SNL Belushi would deliberately sabotage the work of women writers and comics.[7] During his tenure at SNL, he was heavily using drugs and alcohol which affected his performance and caused SNL to fire him a number of times.[8]

Between seasons of the show, he made the film Animal House (1978).

Belushi left Saturday Night Live in 1979 to pursue a film career. Belushi made four more movies; three of them, 1941, Neighbors, and most notably The Blues Brothers, were made with fellow SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd.

Other movie projects[edit]

Released in September 1981, the romantic comedy Continental Divide starred Belushi as Chicago home town hero writer Ernie Souchack, who gets put on assignment researching a scientist studying birds of prey in the remote Rocky Mountains.

At the time of his death, Belushi was pursuing several movie projects, including Moons Over Miami and Noble Rot. While the first was being shopped around to different studios and producers, the latter was a script that had been adapted and rewritten by himself and former Saturday Night Live writer, Don Novello in the weeks leading up to his death.

Starting in 1980, after seeing them perform in several after hours New York City bars, Belushi had become a fan and advocate of the punk rock band Fear and brought them to Cherokee Studios to record songs for the soundtrack of Neighbors. Blues Brother and guitar player Steve Cropper, along with producing partner and Cherokee owner Bruce Robb, worked on a number of music projects with the two comedian/musicians, including the band Fear and later Aykroyd's movie Dragnet.

Death[edit]

On March 5, 1982, after showing up at his hotel for a scheduled workout, his trainer, Bill Wallace found Belushi dead in his room, Bungalow 3 at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.[9] Wallace tried to revive Belushi, but Belushi was already dead.[12] He was 33 years old. The cause of death was an overdose of cocaine and heroin, a drug combination also known as a speedball. In the early morning hours on the day of his death, he was visited separately by friends Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, each of whom left the premises, leaving Belushi in the company of assorted others, including Catherine Evelyn Smith.[10][11] His death was investigated by forensic pathologist Dr. Ryan Norris, among others, and, while the findings were disputed, it was officially ruled a drug-related accident.

Two months later, Smith admitted in an interview with the National Enquirer that she had been with Belushi the night of his death and had given him the fatal speedball shot. After the appearance of the article "I Killed Belushi" in the Enquirer edition of June 29, 1982, the case was reopened. Smith was extradited from Toronto, Ontario, arrested and charged with first-degree murder. A plea bargain reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter, and she served fifteen months in prison.[12]

Belushi's wife arranged for a traditional Orthodox Christian funeral which was conducted by an Albanian Orthodox priest.[13] She also recruited the couple's good friend, James Taylor, who postponed the European leg of his current tour to come and sing his haunting ballad, 'That Lonesome Road', at the morning gravesite service. He has been interred twice at Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. A tombstone marking the original burial location has a New England classic slate design, complete with skull and crossbones, that reads, "I may be gone but Rock and Roll lives on."[14] An unmarked tombstone in an undisclosed location marks the final burial location. He also is remembered on the Belushi family stone marking his mother's grave at Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois. This stone reads, "HE GAVE US LAUGHTER."[15]

Tributes and legacy[edit]

Belushi's life is detailed in the 1984 biography Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi by Bob Woodward. The book was later adapted into a feature film in which Belushi was played by Michael Chiklis.

Belushi has been portrayed by actors Eric Siegel in Gilda Radner: It's Always Something, Tyler Labine in Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy (which also features his friendship with Robin Williams), and Michael Chiklis in Wired. Chris Farley, whose work was influenced by Belushi, also died at age 33 due to a drug overdose, contributing to comparisons between Belushi and Farley.[16]

His widow later remarried and is now Judith Belushi Pisano. She and co-biographer Tanner Colby produced Belushi: A Biography, a collection of first-person interviews and photographs of John Belushi's life that was published in 2005.

In 2004, Belushi was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2006, Biography Channel aired the "John Belushi" episode of Final 24, a documentary following Belushi in the last twenty-four hours leading to his death. In 2010, Biography aired a full biography documentation of Belushi's life.

Credits[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Browne, Ray Broadus; Browne, Pat (2001). The Guide to United States Popular Culture. Popular Press. pp. 78–. ISBN 9780879728212. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Sellers, Robert (2010-05-20). An A-Z of Hellraisers: A Comprehensive Compendium of Outrageous Insobriety. Random House. pp. 53–. ISBN 9781409051008. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Jderereim Belushi Biography". Jimbelushi.ws. 1954-06-15. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  4. ^ Belushi's SNL Bio from NBC.com
  5. ^ Books Of The Times; Close-Up Of John Belushi from the New York Times
  6. ^ Epstein, Lawrence Jeffrey (2004). Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams : from Burns and Allen to Belushi and Aykroyd. PublicAffairs. pp. 223–. ISBN 9781586481902. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "John Belushi A Misogynist? Jane Curtin Tells Oprah Star Sabotaged Women's Work". The Huffington Post. 2011-04-13. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  8. ^ Parish, James Robert (2011-01-06). The Hollywood Book of Extravagance: The Totally Infamous, Mostly Disastrous, and Always Compelling Excesses of America's Film and TV Idols. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 102–. ISBN 9781118039021. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  9. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (March 6, 1982). "John Belushi, Manic Comic of TV and Films Dies.". New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2007. "John Belushi, the manic, rotund comedian whose outrageous antics and spastic impersonations on the Saturday Night Live television show propelled him to stardom in the 1970s, was found dead yesterday in a rented bungalow in Hollywood, where he had launched a film career in recent years. The 33-year-old actor ..." 
  10. ^ Robin Williams. Television biography from the Biography Channel, July 7, 2006.
  11. ^ "John Belushi Dies at the Chateau Marmont" from franksreelreviews.com
  12. ^ "Figure in John Belushi Case Freed From California Prison". New York Times. 1988-03-17. Retrieved 2011-08-02. 
  13. ^ At her request, the couples good friend James Taylor put his European tour on hold flew to Martha's Vineyard, and sang 'That Lonesome Road' at the early moring gravesite service."Cape Cod History — 1982: John Belushi buried on the Vineyard", Retrieved 2011-07-20
  14. ^ "John Belushi (1949 - 1982) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  15. ^ Judith Belushi Pisano (2007). Belushi
  16. ^ Goldblatt, Henry (2008-05-07). "'Chris Farley Show' stuffed with gossip". CNN.com. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 

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