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John Belushi

John Belushi

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Also Known As: Died: March 5, 1982
Born: January 24, 1949 Cause of Death: drug overdose
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA Profession: comedian, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Abel Hill Cemetery, where mourners such as James Taylor, Bill Murray and Lorne Michaels paid their respects, helicopters hovering overhead. Their friend's death was slowly becoming a big wake-up call to them all. Belushi's life had ended, but it seemed that a greater, more pronounced judgment on his legacy was soon at stake. As the first major drug casualty of the comedy world, the fact that he was Hollywood's reigning class clown and died doing what everyone else was still up to their noses doing, was suddenly anything but funny to a Hollywood. People became wary of being associated with him; some going so far as to denounce ever knowing him. It was this shifting impression of Belushi that was the tonal basis two years later for Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward's somber 1984 book about Belushi's self-implosion. The expose was a jolting look at a different side of Belushi, one pained by insecurities and locked in a constant struggle for dominance over his dependencies. The book's release immediately garnered disapproval from Belushi's close allies - most vocal among them, Aykroyd, Jacklin-Belushi and John's soon-to-be-famous brother,...

Abel Hill Cemetery, where mourners such as James Taylor, Bill Murray and Lorne Michaels paid their respects, helicopters hovering overhead. Their friend's death was slowly becoming a big wake-up call to them all.

Belushi's life had ended, but it seemed that a greater, more pronounced judgment on his legacy was soon at stake. As the first major drug casualty of the comedy world, the fact that he was Hollywood's reigning class clown and died doing what everyone else was still up to their noses doing, was suddenly anything but funny to a Hollywood. People became wary of being associated with him; some going so far as to denounce ever knowing him. It was this shifting impression of Belushi that was the tonal basis two years later for Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward's somber 1984 book about Belushi's self-implosion. The expose was a jolting look at a different side of Belushi, one pained by insecurities and locked in a constant struggle for dominance over his dependencies. The book's release immediately garnered disapproval from Belushi's close allies - most vocal among them, Aykroyd, Jacklin-Belushi and John's soon-to-be-famous brother, Jim.

Despite its splashy, tabloid style, Wired was a big seller. But if the book was a damaging blow to Belushi's legacy, a 1988 movie adaptation of the book by director Larry Peerce did far more to savage it. As much a narrative about Belushi's life as a paean to Woodward's book itself, the movie created fictional elements, such as a guardian angel (Ray Sharkey) who appeared in a Dickensian manner to walk Belushi through his life and point out all his mistakes. In the role of Belushi, newcomer Michael Chiklis did his best to salvage what became a muddled, critical and commercial dud. Chiklis, who would recover and go on to great success with his lead role on the police drama "The Shield" (FX, 2002- ), years later acknowledged that the film's ill will from audiences, Hollywood and members of Belushi's inner circle created a backlash that nearly derailed his career.

Through triumph and tragedy, perhaps, nothing could truly diminish the actor's mythical status, but Belushi's widow was determined to counterbalance the image of John-as-junkie. In 1991, Jacklin-Belushi published Samurai Widow, a more humanizing portrait of Belushi, their marriage, his addictions and her period of grief following his death. Years later and now remarried, Judy Belushi-Pisano, along with Aykroyd, brothers Jim and Billy, and even Chevy Chase, were proudly present for the unveiling of Belushi's star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 2004.

Shortly after, Belushi-Pisano followed up her personal memoir with a 2005 biography of her late husband, succinctly titled Belushi, which featured a collection of photos, stories and interviews with friends, colleagues and others who had been an influential part of his life. By then, numerous generations too young to remember Belushi as a cautionary tale, were left to appreciate his most important legacy -his brief, but inspired body of comedic work.to say the least, with a drugged up Belushi often refusing to leave his trailer. Additionally, he and his best friend switched roles - with Belushi playing straight guy to an over-the-top, obnoxious Aykroyd. Known for spitting mashed potatoes out of his mouth or breaking beer bottles against his head, playing the square was foreign territory for Belushi. His insecurities, coupled with his returning weight and anxiety over the film, culminated in one of the worst drug periods of Belushi's life - a period he would ultimately not survive. Upon the release of "Neighbors," fans who expected comic brilliance with the popular team were stymied with the uneven, unfunny - even dark movie.

By early 1982, Belushi's drug habits had worsened significantly - to the point where, even in the carefree era of recreational usage, there was no denying he was out of control. Drug enforcer Wendell was called in again to keep drugs from the comic, but it was an uphill battle, as everyone - from fans to fellow entertainers to clubgoers - would slip coke vials in his pocket just to say hello. Tipped off by Jacklin-Belushi, who was at the end of her rope, close friends Aykroyd, Landis and Brillstein, among others, were devising interventions and threats of rehab, even if it was against the comic's formidable will.

Feeling his career had already peaked and there was no where to go but down, Belushi decided to take his next film into his own hands. Despite the fact that he was no writer, he teamed up with fellow "S.N.L." writer-performer, Don Novello, to reconfigure an existing movie script called "Sweet Deception" into "Noble Rot," a comedy about winemaking. Paramount Pictures, the studio behind "Noble Rot," was nonplussed with the script and was instead pushing Belushi to star in a sophomoric comedy based on the popular book "The Joy of Sex." Meanwhile, Aykroyd had also intended for Belushi to star in the supernatural comedy, "Ghostbusters" (1984), which he was co-scripting with "Animal House" writer Harold Ramis. Belushi, who by this time was heavy into punk rock - to the point of alienating friends who would not listen to it - moved out to Hollywood to continue writing the film he felt would restore his cinematic mojo.

Holed up in a bungalow at Los Angeles' tony Chateau Marmont hotel on the Sunset Strip, Belushi hit the L.A. party scene harder than ever before - which, not surprisingly, resulted in a frustrated Novello having to write alone. At the same time, Paramount made it known that the "Noble Rot" drafts they were seeing were unacceptable. Feeling the pinch, Belushi put it into overdrive and let go of the wheel. During the nights scoring drugs and partying till dawn on the Sunset Strip at such clubs as the Roxy and the Rainbow, Belushi met a former backup singer and rock hanger-on named Cathy Smith. Smith, a junkie, introduced Belushi to the next step on the chemical ladder - heroin. Always afraid of needles and knowing heroin was the point-of-no-return, Belushi now began experimenting with the dangerous opiate; such was his desperation at that time. With Aykroyd secretly planning a flight to the West Coast to bring his friend back home, Belushi began a three-day binge. On March 5, after Hollywood pals Robin Williams and Robert De Niro left his bungalow in the early morning hours, Smith administered the umpteenth speedball - a concoction of heroin and cocaine by needle - to Belushi. In the morning, she took his car and left to run errands, checking on him in bed before leaving. While she was gone, Belushi's personal trainer, Bill Wallace, showed up to rouse his friend to work out; instead discovering he was not breathing. After frantically applying CPR and summoning medical help, Wallace knew it was too late for his friend. He immediately called Brillstein, who, in turn, broke the news to Aykroyd on the East Coast. Aykroyd raced to Jacklin-Belushi's side, hoping he could beat the media. There would be no intervention. The guilt would immediately consume them all.

After concluding the results of the autopsy, officials revealed that Belushi had been injected with a lethal "speedball." Shocked friends and family knew Belushi had had a massive coke problem, but few could accept that the comic had graduated to hardcore street drugs. Smith, who had been arrested as soon as she had returned with his car, later admitted to administering the fatal mixture. She was eventually charged with first-degree murder and, after a plea bargain down to involuntary manslaughter, was convicted for her part in his death, serving 18 months. Because Belushi was so beloved in the industry, his Albanian funeral on Martha's Vineyard, MA, only days after his shocking death, was a virtual who's-who of Hollywood royalty. Aykroyd led the funeral procession - which included the Bluesmobile - on his Harley to

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Neighbors (1981) Earl Keese
2.
 Continental Divide (1981) Ernie Souchak
3.
 Blues Brothers, The (1980) "Joliet" Jake Blues
4.
 1941 (1979) Wild Bill Kelso
5.
 Old Boyfriends (1979) Eric Katz
6.
 National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) John Blutarsky--
7.
 Goin' South (1978) Hector
8.
 La Honte de la jungle (1975) Voice Of Craig Baker--The Perfect Master
9.
 Saturday Night Live's Presidential Bash (1992) Henry Kissinger
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1971:
Joined Chicago's Second City improvisation troupe
1972:
Joined the cast of National Lampoon's Lemmings, an off-Broadway rock musical revue
1973:
Hired as a writer for the syndicated National Lampoon's Radio Hour, which later became the National Lampoon Show in 1975
1975:
First film credit as voice of the Perfect Master for French animated feature "La honte de la jungle/Jungle Burger"
1975:
Received first acclaim as original, regular cast member of "Saturday Night Live"
1978:
Appeared in the movie "Goin' South," which starred and was directed by Jack Nicholson
1978:
Cast by director John Landis in "National Lampoon's Animal House"; appeared in the minor role as the notorious, beer-swilling Bluto; despite appearing in only a dozen scenes the performance stole the movie
1979:
Along with fellow SNL regular Dan Aykroyd quit the series to pursue movie projects
1980:
Received top billing in John Landis' "The Blues Brothers," co-starred with Dan Aykroyd
1981:
Appeared in "Continental Divide," playing a hard-nosed Chicago newspaperman who finds romance in Colorado
1981:
Co-starred with Dan Aykroyd in the movie "Neighbors," with John playing a straight-arrow family man whose life is turned upside down when a wild family man (Aykroyd) moves in next door
1982:
On March 5, 1982, John Belushi was found dead in his hotel room at the age of 33; the cause of death was a lethal injection of cocaine and heroin
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Wisconsin at Whitewater: -
College of DuPage: Wheaton , Illinois -
Wheaton Central High School: Wheaton , Illinois - 1967

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Judith Jacklin Belushi. Married until his death; married Victor Pisano in October 1990.

Family close complete family listing

brother:
James Belushi. Actor. John was eldest of four children.
mother:
Agnes Belushi.
father:
Adam Belushi. Restaurant owner. Albanian immigrant.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Wired"

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