Friday, March 9, 2012

John Belushi

John Adam Belushi (bəˈluːʃi/; January 24, 1949 – March 5, 1982) was an American comedian, actor, and musician, best known as one of the original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. He was the older brother of James "Jim" Belushi.

Belushi's first big break as a comedian occurred in 1971, when he joined The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago. He was cast in National Lampoon's Lemmings, a parody of Woodstock, which played Off-Broadway in 1972 and showcased future Saturday Night Live (SNL) performers Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest.

In 1973, Belushi and Jacklin moved together to New York. From 1973 to 1975, National Lampoon Inc. aired The National Lampoon Radio Hour, a half-hour comedy program syndicated across the country on approximately 600 stations. Belushi was a regular player on the show. Other players included future SNL regulars Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray and Chevy Chase. Jacklin became an associate producer for the show, and she and Belushi were married on December 31, 1976. A number of comic segments first performed on The Radio Hour were transformed into SNL sketches in the show's early seasons.

Belushi achieved national fame for his work on Saturday Night Live, which he joined as an original cast member in 1975. Between seasons of the show, he made one of his best-known movies, Animal House.

When interviewed for retrospectives on John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd told stories of John often finishing SNL rehearsals, shows or film shoots and John being exhausted, simply walking unannounced into nearby homes of friends or strangers, scrounging around for food and often falling asleep, unable to be located for the following day's work. This was the impetus for the SNL horror-spoof sketch "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave", in which Belushi torments a couple (played by Jane Curtin and Bill Murray) in their home looking for snacks, newspapers and magazines to read, and taking control of their television. During the opening of the SNL episode that aired on December 17, 1977, Belushi, while in character as himself, quipped, "I plan to be dead by the time I'm 30." SNL also featured a short film by writer Tom Schiller called "Don't Look Back In Anger", where Belushi, playing himself as an old man and the last-surviving SNL cast member, visits the graves of his now-former cast members.

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

Dan Aykroyd wrote the roles of Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters and Emmett Fitz-Hume in Spies Like Us with Belushi in mind. The roles would eventually be played by Belushi's former SNL castmates Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, respectively.

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 Noble Rot, an adaptation of a script by former Mary Tyler Moore Show writer and producer Jay Sandrich entitled Sweet Deception.

On March 5, 1982, Bill Wallace found Belushi dead in his room, Bungalow #3 at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California. The cause of death was a speedball; the combined injection of cocaine and heroin. On the night 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. 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.

No comments: