John Belushi met his future wife, Judith, at a school day in which all the students enjoyed a day on the boat. John used an oar to hit Judith, an unromantic way of showing his interest, but one that turned out to be quite effective.
For the next few weeks, the bushy-browed, hunky-eyed 1950s guy called the girl he’d punched night after night, culminating in an invitation to the prom, where John was made king. He was captain of the football team, regular student, and print showman. He and Judith decided, after leaving college, that it was in John’s best interest to pursue a career in sports, as if that were the perfect real-life translation of the hackneyed American dream.
However, for John Belushi, the son of a housewife and an Albanian man who owns a restaurant, sports did not satisfy him enough. The interpretation appeared as a somewhat distorted epiphany and the plan changed: John would combine sport and acting, one would feed him (he planned to be a coach) and the other air. But once the tables were tested, being a coach began to seem like a mess. His wife, who knows if even under the effects of the rowing stroke, supported him and John Adam Belushi, born in Chicago in 1949, began a career that would end up taking him to the other neighborhood, perhaps because the same monster that led him to become in one of the best comedy actors in history, he insisted that they could remember him for other reasons.
The year was 1980 and the Blues Brothers had become the favorite couple of the American public. Dan Aycroyd and John Belushi practiced total spectacle in which they fused comedy and music. His movie “Rogues at full speed” swept the box office. Two years later, on March 5, 1982, Belushi died of a heroin overdose in the bungalow where he was staying at the select Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles.
John Belushi was one of the most amphetamine types that the American entertainment world has given. He rose to fame as one of the original cast comedians on “Saturday Night Live,” the famous American television comedy show. There he coincided with other future stars of American comedy such as Chevy Chase, Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd, with whom he would create the Blues Brothers as recurring characters on the show. In 1978 they recorded their first album which reached number one on the charts, an unusual case for a first album by a duo that was not essentially musical.
From television and music, Belushi made the leap to the cinema, always playing crazy characters, as excessive as himself. We saw him, for example, in Steven Spielberg’s “1941” playing a crazy pilot chasing Japanese on American soil or in “Animal House”, swallowing a hamburger in one bite and then throwing it up on his table companions.
John Belushi was a genius in his own way. The bad thing is that he was also insatiable. He consumed everything and in large quantities: food, sex, drugs, alcohol… Director John Landis felt unable to control him during the filming of “Rascals at full speed”: “Every day the make-up artists had to make a great effort to hide the consequences that the drug was leaving on John – the director recalled – his eyes were permanently veiled, his nose was congested and he suffered from chronic hoarseness.” One day he got fed up, got into his caravan unexpectedly and threw all the cocaine down the toilet. The actor pounced on Landis like a man possessed and they ended up in fistfights. The director was determined to stop filming but the actor burst into tears, told him that he was very embarrassed and promised that he would stop using drugs after that.
However, the actor did not keep his promise and continued with his unbridled way of life. Belushi was a regular user of cocaine, amphetamines, peyote and LSD. Of course, he did not use heroin because he hated needles. In Hollywood he had a gang of stalwarts including Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher or Linda Blair, the girl from “The Exorcist”, all of them addicted to cocaine. The night of his death Robin Williams and Robert De Niro were with him in his bungalow but the next day they worked and did not stay until very late. Around one o’clock in the morning John Belushi was left alone and at some point that night death visited him.
One of the things that most surprised the police was that no drugs of any kind were found next to his body and there were no visible marks of punctures on the body, something on the other hand logical due to his fear of syringes. Until the coroner found a small mark on the right elbow. It was a tiny needle prick. As it was the right elbow, it was evident that someone had helped him inject himself, since Belushi being right-handed, he would not have been able to do it with such precision and with such a clean puncture.
The intervention of another person turned the case into a homicide and soon the clues led to Cathy Smith, a friend of the actor who served as his heroin shooter. The young woman ended up confessing that she went to visit Belushi that night at his bungalow and he told her that he wanted to try heroin for the first time. Then she took it upon herself to prick him. Almost immediately the actor suffered an overdose; The girl got scared and ran away. But before he left he cleaned the room to erase his tracks; hence no drugs were found with the body. Everyone was shocked to hear the story. Robin Williams explained it this way: “John’s death was a red flag for many. Belushi was the strongest of all. He was like a bull, he had incredible energy. His death scared many entertainment people causing a great exodus within the drug scene. I myself decided to leave it. Had I known that John was going to shoot heroin that night, I would have stayed to try and prevent it. But with him everything was unpredictable.”
Cathy Smith was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and spent three years in jail. That puncture took John Belushi at just 33 years old, wearing Hollywood in mourning, the same color of his artistic costume. Today all we have left of him are half a dozen movies and a few rhythm and blues records. A scarce testament but that has served to turn the actor into a myth and one of the greatest exponents of the debauchery of the 80s.