The son of an Albanian immigrant restaurant owner, Adam Belushi, and his vivacious wife, Agnes, John Belushi was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on January 24, 1949. He grew up in Wheaton, where the family moved when he was six. Though a young hellion in grade school, John became the perfect all-American boy during his high school years where he was co-captain of the Wheaton Central High School football team and was elected homecoming king his senior year. He also developed an interest in acting and appeared in the high school variety show. Encouraged by his drama teacher, John decided to put aside his plans to become a football coach to pursue a career in acting.
After graduation in 1967, John performed in summer stock in rural Indiana in a variety of roles from "Cardinal Wolsey" in "Anne of a Thousand Days" to a comic detective in "Ten Little Indians". In the fall of his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, John changed his image into a bad-boy appearance by growing his hair long and began to have problems with discipline and structure of attending classes.
Dropping out of Wisconsin, John spent the next two years at the College of DuPage, a junior college a few miles from his parents' Wheaton home, where his father began persuading him to become a partner in his restaurant, but John still preferred acting. While attending DuPage, John helped found the "West Compass Players", an improv comedy troupe patterned after Chicago's famous "Second City" ensemble.
In 1971, John made the leap to "Second City" itself where he performed in various on-stage comic performances with others, who included Harold Ramis and Joe Flaherty. John loved his life at "Second City" where he performed six nights a week, perfecting the physical "gonzo" style of comedy he later made famous.
A year later, John and his live-in girlfriend from his high school years, Judith Belushi-Pisano, moved to New York because John had joined the cast of National Lampoon's Lemmings, an off-Broadway rock musical revue that was originally booked for a six-week run but played to full crowds for nearly 10 months.
In 1973, John was hired as a writer for the syndicated National Lampoon's Radio Hour which became the National Lampoon Show in 1975. John's big break came that same year when he joined the ground-breaking TV variety series "Saturday Night Live" (1975) which made him a star. The unpredictable, aggressively physical style of humor that he began on "Second City" flowered on SNL.
In 1978, while still working on "Saturday Night Live" (1975), John appeared in the movie Goin' South (1978) which starred and was directed by Jack Nicholson. It was here that director John Landis noticed John and decided to cast him in his movie National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). John's minor role as the notorious, beer-swilling "Bluto" made it a box-office smash and the year's top grossing comedy. Despite appearing in only a dozen scenes, John's performance stole the movie, which portrays college fraternity shenanigans at a small college set in the year 1962.
In 1979, John along with fellow SNL regular Dan Aykroyd quit the series to pursue movie projects. John and Dan Aykroyd appeared in minor roles in Steven Spielberg's financially unsuccessful 1941 (1979) and, the following year, in John Landis' The Blues Brothers (1980). Around this time, John's drug use began escalating. Cocaine, which was ubiquitous in show-business circles in the 1970's, became his drug of choice. After he first experimented with cocaine in the mid 1970s, John almost immediately became addicted to it. His frequent cocaine sniffing binges became a source of friction between him and Judy, whom he married in 1976.
John's love for blues and soul music inspired the "Blues Brothers". He and Aykroyd first appeared as Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, a pair of white soul men dressed in black suits, skinny ties, fedora hats and Rayban sunglasses, as a warm-up act before the telecasts of "Saturday Night Live" (1975). Building on the success of their acts and the release of their album "A Briefcase Full of Blues", John and Dan Aykroyd starred in the movie, which gave John a chance to act with his favorite musical heroes including Ray Charles, James Brown and Aretha Franklin.
Although John's reputation for being an off-screen party animal is legendary, his generous side is less well known. Using some of his money, he bought his father a ranch outside San Diego for him to live. John helped set up some of his Chicago friends with their own businesses and even financially helped his younger brother, James Belushi, who followed his older brother's path to both "Second City" and "Saturday Night Live" (1975).
In 1981, John appeared in the movie Continental Divide (1981), playing a hard-nosed Chicago newspaperman who finds romance in Colorado with eagle expert Blair Brown. That same year, John and Dan Aykroyd appeared again in the movie Neighbors (1981), which gave them a chance to reverse roles, with John playing a straight-arrow family man whose life is turned upside down when a wild family man (Aykroyd) moves in next door.
In January 1982, John began work on the screenplay for another movie to be titled "Noble Rot". Also, John had checked into a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont, a popular celebrity hotel in Los Angeles. John's drug use had been steadily increasing for over a year now, which alarmed his wife and friends, but he continued to promise Judy that he would quit someday. On March 5, 1982, John Belushi was found dead in his hotel room at the age of 33. The local coroner gave the cause of death as a lethal injection of cocaine and heroin. Several years later, John's drug dealing/drug user companion during his final weeks, Cathy Smith, was tried and sentenced to three years in prison for supplying John with the drugs. Close friend James Taylor sang "That Lonesome Road" at a memorial service at Martha's Vineyard cemetery where John was buried.
|Judith Belushi-Pisano||(31 December 1976 - 5 March 1982) (his death)|
On Saturday Night Live, he often did a running act on the Weekend Update section where he would give an editorial speech that starts calmly, but increases in emotional intensity until the end he is screaming and flailing around like a maniac.
Often known for his expressive eyes and the solitary raised eyebrow
In his trademark comic rantings, he would include a long, detailed explanation of something he was trying to support or confirm, and then broke into a shouting "Buuuut nnnnnOOOOOO!", continuing to rant into the negative.
Often played comically intense, volatile, even sometimes sloppy man-child characters.
Interred at Abel's Hill Cemetery, Chilmark (on Martha's Vineyard), MA. His grave is unmarked.
Lived in Wheaton, Illinois as a child.
Went to Edison Middle School in Wheaton, Illinois.
Went to Wheaton Central High School, now Wheaton Warrenville South High School, in Wheaton, Illinois.
Older brother of James Belushi.
Used to borrow a $20 bill from new acquaintances, judging them from their reactions at his request.
Starred alone in a black & white "Saturday Night Live" (1975) sketch titled "Don't Look Back in Anger", in which he played himself as an old man visiting the graves of the other original SNL cast members, himself being the last survivor. In an odd twist of fate, Belushi was the first of the cast to die.
Got his start in Shawnee Summer Theatre of Greene County's youth theatre education program, in Bloomfield, Indiana.
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. pg. 38-40. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
A petition drive was started to have a commemorative stamp printed by the U.S. Postal Service for the actor.
At the time of his death, Belushi was rewriting a script entitled "Noble Rot."
4/1/04: Was honored with a star on the Hollywood walk of fame 22 years after his death. The ceremony was attended by his brother James Belushi and friend and partner Dan Aykroyd. Also in attendance were John's widow Judith Belushi-Pisano and fellow SNL cast member Chevy Chase.
Made a "Guest Star Appearance" on an episode of the 1982 TV series "Police Squad!" (1982) which showed him underwater wearing cement shoes. He died shortly before the episode aired, so the scene was cut and replaced by a segment with William Conrad. After the success of the The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) movies in the early 90s, ABC-TV re-aired episodes of "Police Squad!" and hoped to re-edit the Belushi scene back into the episode. However, the footage could not be found and is now presumed lost or destroyed.
Was good friends with fellow "Saturday Night Live" (1975) player Dan Aykroyd. Belushi personally met with Aykroyd at a speakeasy that Aykroyd frequented to discuss the possibility of Aykroyd joining "Saturday Night Live" (1975), which is where they hit it off. While they were talking, Aykroyd put on a blues record, which stirred a fascination in Belushi, who was primarily a fan of heavy metal. SNL music director Howard Shore later heard about Aykroyd re-familiarizing Belushi with blues music and suggested that they do a musical sketch, which eventually led to the birth of their popular "Blues Brothers" act.
Was scheduled to present the first annual Best Visual Effects Oscar at the 1982 Academy Awards with Dan Aykroyd, but died weeks before the ceremony. Aykroyd presented the award alone, and stated from the podium: "My partner would have loved to have been here tonight to present this award, since he was a bit of a Visual Effect himself."
His favorite comedienne was Lucille Ball, he knew every detail of her life & career.
Was billed as "Kevin Scott" on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" (1975), as a spoof on suggestions that his name Belushi be softened or changed, for the television audience. (John's Albanian family had kept the name when they came to America, so he wanted to also.)
A scene was deleted from 1941 (1979) in which his character met Dan Aykroyd's character right before he boarded the Japanese sub. They looked at each other as if recognizing one another, a nod to their real life friendship. It was the only scene in the film where they interacted.
Chris Farley was an admirer of Belushi and, sadly, Farley too died in his early 30s just when his career appeared to be taking off.
There is a John Belushi Memorial Scholarship for Performing Arts at his alma mater, College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn, Illinois)
The epitaph on Belushi's tombstone (on Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts) read, "He made us laugh, and now he can make us think." John's grave drew so many curious viewers that his casket had to be moved and reburied in an unmarked corner of the cemetery...after which Belushi's fans posted a new epitaph for him which has since become famous: "He could have given us a lot more laughs, but NOOOOOOO!" (This was taken from one of his more-famous catch-phrases on "Saturday Night Live" (1975).)
Attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. He bought his famous "College" shirt seen in Animal House (1978) at a small shirt shop on "The Strip" (Illinois St. or US Rt. 51) in Carbondale, which still exists.
His performance as John "Bluto" Blutarsky in Animal House (1978) is ranked #48 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 61-62. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Uncle of Robert Belushi.
While co-hosting an episode of "Siskel & Ebert" (1986) with Richard Roeper, longtime friend and collaborator Harold Ramis revealed that it was Belushi's longtime ambition to play Ludwig van Beethoven in a feature film.
Belushi died in bungalow #3 of L.A.'s Chateau Marmont hotel. The last two stars to see him alive were Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, both of whom had visited Belushi, on separate occasions, shortly before his death.
The Polish rock group Lady Pank (who provided the music for the animated TV series The Two Who Stole the Moon (1962)) wrote a song called "John Belushi", which appears on the album "Tacy Sami". The tune was composed by Jan Borysewicz and the lyrics were written by Zbigniew Holdys.
Was very generous, financially, to family and friends, often loaning them money when they asked. Toward the end of his life, Belushi's business manager asked him to contact several family and friends and generate money by demanding they make good on their loans. Belushi refused.
Appeared with Michael O'Donoghue in "Wolverines," the very first sketch on the first S.N.L. show in 1975.
John was the original choice to be Dan Aykroyd's co-star in Spies Like Us (1985) (in the role that eventually went to Chevy Chase). Aykroyd and Belushi discussed the upcoming movie with Gene Shalit on The "Today" (1952) Show; the clip is included as a special feature on the "Best of John Belushi" DVD.
Was good friends with Wrestling Legend Dusty Rhodes.
Belushi's "America's Guest" nickname stemmed from his habit of wandering to a random house of a complete stranger, knocking on the door, going in, helping himself to something in the refrigerator and then sleeping on the stranger's couch. Most strangers, recognizing who he was, didn't seem to mind Belushi's "visit".
Since Albania was under communism during his youth, Belushi often told people he was of Greek and Italian descent.
Some comedians love their characters. I don't fall in love with mine. In fact, I get tired of them very fast. You have to be willing to throw it all away.
Back in Chicago, all we cared about was rock 'n' roll and staying out of the army.
|Animal House (1978)||$40,000|
|"Saturday Night Live" (1975)||$750/week (1975 season)|
(2005) Release of the biography, "Belushi" by his widow, Judith Belushi-Pisano.
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