Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Many Saturday Night Live alumni faced drug addiction, both during and after their time on the popular comedy series. One of the first casualties to drugs and one of the most tragic was the death of John Belushi. 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. 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. 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.

Belushi's wife arranged for a traditional Orthodox Christian funeral which was conducted by an Albanian Orthodox priest. 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 grave site 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." An unmarked tombstone in an undisclosed location marks the final burial location. He is also 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".

At the time of his death, Belushi was pursuing several movie projects, including Moons Over Miami with Louis Malle, National Lampoon's The Joy of Sex and Noble Rot, 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. He was also scheduled to work with Aykroyd on Ghostbusters and Spies Like Us.

Belushi also made a "Guest Star Appearance" on an episode of the television 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.

Again, John Belushi died too young and too tragically...

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