Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Appreciation of : John Belushi

Karen: John Belushi meant a lot to me and my friends when we were teenagers. He was the rebel, the weirdo, the wild man, the misfit who rose to the top. He was far from what people considered a Hollywood star in looks but was successful despite (maybe even because of) that. He was inspiring to many of us out there who didn't necessarily fit in. Above all, he was a gifted comedian. We might remember him best for his physical slapstick, the way he could throw his pudgy body around, or raise his eyebrows; but he also had expert timing and could deliver a line like nobody's business.

Karen: But it feels like he is being slowly forgotten. In his heyday, he was one of the brightest stars to come out of the original Saturday Night Live. He went on to tremendous success in Animal House and The Blues Brothers (less so with 1941, Neighbors and a few other film appearances). But Belushi left this world at the young age of 33 -33! - back in 1982. His portfolio is thus rather slim.

Karen: I can easily recall the moment when I heard he had died. I felt stunned. His death was the first time I lost a performer that I had a strong interest in. I phoned friends. We were all in disbelief. How could this unstoppable maniac be dead? But, as is so often the case, Belushi was on a path of self-destruction. It's incredibly sad, especially as I look back now, nearly 30 years later, realizing how young he was and how much more he could have done.

Karen: But as long as we have recording devices, his work will live on. Some of his funniest stuff was during his days on SNL. The "cheeburga" and Samurai sketches instantly come to mind. He also made some great faux commercials.

Karen: Or how about his turn as Joe Cocker?

Karen: I'd love to show some clips from Animal House and Blues Brothers, but we're trying to keep this site PG rated! But if you haven't seen these films in a few years, throw them in the player and sit back and marvel at just how hysterical Belushi was. I miss John Belushi.


J.A. Morris said...

The first SNL sketch I ever saw ended with John Belushi saying "no water, Pepsi!", and I've been a fan ever since.

I love 'The Blues Brothers' movie, but I think his best work was the SNL stuff. I own every season

His death was the 2nd celebrity death(after Lennon) that affected me on a "personal" level. I didn't cry, but I certainly upset about it for a few days. When I heard Dan Rather announce it on the CBS news, I was shocked.

When I got married a few years back, we had a tough time selecting appropriate music for the recessional. My wife suggested the Blues Brothers' version of 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love'. I'm proud to say that "John Belushi sang at my wedding!".

Any hardcore fan of his should check out the recent book 'Belushi', by his widow, Judith Belushi Pisano.

In case anyone here doesn't read Shooter's blog, here's his piece about meeting Belushi and the SNL issue of Marvel Team-Up:

One more link, I used to frequent an SNL forum, here's a column Belushi wrote for the Washington Post in 1977:

Edo Bosnar said...

I miss him, too, and I was thinking about him recently because (as JA pointed out) Shooter also mentioned him on his blog last week.
He was a comedic genius, and if he's being forgotten, that's truly sad. For me, he deserves immortality for Blues Brothers alone (along with the rest of the main cast) - that is one of my all time favorite movies, ever.
Speaking of his excellent SNL work, how about that eerie Schiller's Reel with him visiting the graves of the other cast members? Last year I watched it again with my nephew on one of the "Best of" DVDs - and I have to say, after all these years, it still kind of freaks me out...

david_b said...

I was in my first year at college when the news came over. Yep, it was weird after Lennon had been violently struck down (THAT'S the first time I felt time actually stop).

Belushi's death was more of a disappointment as well as a shock, of course. I had also read Shooter's blog on him.

The most poignant recollections and affects the death had was in the big SNL book ("Live From New York" Uncensored) that came out a few years back, with everyone's recollections about each year, producer, etc.

(Ah.. don't let the 'Uncensored' title fool you, while there's LOTS of interesting name-calling and muck, some contributors like Eddie Murphy did insist on having final say on other people's viewpoints.)

Nearly every cast member who was either with the original cast, or in the short-lived 'new cast' (with Charles Rocket), were shocked and saddened, obviously. But the keen observation I drew from it was the change in SNL humor..: Drug jokes were passe, and pretty much axed; no one was doing nearly as much coke as before, it was like the decadence was almost immediately looked down on, with both the cast and writing staff (most folks filled both roles..). It just wasn't funny anymore.

It's an excellent book to read, especially everyone's thoughts of Gilda's last days as well.

Inkstained Wretch said...

One of the most intriguing "What ifs" I have ever heard came in one of the special features of the Criterion edition of Terry Gilliam's version of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.

Apparently the film rights to the book were originally purchased as a vehicle for Dan Aykroyd and Belushi. Aykroyd would play Raoul Duke and Belushi would be Dr. Gonzo.

Apparently the usual development problems stalled the project and Belushi's death, obviously, ended it.

Interesting to think what might have been, even though I like Gilliam's version.

Karen said...

Thanks for the link to Shooter's blog. I haven't been keeping up with it but that was a very nice Belushi story.

Unfortunately, I do wonder if there are not more people familiar with JIM Belushi now than John, which is a tragedy.

Inkstained, I was not aware of the story with Fear and Loathing, but I'm sure most people are aware that Danny Ackroyd originally wrote Ghostbusters with Belushi in the Peter Venkman role. Another what if, although I think Bill Murray did a superb job and certainly made it his own. However, I can't help but wonder what else Belushi might have done had he not left us too soon.


david_b said...

Inkstained, I was curious about that mention of the Thompson project myself.., since fellow-SNL pal Bill Murray had just done 'Where the Buffalo Roam' playing Hunter S. in 1980.

Since that film flopped, it would have been an interesting turn to have Danny and John do a remake so soon.

Despite critical panning, 'Buffalo Roam's one of my favorite movies. And if you read the background stories of it, Murray really absorbed his role so much, he stayed in his Hunter S. persona during his last year on SNL.

I also ponder how a Belushi-led Ghostbusters would have been, really loving Murray in it as I do.

Fred W. Hill said...

I loved Belushi, and the rest of the old SNL crew, even got the issue of Marvel Team-Up they were drawn into. Admittedly, though, when I heard he had died, I don't recall being really surprised although I was saddened. Lennon's murder was much more of a shock to me. What's really surprising is how someone like Keith Richards survived that sort of hard-partying life-style! Anyhow, I agree with J.A. that his best work was on SNL, but it's a shame he went out too soon. And if memories of him are fading, alas, even massive fame can be fleeting, but as long as his movies and clips of his SNL skits are available, I don't think John Belushi will ever be entirely forgotten.

jim kosmicki said...

Nobody seems to remember, or at least mention, his very credible take as a romantic comedy lead in "Continental Divide." He plays a variation on Mike Royko, and its very believable.

and I'm one of the people who paid to see "Neighbors" and liked it. It was fun to see Akroyd and Belushi trade places in terms of who would normally play what role, and the film itself was a fun satire of suburban "normality." It was just released on DVD by Warner Archive, and I ordered a copy as soon as it was announced.

Belushi, like Buddy Holly, had such a short and meteoric career that it's hard to look back and see how much they were changing and looking to try new things. Based on what he actually did, Belushi could easily have been like John Goodman, only a decade earlier.

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