Brilliant comedian, actor, and musician John Adam Belushi was born on January 24, 1949, in Chicago to Albanian immigrants Adam and Agnes Belushi. Adam managed a restaurant while Agnes worked as a cashier, and the Belushis raised their four children in the Albanian Orthodox Church. John knew from childhood that he wanted to be a performer, and in addition to being a popular class clown throughout his school years, he was also the captain of his high-school football team and played drums in a rock band. John and his future wife, Judy Jacklin, met as sophomores at Wheaton Central High School and were married from 1976 until his death in 1982.
He performed in summer stock between high-school graduation and starting college. He attended the University of Wisconsin and then the College of DuPage. After graduating in 1970, he successfully auditioned for Chicago’s legendary Second City improvisational troupe, where he was an instant hit with his uncannily hilarious impersonations of Marlon Brando and Joe Cocker. Second City stardom led to a role in an off-Broadway production of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. His rave reviews in that sketch-comedy show attracted the attention of Lorne Michaels, who hired John for a new late-night comedy series he’d created called Saturday Night Live.
John Belushi and the rest of the original Saturday Night Live cast made their first appearance on October 11, 1975, the show was a hit from the beginning, and John quickly became one of its most popular stars. Whether he was wielding a sword as an eyebrow-arching samurai, waddling around in a killer-bee costume, or doing impressions of everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Truman Capote, he was magnetic and irresistibly talented. He and his friend and cast mate Dan Aykroyd developed a musical duo called the Blues Brothers during their years on Saturday Night Live, which resulted in an album (Briefcase Full of Blues) and a national tour with a backup band.
During a between-seasons hiatus from SNL, John made his first and possibly his best-known feature film, Animal House. Rumors of runaway drug use among some of the SNL cast were rampant by 1978 when Animal House came out, and the majority of the rumors centered on John and his reported love of cocaine.
His next films were disappointing despite their seeming potential—Goin’ South was a western starring Jack Nicholson, and Old Boyfriends gave John an opportunity at a dramatic role opposite Talia Shire. John left Saturday Night Live in 1979 to focus exclusively on his film career, and he made three of his next four movies with his friend, former SNL cast mate, and fellow Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd—1941, directed by Steven Spielberg; Neighbors; and The Blues Brothers. Only 1981’s Continental Divide,
a romantic comedy, featured Belushi without Aykroyd.
By early 1982 John was working on several new projects, including a screenplay with former SNL cast mate Don Novello. He was also spinning farther and farther out of control when it came to his drug use. On March 5, 1982, he was in his room at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles with a small group of people that included, separately and briefly by most accounts, Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. Finally, alone with a woman named Cathy Smith, he collapsed and died from a combined injection of cocaine and heroin known on the street as a “speedball.” His death was initially ruled an accidental drug overdose, but Cathy Smith subsequently informed the National Enquirer that she’d personally administered the speedball that killed John Belushi. As a result of her Enquirer interview, she was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served fifteen months in prison.
John Belushi died at the age of thirty-three, far sooner than his devoted wife, family, friends, and legions of fans were ready to say good-bye. He’s buried near his house on Martha’s Vineyard, Chilmark, Massachusetts.
John was welcomed back to the Other Side by a huge crowd of friends from Home and from his fourteen past lives, but first to reach him were two black Labrador retrievers and a Jack Russell terrier, from whom he’s been inseparable since he returned.
We had all been watching him carefully, as we do with everyone who seems to be losing control, particularly when we learned from his Spirit Guide, Khalil, that the Council had advised John against reincarnating so soon after his previous life in France in the early twentieth century. It was a life of privilege and excess, and they were concerned that he needed more time to process his growth from that life. But John was eager to exercise the strength and discipline he was convinced he’d mastered, and he was intent on proving it by charting not only a steady exposure to drugs, but also the celebrity status that would make them even more accessible. Sadly, as so often happens, the euphoria of Home impelled him to create a chart for which he wasn’t quite prepared. He does say, though, that three friends he declines to name were inspired enough by the shock of losing him so suddenly that they entered drug programs and became clean and sober, and he is gratified that something positive came from his self-destruction. He never believed he would live to be an old man, but had no conscious premonition that he would not leave his hotel room alive on the night his lifetime ended.
He is intensely proud of his body of work and his willingness to work hard throughout his life, he says, and he also gives himself credit, with a smile, for being smart enough to chart his marriage to Judy. Without elaborating, he wishes he’d listened to her.
He still visits her often and wants her to “pay attention to the bookshelves.”
He also loves visiting his house on Martha’s Vineyard. He says there’s an elevated gangway or passageway of some kind between the main house and the guest house, and he enjoys standing on that gangway watching storms come in over the Atlantic.
John is as popular and brilliantly funny here as he was on earth and is always surrounded by large groups of friends. (Contrary to what Sylvia tells me is a commonly held belief, most of us on the Other Side do have senses of humor and love to laugh.) He frequently entertains in his small A-frame cabin on what corresponds to your island of Cyprus, and he continues to perform comedy, to the delight of his parents, whom he was the first to welcome Home. He and his father are especially close companions, their mutual love of the sea expressed through their shared research in the fields of oceanography and marine biology, and through long peaceful journeys together on what John calls his “square rigger” sailing ship. He has no intention of returning to earth for another incarnation.