John Belushi

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New York

Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe

John Belushi was born in January 1949 and died in 1982 - now, some 30 years after his death, there's a new John Belushi biopic in the works - from the director of (what else?) The Hangover. We profile a self-destructive comic talent.

So who was John Belushi?
Short, round and manically funny, Belushi made his name on Saturday Night Live, performing crazy, coke-fuelled routines from jamming cigars up his nose to smashing beer cans against his forehead. By the time he turned thirty, however, he had the number one movie at the box office and the number one album in the record charts. His two most successful films, Animal House and The Blues Brothers, make him a comic icon even now.

Where did he drink?
Partly as a matter of personal preference, and partly because he got banned from almost everywhere else, Belushi favoured speakeasies and dive bars.

Places like Club 505, the speakeasy his friend Dan Aykroyd managed in Toronto before fame came calling, the Blues Bar, a clubhouse space the two created in New York, or Cody's, a down-to-earth Manhattan bar where he'd host parties after Saturday Night Live.

In Chicago, he worked and drank in comedy clubs such as Catch A Rising Star and the Earl of Old Town. In LA, his lifestyle was more intense. He drank at the Chateau Marmont, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Rainbow Bar & Grill, a club called On the Rox, and more.

What did he drink?
Belushi was a man of copious appetites: four huge meals a day, entire fried chickens, lines of cocaine several feet long, pack after pack of cigarettes, plus downers and booze to take the edge off everything. Many of his friends believed he was indestructible - one woke up at 5am after a brutal night to find him not only still awake but actually doing cannonballs into the pool.

His favoured tipples? Wild Turkey, Courvoisier and store lagers: Rolling Rock, Dixie, Budweiser. On the night he died he was drinking wine, allegedly because he was working on a script about wine-making.

Any famous drinking buddies?
Belushi was a party monster, hanging out with everyone from Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood to Hunter S. Thompson (who observed after his death that "John is welcome at my house any time, dead or alive.").

He was close to the comics of his generation, Bill Murray, Robin Williams (who gave up booze and drugs after his death) and his best bud Dan Akyroyd. Robert de Niro, another resident at the Chateau Marmont, stopped by his bungalow on the night he died.

How did drink change his life?
Belushi died of excess - of one too many speedballs, the end result of a $2500 a week coke habit. He had been using uppers since high school to fuel his routines, and felt he simply could not function professionally or cope with the pressures of Hollywood without them.

Belushi considered himself a social drinker, which didn't stop him putting away multiple bottles of spirits in a day. During one attempt at a detox he tried to consume "only beer", during another "only pot".

Booze was, however, just one element in his "live fast, die young" ethos.

Any drinking stories?
Even after The Blues Brothers' director John Landis flushed a bunch of his star's stash, Belushi was found in his dressing room with a bottle of Courvoisier and a pile of coke on the table, and urine flooding the floor.

On a beer-fuelled, pre-fame road trip with Dan Akyroyd, he arrived at a hotel where there had been an outbreak of illness. No rooms were available. Belushi parked himself at reception, saying, "Full?! With what—corpses?!... Isn't this the Legionaries' Disease hotel?" After an hour had passed, he marched up to the desk: "Somebody must have died by now."

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