On March 5, 1982, between 10:15 and 11 a.m., comedian/actor John Belushi died from a combination of heroin and cocaine. For the previous several days, he had been receiving injections from Catherine Evelyn Smith, junkie/dealer. What led to it?
Despite being rich and famous, John Belushi was dissatisfied. His first movie (Goin’ South) starred Jack Nicholson. Belushi wanted to be respected like Nicholson and have the same clout. Likewise, he had begun palling around with Robert DeNiro who had just won an Oscar for “Raging Bull”.
His last movie “Neighbors” is known mainly just for that. It was his grand finale. A disappointing dark comedy, it didn’t connect with the audiences that loved him for “Animal House” or “The Blues Bros.”
Belushi’s Next Feature Film (if he had lived.) John was signed to do “Sweet Deceptions”, a story about diamonds, romance and how to steal both. John, along with writer/actor Don Novello did their own adaptation and retitled it “Noble Rot”. And everybody hated it. The studio, his manager, his colleagues, everybody. He felt rejected because he had based the main character (Johnny Glorioso) on himself. Instead, the studio wanted him to do “The Joy of Sex” to be directed by Penny Marshall (of “Laverne & Shirley” fame.) Belushi wasn’t happy about it, didn’t like the script, and felt Ms. Marshall wasn’t up to directing it.
Again, he would shift his attentions to another imagined film project about punk r0ck. Belushi felt this was the new upcoming rage and wanted the band “Fear” to sing in it. In this yet to be titled picture, his character would become a punker, dye his hair purple and do heroin.
John was entranced by method acting – his favorite actor being Marlon Brando – and believed an actor had to experience whatever the character was going through. Belushi, who was already hooked on cocaine, took that fatal step towards heroin. In those last few days, John’s friends and family knew he was out of control. Dan Ackroyd and John’s wife Judy had plans to force him back to New York…in handcuffs.
Los Angeles, CA. With no one to watch over him, John went a drug spree.
March 4, 1982. Belushi has a discussion with Robert DeNiro, who agrees that taking heroin for a role would add believability to the character. DeNiro, however, is spooked by Catherine Evelyn Smith, an on-the-fringes doper.
John briefly encounters Robin Williams. John blacks out twice in front of Robin, who knows something’s wrong, but is reluctant to advice him.
Smith injects John with a fatal dose – the cumulative effect of the drugs coursing through his veins. Exhausted, John takes a shower, complains about being cold, and Smith puts him to bed. He asks her not to leave. Smith hears him “breathing funny”. This doesn’t stop her from leaving, borrowing John’s car and going on some errands.
Early afternoon. Bill Wallace, John’s trainer, brings over a typewriter for the new script John plans to write. The room is oddly quiet. He sees John covered up in bed and tells him it’s time to get up. No response. Pulling back the covers, John is dead, turned dark purple, his tongue sticking out.
Text © 2023 – ERN