On This Day: John Belushi Dies of Accidental Overdose in 1982

by Joe Rutland

Comedian John Belushi is one of the funniest comedians who ever graced TV and movie screens. His drug use proved to be his downfall.

Belushi, who was originally from Chicago, died 39 years ago today on March 5, 1982. Cathy Evelyn Smith, who was with Belushi that night, admits to giving Belushi the fatal shot. A speedball is a mixture of heroin and cocaine injected into a person’s body by a shot.

It was called an accidental overdose. Belushi, though, was a heavy drug user in his life. His body was found in his room at a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. Belushi’s death shocked many around the world because it seemed like he was such a larger-than-life figure.

John Belushi Has Life That, At Times, Imitates Comic Art

Belushi sometimes led a life that imitated art. Take, for instance, his character of John “Bluto” Blutarsky in “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”

Fans of Belushi remember him as an original “Not Ready For Prime-Time Player” on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in the 1970s. His characters included a Samurai warrior, a “Bee,” and an out-of-control TV commentator.

“SNL” also offered Belushi and his close friend, comedian Dan Aykroyd, a chance to premiere “The Blues Brothers” musical duo.

The popularity of “Joliet Jake” and “Elwood” led to a movie with guest stars like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Belushi and Aykroyd really sang and performed blues and soul songs. They are backed by a band featuring “Booker T & the MG’s” members Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn.

John Belushi Wanted Big-Screen Success After TV Work

A fan can see most of his TV work on “SNL.” Much like Chevy Chase, Belushi turned his eyes to find success on the big screen.

Those who see Belushi in “Animal House” are attracted to his out-of-control, manic comic timing. That is a trait he had in his comedy skits. Besides “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers,” Belushi’s movies included “Continental Divide,” “1941,” and his last film, “Neighbors,” in 1981.

A trivia tidbit for you Belushi and Richard Pryor fans. On the original album cover of “Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip,” a billboard advertising “Neighbors” was on it. After Belushi’s death, that album cover replaced “Neighbors” with another film’s billboard.

Belushi Could Go From Manic To Kind Soul With Friends

There is little doubt about Belushi’s comedic talent. His manic ways were in contrast to the kind, generous soul that Belushi’s widow and close friends truly knew and remember.

Over the nearly for decades since his death, people have wondered what might have happened to Belushi’s career. That leads to a lot of speculation, but he probably would have found an outlet for his comedy.

Seeing old videos of Belushi on “SNL” still brings laughs to many people. His death provides a cautionary tale around the crossroads of success and excess. Today, fans and admirers can remember John Belushi the comic, husband, and tender-hearted person beyond the screen.