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John Belushi was an actor and comedian, one of the first performers on "Saturday Night Live" and one half of the Blues Brothers.
Don Knotts - Early Life (2:56)
Comedy icon John Belushi enjoyed great success with his exuberant personality, but could not escape the vicious cycle of addiction.
Actor and comedian Don Knotts faced many difficulties as a child growing up in West Virginia to ultimately become one of America's most beloved TV stars.
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But he was also struggling with his drug problem. In the months leading up to his death, he was reportedly spending about $2,500 a week on his habit, according to People magazine. Belushi was traveling back and forth between his home in New York City and California to work on the script in 1982. During the final week of his life, Belushi rented a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont, a popular hotel for the Hollywood set. He was also doing a lot of drugs at the time. On the night of March 4,
he was reportedly partying with the likes of Robin Williams. The next day Belushi was found dead in his hotel room. Only thirty-three years old, he died from a drug overdose of a combination of cocaine and heroin, also known as a "speedball." The woman who was with him and had supplied him with drugs, Cathy Smith, was questioned by the police and released.
On March 9, 1982, Belushi was buried near his home in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Many were shocked and saddened by the comedian's sudden death. "His death scared a whole group of show-business people. It caused a big exodus from drugs," Robin Williams told Entertainment Weekly. "Hollywood was toxic to him. People wanted him to be the Belushi they'd seen on screen," said Lorne Michaels in the same article.
Despite the fact that it was an apparent overdose, there was still some mystery surrounding the exact circumstances of Belushi's death. Cathy Smith was later charged with murder and drug-related offenses after admitting that she supplied and administered "speedballs" to Belushi to the National Inquirer, which reportedly paid her $15,000 for her story. She pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and three of the drug charges and spent 15 months in prison.
The unanswered questions led Belushi's widow to ask journalist Bob Woodward to investigate her husband's death. The result was the book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi (1984). His family was dismayed by the book, expressing their concern that it was not a fair portrait of the man they had known and loved. Judith Jacklin Belushi wrote her own book on her experiences surrounding his death in Samurai Widow (1990) and later created her own portrait of her late husband entitled Belushi: A Biography (2005).
While Belushi has been gone for more than twenty years, the characters he created and the performances he gave are still being enjoyed by his fans. He was named one of television's top 25 stars by People magazine in 1989. His brother Jim also carries on the family name in entertainment, having been a cast member of Saturday Night Live and the star of the television sitcom, According to Jim.
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Learn more about the cast of Saturday Night Live, including old-timers such as John Belushi, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and David Spade, as well as newer stars of the series, including Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Kate McKinnon, Molly Shannon and Kristen Wiig.
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