John Belushi: Five Things To Know

Mike Ramsey
January 21, 2019 - 4:21 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Imagine John Belushi as a senior citizen, claiming his discount for a cup of McDonald’s coffee or being a pitchman for AARP. Would his eyebrow still raise with precision? Could he still do a cartwheel?

We’ll never know. The actor, who parlayed success on the early years of “Saturday Night Live” into a film career that included Animal House and The Blues Brothers, died in 1982 at age 33. 

But consider this: Had he lived, Belushi would have turned 70 on Jan. 24, 2019. Repeat: Belushi, 70.

Ah, well. You can’t change the past. Here are five factoids to help celebrate the Chicago-born wild man’s all-too-short life:

 

Humble Humboldt beginnings. Belushi is typically associated with the west suburb of Wheaton, where he attended high school and first developed his gifts.

In fact, the son of Albanian Americans Adam and Agnes Belushi was delivered in 1949 at Norwegian American Hospital on Chicago's Northwest Side and spent his earliest years in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. According to a 1950 city directory, the family lived in a two-flat residence in the 3100 block of West Walton, a street with industrial overtones and a public swimming pool. 

The Belushi cenotaph. John Belushi was buried on Martha’s Vineyard, an island haven where he achieved some measure of peace during his lifetime. Closer to home, there is a cenotaph (or, memorial marker) for him that sits atop the graves of his parents, in River Grove’s Elmwood Cemetery. The inscription reads: “He gave us laughter.”

Second City benchmark. Belushi was a fixture in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood in the early-1970s, when he performed on The Second City stage. For years, the talented upstart was the only performer allowed to go straight to the main stage, rather than paying his dues with a traveling company. 

That is no longer the case. To date, three others share the distinction with Belushi: Susan Messing, Emily Wilson and current SNL cast member Aidy Bryant, according to The Second City.

courtesy: The Second City

Restaurant-a-rama. The recurring SNL sketch about The Olympia Restaurant, which served strictly cheeseburgers, Pepsi and potato chips, was an obvious tribute to the chaos found within Chicago’s subterranean Billy Goat Tavern. Belushi’s character of the hard-nosed owner, Pete, drilled a little deeper. The actor's older cousin, Gus Dimas, says Belushi was channeling some of his own relatives and family members, including his father, Adam, who were in the restaurant business in Chicago.

‘This was no boating accident.’ Belushi was most famous for broad, explosive comedy, but he could do nuanced celebrity impressions, too — and not just his dead-on renditions of Brando or Joe Cocker. See the famous "Star Trek" clip below in which Belushi offers a solid take on William Shatner. Also of note was his frenzied portrayal of Richard Dreyfuss during the “land shark” sketches that lampooned Jaws

“Bette Davis used to say you haven’t arrived until you’ve been imitated,” Dreyfuss, who hosted SNL during its third season, told WBBM Newsradio last week. “Belushi was great.”

Of his comrade’s untimely death, he adds: “It was a kick in the ass.”