John Belushi overdose death
Comedic actor and musician John Belushi was known for living life to the extreme and never practicing moderation. He exploited wild, outrageous, and unpredictable behavior and antics on screen which seemingly imitated his actual way of life. Perhaps due to the success that the reputation his comedic characters achieved for him, Belushi felt compelled to live life in the same fashion, and was always seeking more excessive forms of entertainment. A talented and beloved comedian of his generation, Belushi’s constant measure of comic irreverence paved the way for a vicious affair with illicit drugs that would eventually lead to his tragic death.
John Belushi (b. 1949) had already attained substantial popularity from his comedic films like Animal House and The Blues Brothers, and his involvement on NBC’s Saturday Night Live television sketch show. He also spent much of his career producing music and developing scripts. On February 28, 1982, Belushi traveled to Los Angeles and checked into Bungalow 3 at the historic Chateau Marmont Hotel in West Hollywood, CA to review a new movie script for Paramount with fellow comedian Robin Williams, actor Robert De Niro, and writer Nelson Ryan. During his stay in Los Angeles, Belushi met Cathy Smith—a Canadian woman identified as a backup singer, but who was more commonly known to be a rock band groupie, a mistress to singer Gordon Lightfoot, and a drug dealer. Belushi had long established a dangerous alcohol and drug abuse habit throughout his career, and developed an affinity for cocaine. Reportedly on this particular trip, Belushi was heavily engaged in drug consumption for four consecutive days. Belushi was in the company of Williams, De Niro, and Smith in the early morning hours of March 5th when Smith brought cocaine to the party. Williams would later concede to his participation in the cocaine use, but De Niro was largely unavailable for comment during the subsequent investigation. Williams and De Niro did make it apparent in their statements, however, that they disliked Smith and found her to be a “lowlife,” but were unable to share their feelings with Belushi since he had only met her days prior.
After his friends had left, Smith and Belushi were alone and took more hits of cocaine. Belushi allegedly wanted to get an even stronger high, so Smith made a mixture of heroin and cocaine (known as a “speedball”) and injected the substance into Belushi around 8:30am. Belushi had been complaining of feeling ill, and became very cold. Smith left the bungalow around 10:15am, leaving Belushi by himself. William Wallace, Belushi’s physical trainer, arrived at the bungalow around 12:00pm and discovered Belushi’s body in the master bedroom. Wallace solicited the assistance of a hotel security guard and they attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but it was evident that Belushi was already dead. Police were summoned, and at first it was believed that Belushi died of natural causes due to his size. However, when Smith returned around 2:30pm, police discovered that she was the last person with Belushi, and took her into custody. She was questioned and reported to investigators that Belushi was fine when she left him that morning.
Later, the toxicology report concluded that Belushi died of acute drug combination intoxication. Two months later, Smith accepted $15,000 for telling her story to the National Enquirer, where she admitted to administering the fatal dose of cocaine and heroin. She mentioned mixing speedballs for herself and Belushi and stated that she “killed John Belushi.” Previously, Smith also made apparent that she had administered 20 shots of cocaine to Belushi within a 24 hour-period. The story ran with Smith’s picture on the cover under the headline “I Killed John Belushi” and reopened the Belushi investigation which the Los Angeles Sheriff’s office was just about to close as an accidental death. Smith had fled to her native Canada, and the grand jury indicted her with murder in the second degree based on the new evidence. Smith was extradited back to Los Angeles, where she pled guilty to a lesser charge under her plea bargain—involuntary manslaughter—as well as several drug-related charges. She was sentenced for three years in prison but was paroled after 18 months.
Belushi’s death was a shock and served as a wake-up call for all of Hollywood. Belushi and other comedians often used substance abuse as the blunt of their jokes, yet after Belushi’s death many celebrities changed their tactics and their lifestyles.