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John Belushi - Final 24 Cover What does it take to become a great comedian? OK, I am sure that there are those amongst you who will say that this line of work entails dedication, hardship, and an abusive childhood. But did you know that it would be even better if you had a drinking problem, a cocaine habit, and an Albanian heritage? True. Just ask John Belushi in this 60-minute documentary made in 2010.

Belushi, John - Final 24

In this episode of 'The Final 24', we are presented with the highs and the lows of seventies funny-man, John Belushi. Now to help this program tell that rather taciturn tale, their are re-enactments, stock-photography, and interviews with Dan Aykroyd, Judy Belushi, Bernie Brillstein, Drew Pinskey, Anne Beatts, Smokey Wendell, Dan Payne, and Bernie Sahlins.

What now follows is a basic break-down of how this feature plays out.

  • A WEATON CHILDHOOD: Although John's Albanian parents had a rather strained life living in Weaton, a suburb's of Chicago; John himself had a much better time of it all in all. He was popular at school. He was well liked amongst his piers. Plus he married his childhood sweetheart too, Judy.  
  • FIRST LIFE IN SECOND CITY: The 'Second City' comedy troupe changed John's life in a very substantial way. It gave him the platform to hone his comedic talents. It presented him with an arena to showcase his wares. And in addition to this, it allowed John to then go on and make such films as Animal House, Blue Brothers, Neighbors, and much-much more.
  • THE TROUBLE WITH DRUGS: As soon as John landed a job on the hit American comedy show, 'Saturday Night Live', along with it, also came one dubious side-effect to boot. Drugs-drugs-drugs. At first, John only used this recreational stimulant to help him stay awake during his rather arduous work schedule. Moreover, friends of his would give them to him at parties, just so he would 'do a turn'. However, over time, John came to realize that this was not the way for him to go. And he hired a personal body guard to curb his intake with this narcotic. Producing mixed results.
  • THE FINAL 24: The last days of John Belushi is as follows: (6) John goes to see his manager, Bernie, in L.A., where he turns down a role on the film 'The Joy of Sex', whilst borrowing some money from him, so he can buy a guitar. (5) But John does not buy a guitar. Oh no. Instead, he goes to a local drug dealer, Cathy Evelyn Smith, and asks her to get him some heroine. (4) After a quick binge, John returns to his hotel -- the Chateau Marmont -- and calls up Bernie, informing him that he reconsidered his stand on 'The Joy of Sex' project. (3) Both he and Cathy drive to a celebrity hangout, called 'the Roxy', where John takes a speedball in the bathroom. (2) Feeling ill from this experience, Cathy takes him back to his hotel and tucks him into bed. (1) John dies a couple of hours later, asleep. He is found by a friend, Bill Wallace. 

First of, please allow me to just say that I am a big John Belushi fan, and that nigh on ninety-nine percent of the material I saw in 'John Belushi - the Final 24' wasn't that new to me. I knew that John came from an Albanian heritage, and that he married his childhood sweetheart. I also knew about his hectic time on Saturday Night Live, and how he was reluctant to star in the film 'The Joy of Sex'. And on to top of this, I knew that Dan and Judy were worried about John during his fate-full trip to Los Angeles; and considered flying over there because they thought he might be 'over indulging' himself.

Though, what I did not know, was that Dan was writing John's part in 'Ghostbusters' (a role later taken over by Bill Murray), when he received the call to say that his friend has died.

John Belushi - Final 24 Cover Screen Shot

Ouch! It's a bloody shame you know. Just thinking about what could have been if John didn't die when he did. All the way through watching this program, I couldn't help but mutter to myself again and again and again "Why? Why? Why?". Why did he have to die so young? Why didn't he stop taking drugs when he realized it was bad for him? Why couldn't some strange miracle befall John Belushi, just so that he could save himself from himself?

And do you know what? I could tell that this self-same sentiment went through the minds of Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi whilst watching them in interview.

I really do admire them you know. Dan and Judy. You can tell from their words and their composure that John meant a lot to them both. Plus, to add extra salt to their collective wounds, you could also tell that they wished they were able to turn back the sands of time, and stop John from taking that fateful overdose which ended his life.

John and Dan in 1941

But do you know what makes John's demise so troubling to me? Apart from his death, of course. Is that I, as someone who has watched a lot of the celebrity death's presented in this series, have come to the conclusion that most of these tragic occurrences do share a similar pattern. (1) The celebrity in question has a very traumatic childhood. (2) This soon to be star has a need to find love. (3) They get famous. (4) They are introduced to drugs. (5) This substance takes them over. And (6) They die.

However, in John Belushi's case, he was loved. And he knew it too. Therefore, this asks the question that needs to be asks - was John the type of a man who was able to feel love? 

Listen, unlike some of the people in 'John Belushi - The Final 24', I cannot say that I knew John Belushi. Nevertheless, I can say that I do know of people like him. The overactive behaviour. The need to find something that is never there. The yearning to do the right thing in an alternate way. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I wished that I could express in words how I feel about John and how his death has affected me as a fan. But I cannot. Like many of the fleeting legends that I have admired in my time, such as Bruce Lee or John Lennon, he is someone who is allusive and as thought provoking as anyone alive today. Bless you John. Bless you Dan. Bless you Judy. Let's go surfing.

Oh! On a side note, I just remembered something else that I found strange about John Belushi's death. Both Robin Williams and Robert De Niro visited him on the day he died, yet I have never heard anything more than that said in documentaries. Heck, this one never even mentions it at all. I wonder why?

Please note, I do not want to imply that these two great actors had anything to do with how John died. No way. I respect them too much as people for that. Just that it is never expanded upon.

If you know of a program in which either Robin or Robert tells of their last day with John, please contact me. Thanks.


THE FINAL 24 - JOHN BELUSHI THE FINAL 24 - JOHN BELUSHI Reviewed by David Andrews on July 26, 2012 Rating: 5
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