John Belushi Gets Star on Walk of Fame

By William Wan,
Los Angeles Times - 4/2/04


Capping a 10-year quest by his family, the late comedian John Belushi was honored Thursday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in an April Fools' Day ceremony that was part memorial, part comedy routine.

There were enough comedians to make an army laugh, ranging from Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase to Belushi's brother, Jim. But along with the one-liners, the guests also offered tearful memories of Belushi, who died of a drug overdose in 1982.

"It's sweet and sour kind of like kung pao chicken," Jim Belushi said.

"We come not to bury John, but to praise him," added his widow, Judith Jacklin Belushi Pisano.

Belushi's brother, widow and manager started their campaign to memorialize the comedian on Hollywood Boulevard in 1994. But the committee in charge of the Walk of Fame only gives out one posthumous star a year. And for 10 years, Belushi was passed over in favor of such luminaries as singer Patsy Cline and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall.

"I don't know if it had to do with his death," said manager Bernie Brillstein. "But the death can't take away his work. He died 22 years ago, and you look around and realize he's as popular today as he was back then."

Belushi died from an overdose of cocaine and heroin at age 33. His body was found in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood. His death stunned Hollywood and became a cautionary tale for fast living in the entertainment industry.

Walk of Fame officials said they decided in the end that the nature of Belushi's death should not disqualify a star of his stature from securing a spot on the boulevard.

"I think maybe [the committee] had become more benevolent," said Johnny Grant, chairman of the Walk of Fame board. "How a star lived their life or died has nothing to do with their qualifications. What counts is what they've given back to the industry and community."

A native of Chicago, Belushi rose to fame on the late-night TV show "Saturday Night Live," playing such recurring characters as a sword-wielding samurai, a cranky short-order cook and a giant bee. But it was his roles in two movies - "Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers" - that made him a bigger star. Belushi is perhaps best known for his beer-swilling character in "Animal House."

But in real life, his friends said Thursday, he was a sharp wit and master of physical comedy.

Chevy Chase recalled posing with Belushi in jockey shorts just to get a chuckle from friends.

"And here [he] was, this hairy brick in jockey shorts, just funny as hell," he said, drawing a loud cheer from about 50 fans who attended the unveiling.

Belushi's widow remembered how he had brought her to the very same street in 1972 on their first trip to Los Angeles.

"This was before New York, before everything. We only went to two places: the Farmers Market and the Walk of Fame," she said. "He knew he wanted to be an actor, and I guess he wanted to see all the stars that had come before."

Belushi joined them Thursday, becoming the 2,250th star on the famous strip.

Belushi's star is at the intersection of Ivar Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, wedged between silent screen actor Charles Ray and TV personality Dave Garroway.

Standing in front of the brass marker on Thursday, Jim Belushi ended the ceremony with a speech that evoked tears and applause.

Even as a child, Belushi always knew how to steal the show, his brother said.

"Whoever John was, however he passed away, whatever he did, it doesn't really matter. He was funny," Jim Belushi said. "He was funny and you couldn't take your eyes off him."