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John Belushi's Death Was Linked to Overdose but Later Friend Was Arrested for Role in His Death

Joe Akins
Nov 07, 2021
07:40 P.M.
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John Belushi was one of the standout comedians in the '70s and enjoyed profound success and fame. But his life ended tragically, and his close friend was shockingly involved in his early demise.


John Belushi had a special way of indulging his crowd with his humor-laced jokes and funny expressions. Belushi was an expert in turning the atmosphere in a dull room into one of joy, filled with smiling faces.

While his career was glamorous, Belushi's life was filled with ups and downs and secret struggles. The late actor met a disastrous end which many believe was linked to his drug use.

John Belushi performs on "Saturday Night Live" Episode 15 on March 25, 1978 [left]. Kathy Smith poses for a portrait March 13, 2002 in Maple Ridge, British Columbia [right] | Photo: Getty Images

John Belushi performs on "Saturday Night Live" Episode 15 on March 25, 1978 [left]. Kathy Smith poses for a portrait March 13, 2002 in Maple Ridge, British Columbia [right] | Photo: Getty Images



Belushi made his name in the entertainment industry in the '70s. He parlayed his early comedic triumphs on the small screen into movie success with roles in "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers."

He was one of the founding members of "Saturday Night Live" when it debuted on television in 1975. But only two years later, the actor shockingly died at the age of 33 from an accidental drug overdose of a combination of cocaine and heroin, also known as "speedball."

His final years were not as successful as when he held the world spellbound by his skills. A series of low-performing projects and his growing dependence on drugs and alcohol made him a shadow of his former self.

John Belushi aka Jake Blues of The Blues Brothers performs live at The Winterland Ballroom in 1978 in San Francisco, California | Photo: Getty Images

John Belushi aka Jake Blues of The Blues Brothers performs live at The Winterland Ballroom in 1978 in San Francisco, California | Photo: Getty Images

Belushi spent most of his time in the famous Chateau Marmont working on the script for the movie "Noble Rot."


Unfortunately, the movie, which gave him a hard time while writing, was rejected and got him deeply depressed after. His new project did not seem to have been a fruitful adventure.

Also, at the time, Paramount Pictures was eager for him to make a feature based on "The Joy of Sex." The production company felt it would perform better than "Noble Rot," but Belushi's life was no longer the same.


He started to struggle with his focus during appearances, and his speech had become slurred. His physical appearance was unappealing as he wore filthy clothes, looked unwashed, and his room looked like a deserted spot.

Throughout his life, Belushi indulged his appetite for food or drugs, which caused him more harm than good. Close sources said the actor had a special allocation for drugs while working on "The Blues Brothers.



The late movie star spent his final days visiting several nightclubs. After the clubs closed, Belushi converged in his room with friends Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. The duo was reported to be among the last to have seen him alive.

In his final days, Belushi's wife, Judy, heard little from her famous husband. Although the last conversation they had sounded lively, she knew her husband's drug use had spiraled out of control.

On the final day of his life, Belushi contacted Cathy Smith, an addict, and occasional dealer. She had been obtaining drugs for him and delivering shots to the needle-averse comedian.


Seeking cash, Belushi paid a visit to his manager, Bernie Brillstein, and requested $1,500 to purchase a new guitar. Brillsten knew he wanted to purchase drugs with the money and refused to grant his request.

Unfortunately, Brillstein caved and gave the actor the funds that would be used to purchase what would end his young life. On Thursday, March 4, De Niro and Actor Harry Dean Stanton visited Belushi's bungalow.

They persuaded him to join them for dinner at Dan Tana's and spend a night at On the Rox, an elite Sunset Strip club. They found Belushi and Smith in a strewn-about room, which made them uncomfortable.


De Niro and Stanton agreed to return to Belushi's room after their night out. But instead, their friend Robin Williams later visited the comedian's room alone and found him and Smith intoxicated.

Williams found the scene uncomfortable and left after speaking with Belushi. The comedian had reportedly complained to Williams about feeling ill that evening, injecting himself with a tiny amount of cocaine.

De Niro also stopped by for a quick chat before returning to his Chateau Marmont apartment sometime around 3 a.m. Smith and Belushi were still injecting themselves with cocaine and heroin at that time.


Breakfast was delivered to the bungalow later that morning, and Smith signed for it. Belushi was sound asleep by then, having complained about chest pains earlier.

Smith checked on Belushi again at 10:15 a.m. before leaving the bungalow with the syringe and spoon they had been using. She removed the drug paraphernalia in case the maid showed up to tidy the room.

Bill Wallace, Belushi's personal trainer and bodyguard, arrived at the bungalow around midday. Wallace intended to deliver a typewriter and tape recorder that Belushi had requested.


Sadly, Wallace found the star in bed, lifeless. He immediately phoned Brillstein, who had his secretary call the paramedics after repeatedly doing CPR with little result.


The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office later attributed Belushi's death to "acute cocaine and heroin intoxication." According to the examining pathologist, there were enough drugs in his bloodstream to harm even a healthy person, which Belushi was not.

The postmortem record also listed pulmonary congestion with inflated lungs, a bloated brain, an enlarged liver, and obesity as anomalies.


An investigation quickly followed Belushi's death. Smith became a subject of interest since he was the last person to have seen the actor alive and supplied him with what ended his life.

She was eventually charged with murder and drug-related felonies. After pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and three drug offenses, Smith was given a 3-year jail sentence.

After her release, she spent her remaining decades in British Columbia, where she lived a quiet life as a legal secretary. She later passed on at age 73 with no detailed records if she ever got married or had kids.

Actor John Belushi spotted out with his wife, Judy Jacklin on  July 27, 1978  | Photo: Getty Images

Actor John Belushi spotted out with his wife, Judy Jacklin on July 27, 1978 | Photo: Getty Images


A year after Belushi's demise, his widow confessed to the guilt and shame over his tragedy. She felt the publicity and investigation into her husband's drug use overshadowed how much of a talent he was.

Additionally, a large portion of Judy's guilt was because she never heard from her husband in his final days. She also revealed her regret for not being by his side when he passed on.

Thankfully, Judy later realized Belushi was only to blame for what had happened. Despite the sad end of his life, she revealed she believed he was an amazing man.

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