Had he lived, John Belushi would have been 62 today. The star of films like Animal House and The Blues Brothers as well as one of the original Saturday Night Live cast members, Belushi died in 1982 at age 33 from a drug overdose, but he still remains one of the most influential comedians ever. He may have also been the first person to encourage my creativity.
I’m not the type of person who usually meticulously follows rituals or traditions, but there is one that I’ve observed for many years. On my birthday, I check into the bungalow at the Chateau Marmont where Belushi died. It’s usually just for the day and I go there alone to write, reflect and soak in the vibes. There’s nothing morbid about it. It’s just a way for me to honor a man who had a profound affect on my artistic life and to be re-inspired. And Belushi was definitely inspirational. There’s no doubt that my sense of humor was shaped by Belushi’s style of comedy. When I try to be funny in my blogs here, it’s really just my poor attempt to emulate his comedic voice.
I met Belushi when I must’ve been around six-years-old in a classroom setting. I don’t remember much about it and I certainly didn’t know who he was at the time—I was too young and he wasn’t a big star yet. But I remember him being very funny and very encouraging of my creativity (he must have seen some story or drawing I had done in class). He pulled me aside and said that if I had an interest in the arts, I should pursue it. He told me his parents were immigrants like mine (from Albania in his case) and that when he was a kid, he wished someone had encouraged his interest in performing because for the longest time, he thought it was an impossible dream for an immigrant kid like himself. But he wanted me to know that nothing was impossible if you worked hard.