John Belushi's Death: Penny Marshall Sounds Off 30 Years Later
On March 5, 1982, a few weeks before the 54th Annual Academy Awards, where he and friend Dan Aykroyd were set to present the visual effects Oscar, John Belushi was found dead in Chateau Marmont's Bungalow 3. No immediate cause was given, but The Hollywood Reporter said the comic actor's drug use was "ill-concealed in accounts and explanations surrounding his death," which turned out to be true.
An intravenous "speedball" of cocaine and heroin killed him at age 33. Robin Williams and Robert De Niro had been with him at the hotel -- though both had left earlier -- during an all-night binge by Belushi that began at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip. Penny Marshall, who had known Belushi since his pre-Saturday Night Live days, says his death was "devastating." They met in 1973 after she saw him in the stage show National Lampoon's Lemmings in New York. "I thought he was funny, and [then-husband] Rob Reiner and I went to dinner with him after the show," Marshall tells THR. "Rob and John must have done Marlon Brando impersonations for two hours straight."
As for Belushi's drug use, Marshall says: "I swear, you'd walk down the street with him, and people would hand him drugs. And then he'd do all of them -- be the kind of character he played in sketches or Animal House."
When he died, Belushi was pursuing the lead in Noble Rot, which has become a legendary unproduced script centered on winemaking that he and Don Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci of SNL fame) were rewriting. Belushi, whose widow, Judy, was his high school sweetheart, was buried in Martha's Vineyard.
"I love him, and I miss him, and I wish he hadn't gotten in with the people he was around," says Marshall. "But in the '70s and '80s, people were crazy."