It was March 5, 1982, when actor/comic John Belushi died from a drug overdose at the young age of 33. A member of the original 1975 Saturday Night Live cast, Belushi was equally well-known for his performance as Tasmanian devil-cum-frat boy John "Bluto" Blutarsky in the 1978 comedy Animal House.
Since the comedian's passing, much light has been shed on his real-life, id-driven existence, one full of through-the-night partying fueled by various vices. Actor Bruce McGill, who played Animal House's motorcycle-riding Daniel Simpson "D-Day" Day (and currently can be seen portraying golfing great Walter Hagen in The Legend of Bagger Vance), bittersweetly recalls Belushi's penchant for "living life to the fullest."
"Hell, I was living it with him," McGill tells TV Guide Online, pointing out that, at that time, Belushi was burning the candle at both ends. "The thing that people don't realize is that John was still doing Saturday Night Live while we were shooting Animal House in Oregon. So he would work with us Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, they'd take him away Wednesday evening after work, and he'd fly all night [to New York]. He would get to the NBC Studios on Thursday, sleep for a little while, write and rehearse, then perform the show on Saturday night. And always, always, always in those days, especially the Saturday Night Live post-taping party was huge. Then John would go back to bed, and on Sunday they'd put him on another crack-of-dawn flight to Oregon.
"So when people ask me, 'How was John Belushi on the set of Animal House?'" McGill relates, "I say, 'tired'! But I'm also sure there were some stimulants involved to help him keep that sort of schedule."
In the few years that would follow, McGill saw Belushi drift away, led astray by the very lures that would one day kill him. "I loved John, there was no question," he attests. "But he chose another world, and a guy that's going to go that route doesn't want to hear his friends say, 'You have to slow down, man.' Rather, he begins to hang around with those who say, 'Yeah, let's get some more!'
"I was shocked when I heard that there were opiates involved [in Belushi's fatal overdose], because I knew John as an 'up' guy," McGill concludes. "He'd maybe get some drinks, smoke some pot... But speedballs (a heroin/cocaine mixture), that's what he died of. That's the ghetto drug of 1920s' jazz musicians. I was just stunned."