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Gone 25 Years, Belushi Still Counts
Townhall ^ | 03/02/2007

Posted on 03/02/2007 1:05:41 PM PST by Responsibility2nd

When a force of nature like John Belushi is lost, 25 years isn't time enough to ease the grief or erase the laughter.

Actor-comedian Richard Belzer still dreams about him from time to time, the unselfish friend and "impish genius" who devoured life. John Landis, who directed Belushi in "Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers," is still angry at him for dying foolishly and young.

"Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels feels an obligation to "restate the obvious," that Belushi was profoundly talented and part of the show's creative DNA.

By most measures, the round comic with the sharp edges left a small body of work when a drug overdose killed him at age 33 in March 1982. But his TV, movie and music performances proved influential, hitting the baby-boomer sweet spot and surviving despite pop culture's truncated attention span.

Belushi burst the seams of comedy alongside like-minded performers and writers energized by the social upheaval of the 1960s and '70s. He helped join humor and pop music in a lasting romance and brought renewed attention to Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and other R&B giants.

He etched out the start of a promising acting career, and his best movies reshaped industry expectations by catering to newly empowered young consumers and pushing comedy into the blockbuster realm.

His legacy also includes the bleak Hollywood cliche of destructive behavior, now as much on display as ever with the revolving-door rehab stints of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

For Belushi, his tragic death overshadows but can't diminish his gifts.

Endlessly versatile, he inhabited the samurai deli guy, Joe Cocker, Captain Kirk and more on "Saturday Night Live." He gave us Bluto ("Food fight!") and Jake Blues, on a mission from God to save music. Always, there was a hint of intelligent mischief, if only in a masterfully lifted eyebrow.

In 1978, on the eve of his 30th birthday, Belushi had the No. 1 movie with "Animal House," the No. 1 record (with partner Dan Aykroyd), "Briefcase Full of Blues" and was the heart of television's hottest show.

"No one had broken through like he did," said Bernie Brillstein, Belushi's manager.

He always shared his good fortune and clout with friends, said Belzer ("Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"). When Belushi found out that Belzer was getting paid less than Belushi and others on a TV show, he threatened to walk unless there was parity.

"He was very generous, too, as a performer ... A lot of great performers raise the game of those around them. He was one of those people," Belzer said.

On the second Blues Brothers album, Belushi included songs from musicians who could use the royalties.

He also regularly lived up to his reputation for excess and excitement. At New York's Drake Hotel in 1977, Landis met him for the first time to discuss doing "Animal House."

"He came into my room like a tornado, this burst of energy," the director recalled. "He immediately called room service, ordering bottles of champagne and Courvoisier and beer and shrimp cocktails for 20, vast amounts of food."

The world was Belushi's, for better and worse, as his contracts rose from $35,000 for "Animal House" to $2 million and more. As it had for others, success fueled destructive excess.

The comedian was found dead on March 5, 1982, in a hotel bungalow at the Chateau Marmont hotel on the fabled Sunset Strip.

Cathy Evelyn Smith, a drug dealer and user who was convicted of injecting Belushi with a fatal dose of heroin and cocaine, served 18 months in prison.

"If you have a lot of money in your pocket, you will attract a lot of women, you will attract a lot of followers and you will attract a lot of drugs," Brillstein said. "The hangers-on job is to keep the king happy. They will never tell them they're in danger of losing what they have."

Belushi didn't consider himself an addict despite increasingly prodigious drug use, said Tanner Colby, co-author of the 2005 biography "Belushi" (written with Belushi's widow, Judith Belushi Pisano).

"John Belushi, deep down, was a stable guy who knew who he was, had a lot of confidence, wasn't superficial but with no great internal trouble," Colby said. "I think that what happened to him was largely due to fame. For a year and a half, he was as big as Elvis."

Colby is working on a biography of Chris Farley, a later-generation "Saturday Night Live" star who was a drug-overdose victim in 1997, also at age 33. Director Landis had an unsettling encounter with Farley some six months before, in which Farley declared his admiration for "Animal House" and his desire to emulate Belushi.

"I found myself saying, `You know, Chris, John is not the best role model. John is dead,'" Landis recalled.

(Farley's family runs the Chris Farley Foundation to educate young people about the dangers of substance abuse and how to avoid peer pressure.)

Farley was in and out of rehab. Belushi lived in an era with fewer treatment options and, according to some accounts, much more acceptance of drug use.

In her autobiography "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again," the late Oscar-winning producer Julia Phillips ("The Sting") said she and friends dining at a posh Beverly Hills restaurant back then dumped cocaine on a dinner plate to "toot it off the ends of our steak knives."

Some close to Belushi said they tried to stop him.

"Many times," Landis said. "Do you know any drug addicts, alcoholics? ... It's very, very difficult. It's like saying to a person who has cancer, `Stop fooling around. Stop this (expletive) at once.'"

His friend faced a difficult fight, Belzer said.

"On some level he was gallantly struggling to straighten himself out, but the nature of the business, the nature of his personality and some of the people around him just made it harder," he said. "That happens to a lot of celebrities, when no one can say `no' around them."

Landis saw the dire results. In 1978's "Animal House," Belushi was a disciplined and collaborative actor who took the "crazed, wild character" of frat boy Bluto and made him lovable, said the director.

"By the time of `The Blues Brothers' (1980), he had a very bad drug problem," Landis said, and it started undermining his work. His last project was 1981's "Neighbors" with Aykroyd; he was set to make "Ghostbusters," which filmed after his death with Bill Murray replacing him.

What might a clean Belushi have gone on to do? His career could have paralleled that of Murray, his former "Saturday Night Live" co-star who traveled from "Caddyshack" to a 2004 Oscar nomination for his poignant performance in "Lost in Translation."

"I think John had a depth to his talent that would have allowed him to reinvent himself," Michaels said.

Landis agrees. "He could have done anything."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: belushi; johnbelushi
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The Blues Brothers. One of Hollywood's greatest. Hard to find a move with a better musical score.

Or one with a better car chase.

1 posted on 03/02/2007 1:05:45 PM PST by Responsibility2nd
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To: Responsibility2nd
Landis agrees. "He could have done anything."




2 posted on 03/02/2007 1:09:04 PM PST by itsamelman (“Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.” -- Al Swearengen)
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To: Responsibility2nd

A couple of years after he died (I was in my early 20's), I rented a moped on Martha's Vineyard, and did my own little episode of "In Search Of ...", determined to find his grave which at the time was rumored to be on the island. I think the rumor has since been confirmed, and I counted myself successful when I found an unmarked grave, a little outside of Menemsha, with broken Led Zeppelin records scattered about.


3 posted on 03/02/2007 1:10:30 PM PST by dmz
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To: Responsibility2nd

I miss the adventures of that stupid drug-addled lout.


4 posted on 03/02/2007 1:12:24 PM PST by theDentist (Qwerty ergo typo : I type, therefore I misspelll.)
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To: Responsibility2nd

There are less than five movies I can think of which made me laugh so hard my abs actually hurt. "Neighbors" is one of those movies...


5 posted on 03/02/2007 1:14:08 PM PST by Joe 6-pack
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To: dmz
.....with broken Led Zeppelin records scattered about.

Was there any significance to the broken Led Zep records?

Or was it just trash?

6 posted on 03/02/2007 1:14:10 PM PST by Responsibility2nd (Warning. If your tagline is funny... I may steal it.)
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To: Responsibility2nd
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
7 posted on 03/02/2007 1:14:23 PM PST by mkjessup (My mechanic said "I can't fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder" - Stephen Wright)
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To: Responsibility2nd

1941 and Neighbors were not too bad. I finally saw Neighbors on HDNet Movies last month.


8 posted on 03/02/2007 1:15:08 PM PST by racing fan (Go Team Israel!)
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To: Responsibility2nd

I hate Illinois Nazis!


9 posted on 03/02/2007 1:15:15 PM PST by VA_Gentleman (Got a knack for being wrong - Dinosaur Jr.)
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To: Responsibility2nd

The Blues Brothers is an all-time classic, one of the last great, big comedies, I think. And I'm convinced my youngest son is Bluto.

Part of this legacy is really just from dying at the high spot. Consider JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee, James Dean...We got to see them when they were new and full of promise, but were spared the declines, the aging, the bad movies, the train wrecks of personal behavior.

If JFK hadn't died tragically, he might be seen (and look) more like Teddy is today. Can you imagine Marilyn at 70, fat like Liz Taylor, aging badly and still tring to play the engenue?


10 posted on 03/02/2007 1:15:39 PM PST by atomicpossum (Replies must follow approved guidelines or you will be kill-filed without appeal.)
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To: theDentist

Me too. Just imagine what impression these addlepated-drug addicts leave on the young. Think of Anna Nicole.


11 posted on 03/02/2007 1:16:19 PM PST by lilylangtree (Veni, Vidi, Vici)
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To: Responsibility2nd
Gone 25 Years, Belushi Still Counts

Sweet, but not so true.

He definitely does still count more than Chevy Chase, though.

12 posted on 03/02/2007 1:16:23 PM PST by x
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To: Joe 6-pack

I liked "Neighbors". I understood why they cast Belushi as the straight-laced no nonsense guy, but I wonder if it would have been a bigger success if Belushi had played Vic the wild unpredictable neighbor.


13 posted on 03/02/2007 1:18:02 PM PST by Responsibility2nd (Warning. If your tagline is funny... I may steal it.)
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To: racing fan

Neighbors was funny. It was funny back in 1981 too.

But a lot of people expected "Blues Brothers" and "1941" humor and went away disappointed.


14 posted on 03/02/2007 1:18:38 PM PST by MplsSteve
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To: dmz

According to "findagrave.com" his plot is located at the entrance of Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilimark.


15 posted on 03/02/2007 1:18:43 PM PST by Gay State Conservative ("The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism."-Karl Marx)
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To: Responsibility2nd

Cathy Evelyn Smith was, at one time, more than just a drug dealer. I believe she has some "songwriter credits" on some of the late Hoyt Axton's records as well as harmony singer stuff with Gordon Lightfoot. I believe she was also Lightfoot's live-in girlfriend. She was someone of some talent who blew it for the drugs. Sad, really.


16 posted on 03/02/2007 1:18:44 PM PST by Emmett McCarthy
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To: Responsibility2nd

I liked "Neighbors". I understood why they cast Belushi as the straight-laced no nonsense guy, but I wonder if it would have been a bigger success if Belushi had played Vic the wild unpredictable neighbor.
__________________________________________________

Maybe not. It was fun for me trying to see if he could pull it off.


17 posted on 03/02/2007 1:22:04 PM PST by racing fan (Go Team Israel!)
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To: Responsibility2nd
Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to be remembered after you're gone.


18 posted on 03/02/2007 1:22:09 PM PST by Yo-Yo (USAF, TAC, 12th AF, 366 TFW, 366 MG, 366 CRS, Mtn Home AFB, 1978-81)
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To: dmz
There is a picture of Dan Ackroyd standing by his grave on Martha's Vinyard in the book Wired
19 posted on 03/02/2007 1:22:31 PM PST by eyedigress
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To: Joe 6-pack

"Left Ball Corner Pocket"


20 posted on 03/02/2007 1:23:15 PM PST by eyedigress
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To: x

Chevy was funny briefly. John will be funny forever.


21 posted on 03/02/2007 1:24:40 PM PST by Eric in the Ozarks (BTUs are my Beat.)
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To: itsamelman
Yes, we today could use John to help the revolutionaries of Beluchistan, in Iran, to overthrough the current humorless mullahs who have Iran by the short and hairy ones.

John Beluchi would have been a perfect counterintelligence operative for the CIA in Beluchistan, way better than say, Valerie Plame and her husband!

22 posted on 03/02/2007 1:27:43 PM PST by Candor7
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To: Responsibility2nd
It's always dangerous to be the fat guy on SNL.

That said, long-live Belushi!


23 posted on 03/02/2007 1:28:36 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: antiRepublicrat
I'm a zit, get it?
24 posted on 03/02/2007 1:31:10 PM PST by isthisnickcool (Oh! The Obamanation! Durka durka durka...)
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To: eyedigress

go to www.findadeath.com select directory and then John's name.


25 posted on 03/02/2007 1:34:28 PM PST by Taylor42
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To: Responsibility2nd
On a related note, I saw Jim Belushi perform as the lead pirate in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance at Chicago's Auditorium Theater in the last performance before he flew out to attend his brother's funeral. It was as if he reached into his body, removed his heart, placed it in the center of the stage, and said "it's big enough, take it, I have more." It's been years, and tears still come to my eyes when I think about it. Best perfomance by an actor that I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot.
26 posted on 03/02/2007 1:36:52 PM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: Responsibility2nd; Clintonfatigued; Clemenza; JohnnyZ

I feel like Landis does, angry that he's gone. In doing what he did, he not only deprived himself of a long life but also deprived us fans of years of entertainment he had left to give.

I was just short of 8 years old when he died and I still remember when they announced on tv that he was dead of a drug overdose. I'm about to turn the same age now that Belushi and Farley were when they left us, seems so weird.

Rest in peace, Johnny, but you damn well should still be with us.


27 posted on 03/02/2007 1:39:18 PM PST by fieldmarshaldj (Cheney X -- Destroying the Liberal Democrat Traitors By Any Means Necessary -- Ya Dig ? Sho 'Nuff.)
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To: Yo-Yo
This is the way I remember him. THe Samurai character he did was by far the favorite of my whole family, and many Japanese friends of ours as well.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

28 posted on 03/02/2007 1:41:39 PM PST by Candor7
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To: itsamelman
" he was set to make "Ghostbusters," which filmed after his death with Bill Murray replacing him."

It would certainly have been a very different movie.

29 posted on 03/02/2007 1:41:50 PM PST by BenLurkin
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

Doesn't it seem, however, that the only reason Chevy Chase isn't funny anymore is because he lived long enough to "jump the shark". We will never know if, given the time, Belushi would have ended up the very same way.

Does his brother ever talk about him to the press? He wasn't quoted in the article.


30 posted on 03/02/2007 1:45:34 PM PST by USMCWife6869 (Godspeed Sand Sharks.)
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To: HairOfTheDog; Ramius
Blues Brothers and Animal House... two of the greatest comedies of all time.
31 posted on 03/02/2007 1:46:29 PM PST by ecurbh (Giuliani 2008 - http://www.rudygforamerica.com/)
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To: Responsibility2nd

Cathy Evelyn Smith, a drug dealer and user who was convicted of injecting Belushi with a fatal dose of heroin and cocaine, served 18 months in prison.

"If you have a lot of money in your pocket, you will attract a lot of women, you will attract a lot of followers and you will attract a lot of drugs," Brillstein said. "The hangers-on job is to keep the king happy. They will never tell them they're in danger of losing what they have."

Interesting during this week of Anna Nicole and Howard, the hanger on. He was present when both she and her son died.


32 posted on 03/02/2007 1:46:42 PM PST by I still care ("Remember... for it is the doom of men that they forget" - Merlin, from Excalibur)
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To: USMCWife6869

I think Chase stopped being funny because somewhere along the way (probably during the various rehabs he had to go through) he got mean and nasty. His humor always had an abusive edge to it but the edge has taken over. The comedy central roast of him was the most viscious affair I've ever seen, he's alienated all his friends and doesn't care. Belushi's humor source was kinder I doubt he'd have gone the Chase route, he still might have lost his ability to be funny (funnier guys than him have lost their touch), but we'd at least be hoping his next project returned to form, as opposed to Chase where we mostly hope there is no next project.


33 posted on 03/02/2007 1:53:51 PM PST by discostu (Feed her some hungry reggae, she'll love you twice)
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To: Responsibility2nd

I took the sight of the broken led zep records as the sign that I had found it.


34 posted on 03/02/2007 2:08:06 PM PST by dmz
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To: Gay State Conservative

which appears to be about a half mile outside of Menemsha, which is an old fishing village, very quaint. I remember Menemsha more as my sister and I had lobsters there for lunch - fresh out of the water, well OK, we waited until they were cooked.


35 posted on 03/02/2007 2:11:28 PM PST by dmz
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To: Responsibility2nd

I miss John Candy a lot more.


36 posted on 03/02/2007 2:16:03 PM PST by Revel
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To: discostu
Chase had the persona of an intelligent guy who was just acting like he was the class clown. Except he never really pulled off the intelligent part. Most people just saw him as a doofus the way we see Al Franken for example. And the clown part never had much depth... it was always superficial and trite. And you are right in saying that there was a meanness to his comedy. Political comedians are often just plain mean as opposed to teasing and playful.

Belushi on the other hand was simply brilliant. If there was ever a mean thought in his head, it never was obvious. He was born to be funny, He understood the little nuances that made people love his characters, but he also knew how to go over the top. He covered the entire comedy spectrum. He lived and loved the role of a funny man and his comedy was honest and sincere and never lame, but just deep-down, core of the earth funny.
37 posted on 03/02/2007 2:23:02 PM PST by Kirkwood
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To: Revel

"I miss John Candy a lot more."

My niece knew him and said he was one of the sweetest guys you could ever meet. Always going out of his way to do something nice for people he met.


38 posted on 03/02/2007 2:25:44 PM PST by Kirkwood
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To: windcliff; onedoug

ping


39 posted on 03/02/2007 2:29:36 PM PST by stylecouncilor
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To: Revel
I saw John Candy a few times at Second City in Toronto before he made it big. He was hilarious with improv.
40 posted on 03/02/2007 2:43:18 PM PST by kevinm13 (The Main Stream Media is dead! Fox News Channel and Freerepublic Rocks!)
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To: Kirkwood

What always amazes me about Belushi is that we think of his as a loud over the top comedian but his funniest stuff is quiet. I always think of the sewer scene in Blues Brothers, after yelling that whole list of lame excuses for missing his wedding he gets down on his knees and just looks at Carrie Fisher. While the list is funny it's the look on his face when he's done that elevates the scene to hilarious. Same with Animal House, everybody thinks of "I'm a zit" or the "Germans bombed Pearl Horbor" scene, but it's really the soririty window scene that's his best.


41 posted on 03/02/2007 2:52:48 PM PST by discostu (Feed her some hungry reggae, she'll love you twice)
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To: stylecouncilor

"These are the goddamned neighbors!"


42 posted on 03/02/2007 3:00:35 PM PST by onedoug
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To: dmz
Information from Find a Grave. He has two entries, here, and here. I had heard Martha's Vinyard, but that the grave had been relocated because of Belushi fans who showed up to drink and drug. I think the Illinois one is a memorial cenotaph, and the actual grave is in Martha's Vinyard.
43 posted on 03/02/2007 3:05:32 PM PST by Richard Kimball (Why yes, I do have a stupid picture for any occasion)
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To: Responsibility2nd
I watched the "Blues Brothers" movie when it first came out, in suburban Chicago (Des Plaines).

The whole crowd at the theater went wild when they came up with an ex-police car (Bluesmobile") from Arlington Heights (or one of the nearby northwest suburbs....memory fails me on this).

I usually don't like a noisy theater, but these people were laughing their butts off at all the local references.

Side note...just today I was watching a re-run of "According to Jim" with Jim Belushi and the episode had Dan Aykroyd playing the part of a traffic cop who pulls Jim over. I was fascinated by how well they worked together, like "blood brothers". My wife told that she has heard that Aykroyd is well-known as being very easy to work with, so maybe that's part of it.

44 posted on 03/02/2007 3:07:59 PM PST by capt. norm (Liberalism = cowardice disguised as tolerance.)
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To: Yo-Yo
I love that generic college t-shirt he is wearing in the picture.

I have got to have one made just like it. It would be perfect for Spring Break....which is about to pounce on us (Panama City, FL.) in the next few weeks.

45 posted on 03/02/2007 3:16:20 PM PST by capt. norm (Liberalism = cowardice disguised as tolerance.)
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To: capt. norm

Spring Break in Panama city...Ah..The good old days. I remember Spinnaker and Club Lavela (sp?) like it was yesterday and not 16 years ago.


46 posted on 03/02/2007 3:29:26 PM PST by mowowie
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To: dmz
FYI he still gets around
47 posted on 03/02/2007 3:50:06 PM PST by Revelation 911
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To: USMCWife6869
If you measure the cynicism of Bulishi and Chase, you could tell the difference. John's was a free for all. Chevy's was just snide.
48 posted on 03/02/2007 5:34:51 PM PST by Eric in the Ozarks (BTUs are my Beat.)
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To: discostu
i think it has more with chase reacting humorously and belushi creating humor...very different talent levels needed....
49 posted on 03/02/2007 8:48:44 PM PST by Dick Vomer (liberals suck......... but it depends on what your definition of the word "suck" is.,)
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To: Richard Kimball

The grave I found (no findagrave.com in the 84 or 85 when I went in search of), was unmarked, so I have no idea if it was his or not, but the info a few of you have linked seems like the place I found.


50 posted on 03/03/2007 5:07:08 AM PST by dmz
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