'Animal House' cast members plan suburban celebration
Starring as "girl on stairs" in one of the hilarious scenes from "National Lampoon's Animal House," the former Judy Jacklin of Wheaton says her co-star and toga party dance partner was pretty funny, too.
As the 62-year-old widow of legendary comedian John Belushi, Judy Jacklin Belushi Pisano says she'll once again "become Judy Belushi" for her appearance at the film's 35th anniversary party with other "Animal House" stars before screenings of the 1978 classic this weekend at the Hollywood Blvd. Cinema in Woodridge and the Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville.
'Animal House' anniversary
"Animal House" actors Martha Smith, Stephen Furst, Karen Allen, Mark Metcalf and Judy Belushi are slated to appear and singer Otis Day is set to perform before screenings this weekend.
Screenings are at 4, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, and 1:30, 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov 17, at Hollywood Blvd., 1001 W. 75th St., Woodridge, and at 1:30, 4, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Hollywood Palms, 352 S. Route 59, Naperville. Tickets are $12. Call (630) 428-5800 in Naperville or (630) 427-1880 in Woodridge, or visit atriptothemovies.com.
"We had fun. That was a fun scene," Judy Belushi says, recalling how she and John Belushi cut loose in the "Shout" dance number highlighting the wildest toga party ever. She wore that same yellow toga in another memorable scene as she sat on the stairs while her husband's Bluto character smashed a folk singer's guitar to bits before saying, "Sorry."
Remembering how John Belushi delivered lines such as, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" or "Seven years of college down the drain" or "Toga! Toga! Toga!" or "Food Fight!" still makes folks laugh 35 years later.
"They are great lines, aren't they?" Judy Belushi says.
All that laughter makes it even sadder that John Belushi died four years later of a drug overdose at age 33.
"It ruins the whole movie," his widow deadpans, before noting that she's joking and loves getting together with the old gang from that film.
"I don't feel bittersweet at all about it," she says. Pausing for comedic effect, she adds, "I'm a little pissed off that John didn't get a percentage, but we let go of that long ago."
Sweethearts since their days at Wheaton High School, John Belushi was taking classes and performing in plays and in an improv group at the College of DuPage when his girlfriend got accepted as a political science major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She switched her major to fine arts by the time John Belushi and his improv ensemble were booked for a performance on her campus.
"The girl wasn't there, so I did a scene," Judy Belushi remembers. "I did get a laugh in my one scene."
As perhaps the funniest living Belushi, Judy Belushi jokes about being the one who taught her husband how to raise his eyebrows one at a time. "I was his secret weapon," she says. She never acted in high school, but she was known for having a sense of humor.
"I was a bit of a ham," says Judy Belushi, who was elected president of her high school class. "I think I won on humor over substance."
Married on New Year's Eve 1976, Judy Belushi says her husband worked hard on "Animal House."
"We thought it was funny, but John had been working in comedy for five years, so we thought everything was funny," she recalls. During the demanding schedule that had the Belushis flying from the movie set in Oregon to "Saturday Night Live" in New York City, the newlyweds would relax by listening to records.
"That's when he started getting into the blues," she says, setting the stage for his future role alongside buddy Dan Aykroyd in "The Blues Brothers." "That helped us pass the time."
With a screenplay written by friends Harold Ramis, Doug Kenney and Chris Miller, John Belushi had great lines, but not many. So he ad-libbed funny scenes.
"One of the things he did improvise was the Jell-O scene," his widow says of a scene where the Bluto character eats his way through a cafeteria line. John Belushi first did that as a student at the College of DuPage while helping a friend who worked at a local restaurant clean up after closing. "They discovered how they could suck the Jell-O off the trays," Judy Belushi says.
Having written books such as "Samurai Widow" and "Belushi" about her late husband, Judy Belushi is one of the producers along with Aykroyd for a movie that will star Emile Hirsch as John Belushi in a biopic directed by Steve Conrad, writer of Ben Stiller's upcoming version of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Belushi says the movie should show the sweet side of her late husband in addition to his talents and flaws.
"He was such a powerful force. I think of him a lot," Judy Belushi says. "I wonder what John would think about things, especially politics. He was a smart guy."
She can picture him starring in an "Animal House" sequel as he would have approached his 65th birthday. The original movie's epilogue said Bluto went on to become a U.S. senator.
"He probably would have been a senator doing some strange things texting and now living in shame," Judy Belushi says with a chuckle.
She says the "Animal House" experience was "a good time in my life," and that she appreciates fans who just want to talk to her about her late husband.
"People often do share things. He touched a lot of people in many different ways and they share those stories with me, and it's cool," Judy Belushi says. Other fans at this weekend's "Animal House" reunion might not recognize her in the company of actors such as Martha Smith (Babs), Stephen Furst (Flounder), Karen Allen (Katie) or Mark Metcalf (Niedermeyer).
"Who's the lady over there?" Judy Belushi says, imitating fans looking at her. "Oh, I don't know. Let's go talk to Karen Allen."
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