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'Saturday Night Live' Memories: Interviewing Belushi

"SNL" 1976 cast: (from left) Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin, John Belushi, Lorraine Newman, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray

During the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary show on Feb. 15, 2015, Tina Fey joked on  "Weekend Update: "Also joining us, one of the show's original producers: cocaine." That brought back a few memories.

 

Doing Lines with Garrett Morris

Back in 1979, I pitched Rolling Stone on an article about Garrett Morris, one of SNL's original Not Ready for Prime Time Players. He was clearly the most unsung member of the cast and deserved his own feature in the mag. The editor agreed, so the interview at 30 Rock was set up.

Garrett Morris on "Weekend Update"

What I remember most about that occasion was Morris offering me cocaine. Presumably, the white powder - the show's rocket fuel that kept things speeding along - was everywhere backstage in those days. John Belushi was so famous for his cocaine use that he ultimately died from it (actually a speedball).

Friends and I used to get together every Saturday night to watch SNL followed by the even funnier SCTV. It was 150 minutes of pure comic brilliance. One of the friends had a jewel box filled with drugs. Though I was mostly a pothead, we did snort some lines at the time. It was the '70s; that's what people did then before coke's negative effects began to take their toll.

My John Belushi interview in the June 18, 1979 issue of New York’s Soho Weekly News

Belushi Melts Down During My Blues Brothers Interview

I never met Belushi, but I did interview him. I was writing for the Soho Weekly News in New York when the Blues Brothers SNL skit spun off into a concert tour, an album and finally a movie, all starring Belushi and his harmonica-playing sidekick, Dan Aykroyd.

It didn't take long for Belushi to erupt like one of his "SNL" characters. "What am I, fucking Al Jolson?" he asked.

The Blues Brothers were receiving pretty bad reviews from the rock critics, who felt the band was ripping off the music of struggling R&B acts like Sam & Dave. Roomful of Blues had tried out to be their back-up band, but Belushi and Aykroyd settled on Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn from Booker T. & the M.G.'s instead. This set off a pissing match with Roomful's front man Duke Robillard, who said the Blues Brothers were a joke.

I'd been trying to snag an interview with Belushi to no avail until I received a call form his publicist in June of 1979 saying he wanted to talk. The next thing I was on the phone with the embattled Blues Brother. It didn't take long for Belushi to erupt like one of of his SNL characters. "What am I, fucking Al Jolson?" he asked as I barraged him with questions. "What the fuck do these people think I am anyway? I can't fucking understand why they would attack me."

Belushi directed his nastiest broadside at a female writer who criticized the Blues Brothers: "Tell her I'd kick her in the c***, but I don't want to ruin my shine." The interview was a classic, one of the highlights of my journalistic career. The story's headline said it all: "Samurai Blues Brother."

Dave Chappelle and Horatio Sanz at the 2003 High Times Stony Awards (photo by Katy Winn)

Horatio Sanz Wins a Stony Award

One of SNL's heirs to Belushi's madcap chubby-guy roles was Horatio Sanz, who along with Jimmy Fallon played college stoners Gobi and Jarret in the recurring "Jarret's Room" sketch in the early 2000s. When I was an editor at High Times I produced the Stony Awards. In 2003, we crowned Sanz as Stoner of the Year. He accepted the trophy (a bong) at the show, which also featured Dave Chappelle and Paul Shore.

Footnote: Former SNL cast member and Top CelebStoner Amy Poehler hosted the 1st Stony Awards in 2000 with her sketch-comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade.

Nowadays, SNL keeps rotating its cast and, in doing so, finding new stars like Kate McKinnon. The coke years have passed, but it's still fun to curl up on the couch at 11:30 pm, smoke some pot and have a few laughs courtesy of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. 

This article was originally posted on Feb. 22, 2015. It ha been updated.

 

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.