John Belushi: The connection between Burlington and the death of a star

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Published November 30, 2023 at 5:37 pm

Belushi Smith drugs kill Hollywood Burlington

She hung out with the Rolling Stones, was Gordon Lightfoot’s lover and claimed that a member of The Band was the father of her child.

Stories from these associations would be enough to fill a book…and she did write a successful one.

But what Cathy Smith is most famous for is the act that she admitted to in the pages of the National Enquirer: She killed John Belushi.

And it all started in Burlington.

Catherine Evelyn Smith was born on April 25, 1947. She was adopted by Hector and Evelyn Smith and grew up with two siblings. She went to Aldershot High School. From all accounts, she was a typical kid growing up. Babysitting, going to dances and hanging out with friends.

That all changed when she turned 16.

Dropping out of school she would often head down to Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood where the club scene introduced her to touring musicians.

She met members of the group that would eventually become The Band, became involved with the drummer, Levon Helm, and soon had a baby. Smith said Helm was the father but he claimed otherwise.

In the early 70’s she lived with Canadian folk legend Gordon Lightfoot.

They had a tumultuous relationship and Smith served as inspiration for Lightfoot’s song Sundown.

“She was the only woman I ever really loved,” said Lightfoot upon Smith’s death in 2020 at age 73.

Cathy Smith (photo by Arthur Usherson)

By the late 70’s her list of famous friends had grown.

After she and Lightfoot broke up she met members of the Rolling Stones in Toronto and eventually followed them to Los Angeles where she mingled with A-list movie stars, working her way in by serving as a go-between with drug dealers.

To call Cathy Smith a groupie would be too easy as her life among celebrities was more than just one-night stands. She became part of “the scene”, breaking through inner circles and even carving out her own career as a backup singer.

It was in LA that she met John Belushi.

Made famous as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, Belushi’s star was rising. He cut the Blue Brothers album with his pal Dan Aykroyd, and had a surprise hit with the movie Animal House. Belushi was flying high on fame and the temptations that came along with it.

The meeting between Belushi and Smith was inevitable. He was the guy who liked to indulge and she the good-looking Canadian who had access to drugs and loved to party with the stars.

On one night the partying went too far.

On March 5, 1982, Belushi died. A concoction of heroin and cocaine proved too much for the man who many thought was invincible. Smith was with him that day, holed up at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood.

At first, it was reported that Belushi’s death was accidental and it probably was as the pair were just looking to have fun.

But later, in an exclusive interview sold to the National Enquirer, Smith admitted she had injected Belushi with the lethal dose.

In the story headlined “I killed John Belushi” Cathy Smith said her actions led to the comedian’s death.

That confession was enough for police who arrested her on charges of second-degree murder. Eventually, a plea bargain led to reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter and other drug offences. Smith ended up serving 15 months in a California prison and when released she was deported back to Canada.

Later, when she published her memoir, Chasing the Dragon, Smith walked back the National Enquirer confession, saying she didn’t kill Belushi and that she confessed to the tabloid just to get the money.

The rest of her life was spent in relative obscurity in British Columbia. Those who knew her said she was generous and loving but could turn frighteningly angry without notice.

“She reached a little too high to touch the stars,” one friend noted upon her death. “And her fall back to earth was spectacular.”

 

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