John Belushi’s Bungalow*

There’s the L.A. we created and the one that creates us

where, after hours when the paparazzi scurries back

to their holes (hive-minded parasites without whom,

admittedly, the Strip’s frisson would cease to function,

devils’ bargains made with angels’ blood), in alleys,

half-dead hobos give head for anything on offer as puffed

up producers slump in the back seats of chauffeured cars—

oblivious to who’s going down behind these sordid scenes.

On March Fourth, blowing off steam with some Bolivian

marching powder, John Belushi blew it, a speedball sent

from hell to usher him into anti-eternity, where our martyrs

perish so they’ll stay preserved in digital tombs, also known

as bodies of work—death by natural causes if one considers

the time and place, stuck inside the Chateau Marmont, itself

unable to contain his capacity or answer his appetites: only

stars die so indelibly, burned black by their own brightness.

Who would have bet against Belushi being the odd man out,

when Robert and Robin popped in, receiving and/or recoiling

from his hospitality, pizza boxes and filthy laundry scattered

like bounced checks? (Williams, sad clown sui generis, stayed

high on his own supply and sucked on that rare ether until

the air got too contaminated, hoisted at last on his own

affected petard; Deniro—part Bull, part Mafia Boss—able

to call his own shots, bearing the weight of his greatness.)

It’s as though the 20th C. couldn’t believe what it created,

our culture always emerging from wreckage of ruined lives,

the truth forever outstripping what any screenwriter could

concoct, keyed up with squalid material too real for TV,

the news a succession of coroner’s reports, confirming all

we already know: it’s intoxicating work if you can get it,

but those not built to last will have their souls devoured,

mourned at a safe distance by voyeurs cursed with long lives.

(*On the evening of March 4, 1982, John Belushi—after a short period of abstaining from hard drugs—was holed up in a bungalow at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont hotel, in the midst of a significant relapse; before being found dead of an overdose the following morning he was visited at various points of the evening by drug dealer Cathy Smith, comedian Robin Williams, and actor Robert Deniro.)

Sean Murphy’s chapbook, The Blackened Blues, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2021. His second collection of poems, Rhapsodies in Blue was published by Kelsay Books in 2023, and This Kind of Man, his first collection of short fiction, is forthcoming in 2024. Visit and @bullmurph.

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