EXCERPT: Postcard From The Edge


VULTURE: [Carrie] caused deep worry that was somehow hidden by the movie crews’ obsession with John’s addiction rather than her own. Carrie—younger than the others—was intensely fragile. She was generous, brilliant, witty, charismatic, caring—and deeply vulnerable: friends could see that. When they all got to the Belushis’ Vineyard house, “my brother was most concerned about her. He had to carry her limp body from room to room. I guess she was conscious enough that he didn’t call an ambulance, but he had a strong sense that she was really out of it.”

It was during that spate of days on the Vineyard, that John, in a moment alone with Carrie, stared at her and said, “You’re like me. We’re not like them.” Meaning he and Carrie had an addiction propensity—a disease, though it unfortunately wasn’t acknowledged that way at the time—deeper than their friends’ ability to enjoy “recreational” drugs without paying a price. He wanted her to know that he knew this and she should know it, too. In 2009, she remembered John’s words as if they’d Life_On_The_Edge been uttered yesterday, she told Vanity Fair’s Ned Zeman. On the night of March 4, 1982, Carrie was back in New York with Paul. Michael O’Donoghue and his girlfriend, Carol Caldwell, were living in L.A. now, while Michael worked on the script of Easy Rider Two (which was never produced) with Bert Schneider. Carol, a writer for the edgy monthly New Times, as well as for Rolling Stone and Esquire, was writing screenplays. Carol was friends with Judy Belushi. Judy, who was now back on Martha’s Vineyard, was worried about her husband, who was staying at the Chateau Marmont, working on a script with Don Novello, best known as the SNL character Father Guido Sarducci.

Judy Belushi knew that Carol and Michael were “very close” to John, and she put Carol in charge of checking in with John every day. Penelope Spheeris, a documentary filmmaker close to Carol who knew Judy had put Carol in charge of John, called Carol at 6:00 a.m. “Did you talk to John last night?” she asked. When Carol said no, Penelope said, “I think you’d better call over to the Chateau and see if you can speak to him.” There was a short list of people whom the hotel operator was authorized to put through to his room, and Carol’s name was on it. When she was turned down, “I called Judy,” Carol recalls. It was 9:00 a.m. East Coast time, “and said, ‘I can’t get through to him.’” The Belushis’ assistant called Carol and said, “‘Carol, you’ve got to go over there. They’ve found him, with a needle in his arm.’ We knew John was terrified of needles.”

“And then the nightmare began,” Carol says. Belushi, who’d been partying the night before with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, had overdosed by way of a “speedball”—a cocaine-heroin injection, provided by a dealer named Cathy Evelyn Smith. It was nearing noon in New York when the phone rang in Paul Simon’s apartment. Another SNL staffer was there with Paul and Carrie. They were about to hop in the sauna. The friend on the phone said, “Turn on TV—now!” There was the news: John Belushi was dead. At thirty-three. MORE