From the Publisher
According to Me,
Jim Belushi Is a Jackass
On March 5, 1982, in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip, John Belushi shot up a speedball of cocaine and heroin and killed all of the talent in the Belushi family. After hearing the news of his death, I sat in the corner of my parent’s living room and cried while listening to The Blues Brothers soundtrack on headphones. I would have done it in the privacy of my own room but I didn’t have a cassette player, just a turntable. I remember my dad asking me why I was crying for that drug addict.
I had idolized John Belushi. Growing up as a fat kid around Chicago, I felt a connection to Belushi. He showed me a path to acceptance by making people laugh, even if it was at your own expense. If you could make the cool kids laugh, you could get invited to the party. If you could make the girl laugh, you could delude yourself enough into thinking that she liked you. Of course this was when it actually meant something to be a fat kid. Now all the kids are fat and they don’t have to even lift one little fat finger to be accepted. Little fat bastards.
A few years before John’s death, director Michael Mann gave his little brother Jim his first big break and cast him as Barry in his classic film Thief. Released in 1981, Thief was filmed in Chicago and starred James Cann as a safecracker doing one last job before retirement. It really is a great crime film — classic 80s film noir complete with the prerequisite Tangerine Dream soundtrack. I’d have an even more positive opinion of the film if it wasn’t America’s first sighting of John’s little brother, Jim.
I don’t necessarily hate Jim Belushi the man. I hate the fact that he has appeared in countless television programs and almost 50 films while his infinitely more talented brother starred in only one television program and five films. But what I hate even more about him is that in the last 25 years, Jim Belushi has somehow become “the Face of Chicago.” Somehow this hack, this Lesser Belushi, has come to represent me and the city that I hold dear. To many Americans, Jim Belushi is Chicago, and that sickens me. To me it’s akin to Clint Howard being the “face” of your city — like Chicago has nothing better to offer the world than a straight-to-video star and deep dish pizza.
Chicago is a world-class city. A cosmopolitan city. We don’t butcher hogs here anymore. We are in no way ashamed of our past. We take pride in our hardworking heritage, but that hard work is no longer toiled away in factories and slaughterhouses. We spend our days in offices, shops, and studios. Most of our broad shoulders now have suits hanging on them. Still, to many people ignorant of Chicago, we are the Super Fans. Ya know, “Da Bears” guys from Saturday Night Live. Now don’t get me wrong: I love the Bears, beer, and the occasional encased meat and I’m not ashamed when I break into my “Chicehgo” accent. It’s a part of who I am, but it’s only a part. Please don’t think I’m some sort of humorless ass who can’t find the comedy in stereotypes. They take one small aspect of a people and magnify it to an absurd level. The more exaggerated the level, the funnier the stereotype. But stereotypes should not be your representatives; they’re jokes. They shouldn’t be your face to the world.
Jim Belushi is a perfect example of the stereotypical Chicagoan — this from a man who hasn’t lived in Chicago in decades. He’s so far removed from this city, the stereotype is all he has to fall back on. It’s a role for him, just like any of his other straight-to-video characters. He busts into it every time ABC parades him out on Monday Night Football for the entire world to see. Whenever the Bears are on MNF, ABC or ESPN has to bring that jackass out as their token Chicagoan. Yes, I know that they’re just promoting According to Jim and that both networks are owned by Disney. But New Yorkers, you at least get Spike Lee at Knicks games. Los Angelinos, you have Nicholson at Laker games. In Chicago we get the star of K-9 and Tugger: The Jeep 4x4 Who Wanted to Fly.
We in Chicago didn’t pick Jim Belushi to be our representative; a speedball of heroin and ABC did that for us. But According to Jim won’t last forever … I hope. At some point ABC and America will stop caring about the Lesser Belushi. When that time comes we need to have a new representative in place, a person that we can present to the rest of the nation and say, “Here! Here is our new face!” It is in that spirit that I present the following list of prominent Chicagoans who could fill that role and be that celebrity that sits in during the second quarter of Monday Night Football. (Yes, this is all about football to me.)
Here are the criteria: No athletes. The person must have at least gone to high school in or around Chicago. They cannot have another adopted city like Eddie Vedder (Seattle) or Hillary Clinton (wherever she is currently). They cannot be another fat guy (George Wendt), a guy with a moustache (Dennis Farina), or a fat guy with a moustache (Dennis Franz). They also cannot be an alumnus of The Second City, Steppenwolf, or The Goodman Theatre. Haven’t we all seen enough of them? Most American do not care about the theatre anyway. I’m looking for a mass media star, someone who can show up in tabloids and on Access Hollywood.
This is just one list made by one Chicagoan. If you would like to suggest your own list, please send it to email@example.com.
10. Jenny McCarthy
Okay. I really don’t want Jenny McCarthy representing me, either, but can you honestly say that she is any worse than Jim Belushi? Their resumes are very similar: a never ending slew of crap in film and on television. At least McCarthy looks good naked.
9. Bernie Mac
You know who else has had a popular TV sitcom since 2001? Bernie Mac. And unlike According to Jim, it’s actually funny. Even though there are some pathetic Cubs fans out there that blame Bernie for jinxing the Cubs in Game 5 of the 2003 NLCS (he said “champs” instead of Cubs while singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”), I’d love to have this King of Comedy representing me and my city. It would also make one of our editors very happy and tingly. She loves the Mac Man!
Grammy winner. Two gold records. Current GAP spokesman. Common is one of the few mainstream hip-hop artists out there that still recalls this art form’s socially conscious roots, and he’s not a loose cannon like Kanye. Monday Night Football already has a two-minute-long commercial for GMC trucks as its opener; why not a quarter-long GAP ad? I’m sure the GAP will pony up the dough.
7. Pete Wentz (aka that cute guy from Fall Out Boy)
Yet another GAP model, emo poster boy Wentz would make every 13-to-23-year-old suburban-bred female be interested in MNF, at least for a quarter. This is why they have the celebrity sit ins in the first place: crossover appeal. The real football fans could give a shit about the sit ins. They’re for the non-football fans — and there are no bigger non-football fans than teenage girls that wear a lot of black clothing and eye liner.
6. John Cusack
Cusack may not be an A-list celebrity but if this selection for the new “Face of Chicago” was only about me, he would be my guy. When I was 15 he was Gib in The Sure Thing. When I was 19 he was Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. When I was 30 he was Rob Gordon in High Fidelity. You get the idea. He’s always been my buddy, my pal. The guy who wouldn’t mind if you threw up in the back of his car. You could always have his platonic life partner Jeremy Piven at his side as an added bonus.
5. Bill Murray
Yes, I started out saying no more Second City people, but Bill Murray has become so much more than that. I think Murray will go down as one of his generation’s best actors and as a comedic genius. No one in recent memory has better captured on film the combination of joy and pathos that is life. Speaking of joy and pathos, when the Cubs were in the NLCS, Bill was there. When Illinois was in the Final Four, Bill was there. And if the Bears make it to the Superbowl, Bill will be there, too. I have lived in Chicago my whole life and I have never once seen Jim Belushi in the stands at one damn sporting event. Bill Murray actually cares. He has made an emotional investment in this city.
4. Barack Obama
Barack may be the next president of the United States, but for our purposes he’s only No. 4 on the list. He is still a political figure, and this country recognizes political figures as well as it recognizes theatre performers. Monday Night Football almost redeemed itself on December 11 when they opened with Barack’s fake candidacy speech, but then it wheeled out Belushi. By the way, the most maddening thing that was said during Belushi’s last appearance on MNF was Al Michaels thanking him for “making the drive down to St.Louis” as if Belushi still lived in Chicago … But where were we? Oh yeah. RUN, BARACK, RUN!
The Queen of All Media does not need my silly little list and does not have the time to be the spokesman for anything but her self. She is almost bigger than Chicago. (If Oprah was still Big Oprah, that would have been a perfect set up for a joke, but it’s still true.) If she were to take the title of “the Face of Chicago,” she would be alienating millions of her minions and the city could never afford the endorsement fee.
2. Kanye West
Once again, almost too big for Chicago. There is no more important artist in popular music today than Kanye — just ask him. One could only dream of what he would say during his sit in on Monday Night Football: tackling issues of race and inequality, tackling John Madden for trying to show him up. You could hold some sort of mock awards ceremony at half time and purposefully slight him (like everybody else, of course). Kanye would then run onto the field and and throttle the winner.
1. Vince Vaughn
A-lister. Frat Packer. Currently all over the tabloids after his recent break up with Jennifer Aniston. Could Angelina Jolie and adopted African children be far behind? Who knows? All I know is that he is my choice for the next “Face of Chicago.” He loves to work, so he’ll always have something to promote. He actually owns a home in the city. He is a perfect hybrid of the attractive cosmopolitan Chicagoan and the street smart bohunk from the neighborhood. He looks like he could easily be a fat guy if he let himself go, but he chooses to fight it. The world’s perception of him is as important to him as the world’s perception of Chicago, my city, is to me.
Copyright 2006, Geary Yonker
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