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Belushi drew from his Chicago roots

CHICAGO -- Comic actor John Belushi, who died Friday in Hollywood, relied on many of his Chicago friends as background for his more famous skits and movies, including the well-known 'cheezborgah' sketch.

The pudgy comic starred in two hit films made in Chicago, 'The Blues Brothers' and 'Continental Divide.'

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Belushi was born in Chicago in Jan. 24, 1949. He was a member of Chicago's Second City improvisational and satirical group and was director of 'The National Lampoon Radio Hour.'

Second City would not comment on Belushi's death.

One of Belushi's most well-known comic characters on 'Saturday Night Live' was the fast-talking counterman in a Greek hamburger joint, fashioned after real live burger-flipper Sam Sianis, owner of Billy Goat's Tavern.

'I feel real bad,' said Sianis in the downtown Chicago bar. 'He was a nice guy. It's a loss for all of us because he belongs to Chicago. He was a local guy.'

Sianis said SNL cast members had told him that Bill Murray, who hails from a Chicago suburb, had the idea for the Greek restaurant that served only 'cheezborgahs' and 'no fries -- chips' after eating at Billy Goat's, a hangout for the city's journalists with a similarly limited menu.

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Sianis said he met Belushi about four times, the first time about four years ago when Belushi visited the Billy Goat's stand at ChicagoFest, an annual summertime celebration of music and food at Navy Pier.

'He came back (behind the counter) and we sold cheeseburgers together,' Sianis said. 'He called out 'cheeseborgah, cheeseborgah' and 'no Coke, Pepsi.' He helped out a lot.'

In the movie 'Continental Divide,' Belushi played a role based on newspaper columnist Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun-Times.

'We were friends, I'm shocked, dismayed and horrified,' Royko said of Belushi's death. 'He was a wonderful person, a brilliant talent and a very funny man.'

Royko said he and Belushi's father are old friends. He said Belushi's parents, who are Albanian immigrants, live at a ranch in California that John bought them a couple years ago. Royko described Belushi as a 'just a kid' growing up.

Belushi's brother Jim, 27, is currently performing as the comic lead -- the Pirate King -- in a revival of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta 'Pirates of Penzance' at the Shubert Theater in Chicago.

Spokesman said the younger brother would perform as scheduled Friday night, and would have no comment.

Chicagoan Mike Schulze, who said he acted as Belushi's chauffeur during the shooting of 'Blues Brothers' and 'Continental Divide,' said he reacted with 'total shock.'

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'I thought he was great and very personable,' Schulze said. 'He was friendly to everyone.'

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