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The home of the Blues Brothers mourns a favorite son

CHICAGO -- Long before he became Jake Blues, the Samurai Warrior and the king of crude as Animal House's Bluto, John Belushi was the darling of Chicago audiences at the city's famous comedy house - Second City.

Many of his friends, family and fans are still in Chicago and they say they will sorely miss the comic actor who died Friday in Hollywood at the age of 33. Preliminary autopsy results indicated the death was due to natural causes.

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Five hours after learning of his brother's death, Jim Belushi, 27, went on stage at Chicago's Shubert Theater to perform his lead role in the 'Pirates of Penzance.' He said he 'did it for John.'

'It was very hard and I'm still numb,' said the younger Belushi, a comic and movie actor in his own right. 'He was the best ... a great man. The main thing I feel right now is a real loss of security. Before I always knew that if I fell, John would be there -- the older brother. And now I'm on my own. I'm the older brother.'

One of Belushi's best known comic characters of 'Saturday Night Live' fame was the fast-talking counterman in a Greek hamburger joint, said to be fashioned after the real live burger-flipper San Sianis, owner of Billy Goat's Tavern.

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'I feel real bad,' said Sianis in the downtown Chicago bar that serves as a haunt for local journalists and has become a landmark over the years. 'He was a nice guy. It's a loss for all of us because he belongs to Chicago.'

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

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

John Belushi was born in Chicago Jan. 24, 1949. He graduated from suburban Wheaton Central High School and later earned his spurs as a member of Chicago's Second City improvisational and satirical theater group and was director of 'The National Lampoon Radio Hour.'

After achieving fame on 'Saturday Night Live' with such characters as the Samuria, he came back to Chicago and made two hit films, 'The Blues Brothers' and 'Continental Divide.' An earlier role as Bluto in National Lampoon's 'Animal House' was his rocket to fame.

'The Blues Brothers' are revered in Chicago every Halloween, when it seems every other trick-or-treater is handcuffed to a briefcase and wearing black-framed sunglasses. A photographer on the staff of Mayor Jane M. Byrne was fired after distributing a photo of the mayor and her daughter similarly attired.

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Belushi's sister, Marian, lives in Chicago and his parents, Albanian immigrants, divide their time between suburban Addison and a Julian, Calif., ranch the comedian bought for them several years ago.

'I know the people of Chicago love him as we do,' Jim Belushi said. 'He was always the most comfortable in Chicago. They made him feel like Mayor Daley. He was the mayor here.'

After performing Friday night, Jim Belushi was sked if John would have likewise have gone on stage in opposite circumstances.

'Yeah, maybe so,' the younger brother said. 'But,' he added, imitating his brother's bullish voice, 'John would have said something like 'Why did he have to do it now? Why couldn't he have waited?''

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