I read “Wired” in paperback, Bob Woodward’s book about John Belushi’s life and death, but it was many years ago. My impressions, after all this time, are mostly about the reaction to it among Belushi’s circle. They went along the lines of who is this serpent we have clutched to our bosom, and I admit — this was sort of amusing to see. I think Judy Belushi, the man’s widow, actually said in an interview that she thought she was hiring Robert Redford from “All the President’s Men” and instead got this Judas, this betrayer in human form.
The other thing I remember is that Woodward was a terrible writer. His description of the cheezborger-cheezborger sketch read like description for the blind; in recent years, as I’ve become acquainted with his nasal Chicago voice, I hear it in my head that way. A customer asks for french fries but is told the diner only carries chips, which causes the cry to echo among the countermen: “No fries, chips!”…
Twitter says there are already some people taking issue with this piece by Tanner Colby, who wrote the same book, only the one authorized by Judy Belushi. He takes issue with Woodward’s account, and while it’s been a lot of years since I read it, I have to say, some of these examples ring true:
The wrongness in Woodward’s reporting is always ever so subtle. SNL writer Michael O’Donoghue—who died before I started the book but who videotaped an interview with Judy years before—told this story about how Belushi loved to mess with him:
I am very anal-retentive, and John used to come over and just move things around, just move things a couple of inches, drop a paper on the floor, miss an ashtray a little bit until finally he could see me just tensing up. That was his idea of a fine joke. Another joke he used to do was to sit on me.
When put through the Woodward filter, this becomes:
A compulsively neat person, O’Donoghue was always picking up and straightening his office. Frequently, John came in and destroyed the order in a minute, shifting papers, furniture or pencils or dropping cigarette ashes.
Again, Woodward’s account is not wrong. It’s just — wrong. In his version, Belushi is not a prankster but a jerk.
I’m familiar with reporters like this, who think their only job is to stick to the absolute letter of the fact, draw only the most obvious conclusions. The Jack Webb School. Just the facts, ma’am. Nothing like this:
Like a funhouse mirror, Woodward’s prose distorts what it purports to reflect. Moments of tearful drama are rendered as tersely as an accounting of Belushi’s car-service receipts. Friendly jokes are stripped of their humor and turned into boorish annoyances. And when Woodward fails to convey the subtleties of those little moments, he misses the bigger picture. Belushi’s nervousness about doing that love scene in Continental Divide was an important detail. When that movie came out, it tanked at the box office. After months of fighting to stay clean, Belushi fell off the wagon and started using heavily again. Six months later he was dead. Woodward missed the real meaning of what went on.
Stenography has its limitations? You don’t say.
Oh, I’m so enjoying this Kwame story. The feds released some videos today, including one of a sludge-company executive putting a case of Cristal in Bernard Kilpatrick’s car. Because nothing gets it done like $2,500 worth of champagne.
Hank didn’t think much of the Dick Cheney autobiography, but I can’t get over the photo of the newly slim prince of darkness that accompanies his review. Now that is a face. Dunno quite what kind, but there you go.
I hope I sleep better tonight than I have been. A friend is advising klonopin. I’m sort of tempted, but I should probably give liquor a chance, first.