A Man
Overboard

 

 

An interview with Jim Belushi


I’ve followed Jim Belushi’s career since the tragic and senseless death of his brilliantly talented brother John Belushi of Saturday Night Live fame.

When I saw Jim’s book, Real Men Don’t Apologize, I imagined it was a merely comic approach to how a macho man would conduct himself with women. Man, was I wrong.

His book was entertaining, and it had a surprisingly deeper impact on me as I read it, especially with a conflict that had recently arisen between me and my beautiful bride.

Here’s a poem I wrote at the time, inspired by Belushi:

Mr. Ted E. Bear
By Reid Baer

She yelled at me to
turn off the TV
in a tone I’d never heard before,

The way I assume
she did many times
with her disappointing ex-husband.

Something in me snapped
and I suddenly
detached from her knowing deep inside -

I had permitted
myself to just slide …
and I needed to wipe off my smile

And stand up in the
grizzly for awhile,
for a man is not hatched - he’s cornered!

I borrowed the idea of the last line from Belushi.

He says he got involved in acting “because of the girls! In the drama club, there were about 20 girls and six guys. And the same thing with choir - more girls!" He attended the College of Dupage and Southern Illinois University, where he graduated with a degree in Speech and Theater Arts.

In 1977 he joined Chicago's Second City improvisational troupe and remained for three years. In 1979 Garry Marshall saw Jim performing for Second City and arranged for him to come to Hollywood. I’ll let you check out his long list of credits. His current TV vehicle, According to Jim, is a really bit hit at ABC Television.

Most movie stars are tough to reach, and then they don’t really have that much to say once you do. Jim Belushi was decidedly different. He obviously had done his homework with men’s issues. I was initially impressed with his celebrity, but ultimately more impressed with his insights around being a man, and his ability to draw boundaries like a good Warrior.

“I did a lot of serious study,” he began. “And, I’ve learned a great deal from two divorces.”

He currently resides in Los Angeles happily married with his wife Jennifer, and father to their daughter Jamison and a son, Robert, from Belushi's first marriage.

“I made a deal with myself that I’d never get divorced again,” he affirmed. “My previous marriages finally got me into Co-dependents Anonymous. I did some real work with my issues – which were mostly ‘male issues.’”

“Critical Thing #1 That Cannot Be Found in a Woody Allen Movie: You must form your own opinions about women. Men like to subtract, women like to add. Women overcomplicate and men oversimplify. Remember that you don’t think like a female. Always remember that to a woman the relationship is more important than you are. – from Real Men Don’t Apologize

“I was being the Alpha Male at work, but I was her bitch at home – I was like a little girl with her, with no boundaries. She didn’t treat me very well, and the fact that I let her do it made her even more pissed off at me … to her, I wasn’t standing up like a man. She was saying, ‘damnit, I gotta be the man, too?! I wasn’t taking responsibility for myself.”

How is it that a blue-color guy from Chicago is not be able to carry his own with women? Belushi said his relationship with women was like a “failed social experiment.” He called his first wife a “feminist.”

Belushi, a man’s man who honors the likes of Mike Ditka and Robert Bly, said he had to get a wake up call from men in his life to learn about standing up for himself in the face of a “feminist.’ He said he got help from probation officers, social workers, shrinks, and even the teamsters.

“I didn’t do it alone,” he noted. “I went to workshops to learn about being a man. I found a community of men to help me. And, most importantly, I discovered that only a man can teach another man what being a man is all about. And, sometimes it takes hitting rock-bottom before a man begins his own work.”

Belushi’s First Rule to Climb Up from Rock Bottom:

Think of yourself first.
Surround yourself with your buddies.
Talk to your buddies.
Beer is also your friend
When in doubt, compete

If you’re looking for an esoteric book filled with theoretic constructs, you’ve got the wrong author. However, if you want to laugh out loud and be willing to look at your own truth signs in the process, you’ll adore this book – even if some of the hyperbole might make some lesser “non-real” men angry.

I loved the many quizzes he poses to test the “real man” in you. Example:

You are having a fight with your wife/girlfriend. You have made your point, you’ve listened to her side. Now, you …
a. Let her rehash it, telling you again why you piss her off/are wrong/don’t friggin’ get it.
b. Leave the room.
c. Bring up that thing she did New Year’s Eve three years ago that you are still pissed about.
d. Take her. Right there. Assuming it’s not a fight over dinner in a restaurant you want to come back to.

Answer: If you said c and harbor a grudge from three New Year’s Eves ago, then you are someone’s ex-wife and should not be reading this. The answer is b (leave the room) or d (take her right there). If you don’t know why, you are not reading the right book.

This book has so many great lines; I asked if Belushi had any ghost writing help. He assured me it was all original.

“The Big Toe Theory is based on the idea that when a woman compromises one of your boundaries or terms, or threatens one of the agreements you’ve made for yourself, you have to respond in such a swift, decisive manner that she’ll never do it again,” Belushi explained. “If she puts her ‘big toe’ into your ‘area’’ you ‘hit’ that ‘big toe.’”

Does any real man want to be interrupted in the middle of a baseball game – especially during the playoffs with your favorite team?!

“So she comes to me during the big play and she says, “When are you going to start making time for me? There’s always a game on …?”

Instead of simply communicating in moderated tones, Belushi recommends going histrionic in response.

“’Never, how do you like that?! And you’re G--damn right there’s always a game on. You wanna know why? Because baseball season ends one day after you stop bitching about it! It’s America’s game, damn it! And without it, the good ol’ USA would be some shitty, third-world banana republic with watered-down beer and no gadget stores!’ Then, when everything has calmed down, you tell her that she is ‘everything to you and you don’t want to upset her,’ but this is important to you and she has to respect that. Don’t justify or explain and I say to you men, please don’t apologize.”

Belushi quickly cautions men not to be mean or abusive …“but you must be irrational. If you engage in a reasonable conversation, you are going to lose because women are stronger verbally. If you’re a man of action, action will win out. If you allow her toe in your area unchecked, the foot will follow. And if her foot is in your area, it’s only a matter of time before she starts storing shoes there. You have to stop her.”

I thought about this one for days: “Girls nag. They just do. They’re nosy. So out of every four questions that your girlfriend asks you, say “no” to one of them. This will keep her intrigued no matter what the questions are.”

GIRLFRIEND: Honey, will you get my purse?
YOU: Sure.
GIRLFRIEND: Babe, will you bring in the mail?
YOU: Okay.
GIRLFRIEND: Can you get me a glass of water?
YOU: Absolutely.
GIRLFRIEND: Wanna hang up my coat?
YOU: There is no G--damned way I’m getting off my ass to hang up your coat.

Belushi says a tough, stoic man gets predictable at a certain point. And with predictability comes boredom. And when women get bored, they stick their big toe in things. So, to protect himself, once in a while, he’ll throw in a “sensitivity curveball” – but not too often. There’s a natural polarity that is healthy between a man and a woman.”

“Women say they want a man who is kind, gentle, compassionate, polite, considerate and nurturing,” Belushi intoned. “Bullshit! They just described a chick! Women really need a man who is mysterious, powerful, passionate, confident, unpredictable and a little dangerous. That’s the guy they will sleep with … the most interesting person in the world to a woman is someone they know nothing about. The stuff they come up with in their own head is a lot more interesting than you. That’s why so many women out there have a crush on Tony Soprano. He cheats on his wife, works in an illegal business and kills people.”

Belushi admits that his approach involves playing “mind games,” but he’s unapologetic about it, especially when it comes to dating.

“The thing is, if you start answering a bunch of questions, she’ll be interviewing you. Here’s my rule: You ask her three questions, you answer one. Then repeat as necessary. Remember, the first thing a woman says about herself is ‘the lie.’ … so if she says, ‘I hate playing games. I’m not a game player,’ then obviously she’s a huge game player. If she says ‘This is the first time I’ve ever done this,’ she’s done it before – and she’s good at it. Maybe even a pro. If she says she doesn’t sleep with guys on the first date, ask for the check. Get her home immediately.”

Belushi said in “the old days” when he dated a lot, he unabashedly used his psychological insights to woo women.

“A great line of questioning on your first interview with a woman is to ask her about her father. It’s been said that girls look for men that remind them of their fathers. …She says she didn’t see eye to eye with her dad? Be a jerk. Be confrontational, critical, loud and rude. She says her dad was cool and distant? Step back, don’t overreact, be stoic and aloof. She says “Dad and I are best friends”? Pay the check and go home. Alone. You aren’t ever going to live up to that, so don’t even try.”

As executive producer on his TV show, Belushi said he tries to work in men’s issues as much as possible.

“I try to do relevant things on my TV show,” he said. “Right now I’m rewriting an episode about men and anger. Last week we dealt with father’s mentoring their boys.”

According to Jim is a comedy, and it doesn’t hurt to have a woman like Courtney Thorne-Smith whose character puts up with an enormous amount of BS from Belushi’s character.

I’ve always said the key to a good relationship between a man and a woman is simply finding a good hearted woman. And, she can not be expected to handle my issues.

“Don’t be afraid to ask a dude for help … show your wounds to a man, and you’ll have a brother, but show your wounds to a woman and you’ll have a mother. Once you put her in the position of having to be your protector, she’ll start punishing you. … But we’re not able to live without fear. So the key is to appear to be a rock. The only way to do that is to find another outlet to express your fears. That’s what your dudes are for.” from Real Men Don’t Apologize

Steve Birger was such a man who was there for Belushi through his ups and downs.

“Like most guys, I tended to isolated. In some ways I still do. But, it was Stevie B who’s always helped get me outside of myself and my anti-social behavior. Once I get out, I have a ball!

In the book, Real Men Don’t Apologize, there was a deeper meaning for me as I read it. Even after all the psychological depth work I’ve done, this Hollywood actor helped me see that I was on occasion, still giving away my power to my lovely wife. And it wasn’t her fault!

For instance, Belushi helped me realize that women don’t like the Three Stooges part of a man, that part that other men play grab ass with.

The author even deals with archetypal energies in his own way by referring to his three heroes: Curly – and a man’s sense of humor, Gandhi – a man’s sense of compassion, and Clint Eastwood – a man’s sense of strength. I realized, and mentioned to my wife, that she wasn’t completely sold on my stooge. She concurred. Belushi said he understood that she wouldn’t care for my Curly, and that I should reserve most of him for hanging out with my buddies.

“Stevie B. made me sit down and define my terms of what I would do around other guys, and what I would do with my woman. With his help, and the guidance of several relationship gurus, (including A. Justin Sterling) I was able to move forward in the process of reestablishing myself as foremost in a relationship.”

Hearing Belushi talk, I was reminded of something I’ve always known: do not process your significant other – nor ask her for help around personal issues.

“Don’t be afraid to ask a dude for help. … show your wounds to a man and you’ll have a brother, but show your wounds to a woman and you’ll have a mother. Once you put her in the position of having to be your protector, she’ll start punishing you. But we’re not able to live without fear, so we show that fear to men. The key is to appear to be a rock for a woman, then let your friends see your weakness and vulnerability. Find a way with only men as an outlet to express your fears. That’s what your dudes are for.”

In the battle of the sexes, Belushi seems to understand which ones to fight.

“When dealing with women, all we have is the battle,” he said. “We must abandon any hope that we will eventually win the war. They are too strong. They are too fast. They are too wily. … they understand relationships. They created the game; you’re just bringing the balls.”

Belushi said he’s found a great deal of satisfaction in his career.

“It feels really good … my whole life is good … and there’s nothing as satisfying as this TV show. It’s given me status and opportunity to explore all kinds of things about myself. All the men’s work, and relationship work I’ve done gets squeezed into the show. This venue is a place where I get to express everything I know. I perform, write, produce, direct, and even get my band into the music for the show.”

Your humble reporter plays some blues keyboard, and I know what it’s like to be in the groove with a crowd. Belushi gets to play the Blues Brother Zeke. He also performs with his own band, The Sacred Hearts.

“When I’m out there singing and dancing with 100% commitment … and I’m dancing like the leaping frog on Warren Brothers … I’m feeling all the passion and communication between me and the audience. There’s nothing like it!”

I told Jim about the New Warrior Training adventure in the ManKind Project and how it was okay for men to find a place to be a little bit dangerous with each other.

“I’ve read Robert Bly,” he said. “I admire him a lot. It is important for a man to be a little bit dangerous. We did an episode on this one. My wife wants me to be less violent, but as soon as some strange guy hits her, she wants me to be violent and smack him!”

Belushi begins each chapter with the lyrics of a song. Here’s a well-known one:

Well every morning at the mine you could see him arrive.
He stood six-foot-six and weighted two-forty-five.
Kinda broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hips.
And everybody knew you didn’t give no lip to Big John.
Big John.
Big John.
Big Bad John. – Jimmy Dean

Belushi said a man has to have some Big Bad John in him or he’ll simply end up as a woman’s roommate.

“They like having to deal with a man,” he said. “Be a man. Keep the terms clear and clean. She’ll respect it. Women like a powerful man. They’re attracted to it. Don’t stay in a safe little comfort zone … nah, you can’t do that! Keep the tension going … the sex will be great!”

I liked this quote in the book: “Love without sex is friendship, sex without love is spring break, and if you want companionship, get a dog.”

In a moment of vulnerability, Belushi confessed he has “…basically wanted someone who would keep the bitching and nagging to a minimum. I suppose what I was really looking for, Reid, was kindness.”

And yet, my new friend was unequivocal about needing boundaries.

“You don’t want to get walked all over, and your girlfriend won’t want to be with a guy she can lead around by the nose. You have to set boundaries. … Your ‘Whatever you want, baby’ stuff doesn’t work anymore.”

Here are Belushi’s 5 Commandments for his wife:
Thou Shalt Not Shush Me
Thou Shalt Not Steal
Thou Shalt Never Banish Me to the Couch
Thou Shalt Not compete With me
Thou Shalt Not Expect an Apology for Something I am Not sorrieth For

Although much of what Belushi writes about may appear extreme, there is a well-thought out message in this for me … and maybe for you.

“I’ve been doing men’s work for a long time because I’ve had to … to survive,” he said. “There’s a lot of healing that we men need because we’ve got some wounds to deal with. Women may want to fix them, but they can’t. We have to use the tribal approach and let the men work with the men.”

In my conversation with the actor, I got a real charge from his friendly and energetic approach to life.

“I access my joy constantly,” he told me. “It really started with my music … now I have a thriving career, and a wonderful home life. It took a kind of initiation, however, to get me here.”

As I shared my brief conflagration with my wife, Belushi just said: “Be brave, man.”

I’m looking at Belushi as a Warrior with a sense of humor. It’s a nice balance.

I’m sitting here with the muses, meditating on what I got from Belushi and Real Men Don’t Apologize … I know many men will think the title itself is over the top. Maybe I’d call my version of a book, The Real Man In Me Doesn’t Apologize Too Much – and Never Apologizes For Being A Man.

Am I dishonoring a woman if I decide to work on my own stuff, first – without apology? I don’t believe so. If I’m strong enough in my own masculine power, then I think I’ll be better equipped as a man to have some of that true charity to love the unlovable, even when that someone is my spouse.

© 2007, Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Menstuff® has compiled an archive of feature interviews with well known writers, poets, and artists who speak to the creative issues of men. Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book entitled Kill The Story. and The Man from Four Quarters: Lover, Warrior, Magician, King, a book of poetry. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail

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