When one thinks of famous pirates, one does not immediately picture Jim Belushi. • Indeed, one is far more likely to picture Jim's late brother, John, who famously stormed the Faber College homecoming parade in full pirate garb during the chaotic, climactic scene of Animal House. • But was it not Jim Belushi who portrayed the Pirate King in a Broadway production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance? And is it not Jim who will serve as grand marshal of the grandest pirate parade in the land, Tampa's annual Gasparilla invasion? • Exactly. • So revelers of the Gulf Coast, gather ye plastic beads and tricornered hats, and prepare to meet thy new pirate cap'n, a swarthy Albanian Blues Brother with dozens of film, TV and stage credits to his name, including the rookie CBS legal drama The Defenders. He even has his own rock 'n' soul band, the Sacred Hearts, that will perform Friday in Tampa. • Calling from his home in L.A., Belushi said he's eager to walk the plank and dive into Tampa's briny fray.
. You've played a pirate before. What kind of pirate training did you receive?
I know everything you can do with a sword, every gag — tossing, turning, spinning, around the back.
. Did you carry around a sword for practice?
That's exactly what I did. During the rehearsal process, I carried a sword down the streets of New York City after rehearsal.
. Do you remember any of the lyrics from I Am A Pirate King?
(singing) "Oh, better far to live and die! Under the brave black flag I flyyyyy!" Of course I do! "For I am a Pirate Kiiiiiiiiiing!"
. You can pull it out just like that?
Oh, yeah. You only remember what you love.
. Let's back up. How did you get this gig?
They have something on the other coast, Fort Lauderdale, a Winterfest Parade, which is a boat parade. It's a beautiful evening, where all the homes and boats along the Intracoastal throw big parties and have a lot of lights. The Seminole Hard Rock sponsored it, and I came down and played with my band. I hosted that parade, and I get along with them very well, so they just made another offer for this.
. So you've been the grand marshal of things before?
Oh, yes. I was King Bacchus in New Orleans.
. What have you taken from your experiences at Mardi Gras that will serve you well at Gasparilla?
Well, at Mardi Gras, I was the king! And they treat you like a king! I remember when I got down there to play King Bacchus, saying, "What would you like me to do?" They said, "We'd like you to be the king." I said, "No, is there any kind of message you want to have taken care of while I'm in this public position?" And they said, "We want you to be a king." "But what are the responsibilities?" "We want you to be a king." Well, I can be a king — I was the Pirate King! So I just became a king. I'll never forget — there was this guy walking by with like 13 pizzas for this float behind me, and I said, "Stop! What do you have?" "Pizza." "What kind?" "Pepperoni." "Give me the pepperoni!" "I'm sorry, sir, this is for the float behind you." "I'm the king!" "Okay, here you go, sir."
. I would imagine that as a Blues Brother, you probably get asked to perform at some wild parties.
No, they're not wild. They're fun. We mainly play casino and corporate events, and benefits, so as wild as that can get. The most wild ones we have, that are real fun, are when we open up a House of Blues.
. Do you have a libation of choice when you hit the bar?
Well, I don't drink beer anymore. It's like drinking a sandwich in a bottle, and I just can't keep the weight off. I'll have a wine, and when I have a regular drink, I'll have maybe . . . um . . . see, this is how I am at the bar, too. "What do you want?" "Um . . . oh . . . I dunno . . . what kinda scotch you got?"
. Here's something you may have had to consider when you were preparing for your role as a Pirate King: Would you rather have a peg leg or a hook hand?
Oh, I'd rather have the hook hand.
. Really? Explain why.
Mobility. You can run, and you can grab someone by the arm with the hook. It's a little more threatening apparatus. Makes you a little meaner. And you can take it off at night.
. See, I think I'd go with the peg leg. You could hollow it out, put stuff in there, make a little cabinet door.
Yeah, but with a peg leg, if Moby Dick starts coming over the boat, you can't run to the other end.
. Have you ever been asked to weigh in on pirates vs. ninjas?
Oh, pirates, hands-down. They're just tougher — the growl, the costume. They're better dressed.
. And they fight dirty. Ninjas are honorable, but pirates fight dirty, and I think that would give them a leg up.
Yeah, you're right. A peg up.