NEW YORK – The early days of Saturday Night Live were more like a rock band -- with hot sex and hard drugs aplenty backstage -- than a TV show, according to a new tell-all book.
Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live uncovers tabloid tales of cocaine, fist-fights and dressing room sex binges among original cast members like Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner as told by TV critic Tom Shales and co-author James Andrew Miller.
"I don't know what goes on backstage there now," says Aykroyd in the book, excerpted in the latest issue of Vanity Fair.
"But I remember the dressing rooms were put to some good sexual purposes back then when we were there."
Among other revelations was that the Coneheads -- big-headed aliens Beldar (Aykroyd) and Prymaat (Jane Curtin) from the planet Remulak -- were originally supposed to be called Pinhead Lawyers of France.
"I had been looking at TV -- I guess I'd smoked a jay or something - and I thought, 'Everybody's heads don't really reach the top of the screen,' " says Aykroyd.
"Wouldn't it be great if you added four inches to everybody? So I drew up this design.
"But then people were afraid that we'd be disparaging encephalitic people or retarded people with that, so we changed it to the Coneheads."
The book wallows in darker tales, including John Belushi's infamous cocaine habit, which killed him in 1982.
"Lorne used to say that coke was God's way of telling you that you have too much money," says former cast member Chevy Chase. "He used to say don't stay on one thing. If you're going to take anything, rotate them."
Chase, who left SNL after the first season and came back as host several times later, most recently appeared on the show in the 1990s and was roundly disliked by the cast.
"The worst host was Chevy Chase," says Will Ferrell, who left the show at the end of last season.
"I don't know if he was on something or what, if he took too many back pills that day or something, but he was just kind of going around the room and systematically riffing. . . When he got to one of our female writers, he made some reference like, 'Maybe you can give me a hand*** later.' And I've never seen Lorne more embarrassed and red," says Ferrell.
At an earlier show in 1985, Chase ended up insulting most of the cast including Robert Downey Jr. ("Didn't your father used to be a successful director?") and Terry Sweeney. "Oh you're the gay guy right? I've got an idea for a sketch for you. How about we say you have AIDS and we weigh you every week?" he told Sweeney.
"There's no drugs and there's no sex at the show now," says current cast member Tina Fey. "I would have been terrified if I was here back in the old days."