Dan Aykroyd is one of those rare comedy legends who’s actually become more entertaining in the twilight of his career than he was in his prime. Sure, he’s responsible for some of the best comedy of the 1970s and ’80s, from his stint as one of the original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” on Saturday Night Live to headlining movie classics like The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters. But at 61, his mainstream comedy career has taken a backseat to his newest passions: selling vodka in glass skull bottles and talking about his unwavering belief in extraterrestrials and ghosts. He might say crazier things now, but we never stopped loving him.
I called Aykroyd to ask about his vodka business, which of course led to all sorts of other bizarre topics, like showers made out of skulls, his plans to be abducted rather than leave a postmortem mess, and why there’ll never be a Doctor Detroit sequel.
Crystal Head Vodka first came out in 2007. Why the big promotional push now?
Well, we’ve been winning awards with the vodka. We’ve got some great new packages, like the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary limited edition gift set. But basically, when you’re marketing and selling a brand like this, the work never stops. It’s total war. We’ve got to be consistently more clever and aggressive than the competition.
Last month, while you were in Boston promoting your vodka, you performed at a drag show. Do drag queens drink more vodka than other people?
That Boston club, Machine, is actually one of our best markets. I went there to thank them, and they had a drag show with Ghostbusters logos and everything. I don’t know, it was just so lovely and fun. All they wanted to do was sing and make people happy. I think drag queens are such fun and gentle and wonderful people. The gay community in general seems to really love this product.
Why is that?
Maybe it’s because gay people appreciate sophisticated design, which is what our bottle is all about. They also have more disposable income to spend on luxury products. And I think there’s a large contingent of gay people who are into health, so they appreciate the clean, green aspects of our vodka. Those are things we should all be interested in, but I guess gay people are just smarter than everybody else.
The bottle’s design was inspired by magical crystal skulls that were supposedly used by the Aztecs, right?
The legend has it that there were thirteen crystal heads, and they were used by the Navajo, the Aztecs, and the Mayans as crystal balls. These skulls were capable of giving the tribe their positive enlightenment. They contained all human knowledge and provided insight into the past, present, and future. That’s the same experience we’re hoping to offer with our vodka.
Yes, absolutely. We hope people are enlightened when they drink it.
That’s interesting, because usually when I drink vodka, I get noticeably dumber.
You won’t get that way on our vodka. You won’t even get a hangover the next day.
Our vodka contains no ethylene glycol, otherwise known as antifreeze. I’ve had eight shots in a single sitting and there was no hangover the next day.
But you couldn’t go beyond eight?
I haven’t tried it, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Crystal Head is 80 proof alcohol. If you go beyond eight shots, hey, best of luck to you. It’s also been triple-filtered through Herkimer diamonds, which gives it a psychic touch. Herkimer diamonds are only found in geophysically anomalous regions on the planet; one is in Afghanistan and the other’s in upstate New York. These are semi-precious quartz crystals, and I’ll admit as much — we pour our vodka over it because of the extraterrestrial link.
The Navajo, the Aztecs, the Mayans said they got their skulls from the star children. Herkimer County is of course near where Griffiss Air Force Base is, where there were a lot of scrambles on UFOs in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.
Are you being serious?
Are you familiar with Einstein’s theory of spooky interaction in the distance? Are you familiar with the work of Richard Feynman, the physicist who discovered the proton that spun backwards? Are you a quantum fan at all?
No. Can we go back to the UFOs for a minute? What does that have to do with vodka?
If you go on Black Vault, John Greenewald’s site, you’ll see the scramble orders from Griffiss Air Force Base and how it’s linked to Herkimer. One can imagine that if these beings who gave the skulls to the Aztecs, the Navajo, the Mayans, if they have vessels that can visit this planet, Herkimer would show up as a very interesting scan.
On their… spaceships?
It’s basically a semi-precious diamond field where they’re just inches under the earth. So any mineral scanner would show Herkimer as a really, really super-charged area. And maybe that’s why they were coming down.
If I can change the subject slightly, before you joined SNL, you studied at Chicago’s Second City theater with the late improv guru Del Close.
That’s right, yeah. I haven’t heard that name in a while. Del was one of my teachers. He trained me and [John] Belushi and a bunch of others. Y’know, there’s a rumor that his skull is at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. I don’t know if this is true.
That’s the reason I brought him up. He did in fact leave his skull to the Goodman after he died.
He wanted to be in Hamlet, I believe.
That’s right. As Yorick.
That is wonderful! That’s what I love about the acting profession. I can actually say that a friend of mine is dead and he’s still working.
Well, they found out later it’s somebody else’s skull.
It’s not his?
Well that’s terrible news.
When you die, will you be leaving your skull or anything else to any industry in particular?
No, no, no! I’m going to be taken up in a ship.
An alien ship?
It’ll be a disappearance, an abduction. One day I’ll just be gone, and I’ll never be seen or heard from again.
That’s how you want to go?
That’s how I want to go.
All traces of you gone?
Transported, let’s say. Turned into protons and sent to the next dimension, quickly and efficiently so I don’t leave a mess for people to clean up after I’m gone.
You’re worried about the mess?
Not worried. I just don’t want to leave any kind of DNA behind at all. I’m negotiating that right now.
How does one negotiate an abduction?
I have lasers. I go out at night and I play around. And I hope to be picked up.
So back to these skulls. Do you have any of them?
I have a barn filled with them.
You do? Holy shit!
I have a hundred of them. I could build a wall. In fact, I’m going to build a wall for a shower.
You’re going to build a wall of Aztec crystal heads?
No, no. I mean Crystal Head Vodka bottles.
Oh. I was talking about the crystal skulls that hold all human knowledge.
I’ve never actually seen a real crystal head. I know all about them though.
We’ll get to that in a minute. I want to hear more about this shower wall of skulls.
Yep, we’re going to do it. It’s going to be like a glass wall, but made entirely of skulls.
I can totally imagine you standing in front of that.
Naked in the shower.
And you ruined it.
So the real crystal heads. There are only thirteen of those, you said?
That’s right. Eight are missing, five are in the possession of mankind. Museums have three of them — the British Museum of Natural History has one, and two are at the Smithsonian. In the private hands, there’s one named Max. There’s a woman named JoAnn Parks in Texas who has one, and she puts it in a closet because it talks to her.
You’re making this up.
No, this is real. If you think about the properties of crystal — your cellphone, your iPad — there are storage properties there. So it’s logical to think that we have these beautiful polished crystals, and if they’re put in the hands of a good shaman, anything is possible.
Would you want one of these things in your house?
A crystal skull? I would love one! Are you kidding me?
Do you own anything that might be cursed?
Well, none of the heads are cursed. In the hands of a powerful operator, they could probably have been used to cause doom. But I’ve never heard of a curse associated with the artifact.
What about non-skull artifacts? Have you ever owned something that might’ve been possessed by a supernatural entity?
I don’t think so. I heard that Michael Jackson had a haunted cabinet. His wardrobe was essentially possessed by spirits.
Oh, come on!
No, it’s true. He thought it was haunted, and it really bothered him. He had to get rid of it. I don’t blame him. If I had something like that, I don’t think I’d want it around.
Didn’t you once live in a house in Hollywood that you thought was haunted by Mamas and the Papas singer Cass Elliot?
I’m pretty sure there were two spiritual presences in that house. Mama Cass herself, and then another guy, who died in the hillside next to the house and was buried there. As far as I know, his body is still buried in the hill.
Did you have encounters with either ghost?
I had several experiences. I saw things moving around on our counter, and doors opening and closing. The staff also had experiences, direct contact in terms of tactile touching, and then turning around and there’s no one there. Somebody crawled in bed with me once.
No, I think it was the other guy.
The dude buried in the hill?
That’s right. I was alone in the house and decided to take a nap. I closed the door to the bedroom but didn’t lock it. I woke up in this kind of trance, where you don’t know whether you’re sleeping or not. It’s what the abductee feels when he’s being taken. I saw the door open, and I rolled over and looked at the bed, and I saw the depression in the mattress, like somebody was getting in there.
And I thought, I’m just going to roll over and snuggle up next to it.
You spooned a ghost?
Yeah. Maybe that guy was gay and he wanted to have some fun. I’d be surprised if I was his type, but when you’re dead, you’ll take what you can get.
Have you ever had an encounter with a ghost and thought, That’s gotta be John Belushi?
Not a ghost, but I’ve had dreams about John. Dreams that felt like visitations. He’s appeared to me and given me advice and insights. Look, the survival of the consciousness after death is, well, to me it’s a certainty. There’s so much proof out there. There’s a bed and breakfast in South Carolina called the Myrtles. I have Polaroid pictures, taken of me by a friend, and there are clearly things swirling behind me, perfectly orb-like heads with hair and everything.
You said earlier that you want to leave this planet with aliens. No DNA evidence.
I hope not. There might be a residual ring where I’m picked up, but that’s all.
If you’re off somewhere with extraterrestrials, does that mean you won’t be able to come back as a ghost?
It does, I’m pretty sure. But I’m willing to give that up. You have to make choices.
The last time we talked to you, you gave us the whole scoop on the Ghostbusters sequel. I assume there hasn’t been progress since.
There’s nothing. But I’m still hopeful. When I’m called, I will be there to serve.
But Ghostbusters isn’t the only film you’ve done deserving of a sequel. When are we getting Doctor Detroit II: The Wrath of Mom?
That would be very unlikely. I don’t see that ever happening.
Well, we don’t have James Brown anymore. That’s one reason not to do it.
You don’t care about Doctor Detroit anymore?
Obviously it’s the most important movie of my career. It’s the one where I met my wife. It led to three kids and 30 years of marriage, so it’s a pretty important movie for me. But I don’t see Universal stepping up to that particular one.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, on Esquire.com.)