Dan Aykroyd doesn’t do retirement—at least, not yet.Getty Images
For starters, the actor and comic of “Saturday Night Live” and The Blues Brothers fame turned 60 this past July, so he’s not quite of pension check-collecting age. But even then, he’s got no reason to quit, since the occasional offers of work are still coming in: He just finished playing a supporting role in an upcoming HBO bio-pic about Liberace – he tackles the part of the piano legend’s manager — and he’s got plans to make the third installment in his beloved Ghostbusters franchise.
But that doesn’t mean Aykroyd hasn’t considered what he’d like to do in his later years. He’s been focusing most of his time and energy of late on building a successful vodka brand: Since its introduction in 2009, his Crystal Head vodka has gone from being a novelty to an established behind-the-bar presence, with more than three million bottles sold.
We caught up with Aykroyd at Cigar Aficionado’s annual Big Smoke event in New York – he was there promoting Crystal Head – to hear his thoughts on work, life and money in his later years.
On why he started Crystal Head: Aykroyd’s interest in the spirits world came about when he couldn’t find his favorite tequila brand – Patron – in his native Canada. So he decided to import it himself, and the experience led him into the vodka business. He founded Crystal Head with an idea of blending his interests in spirits in every sense of the word – the alcohol one, but also the paranormal one (crystal skulls have been revered in many cultures as a kind of other-worldly symbol).
But Aykroyd also saw the vodka brand as a way to build a solid financial future in later life, even if it entailed a degree of risk upfront. “I borrowed some capital from my daughters’ college funds, but I’ve paid them back,” he says. (He has three girls, and his oldest graduated from Harvard earlier this year.) Just as important: Investing in a business is a more meaningful way to make money, says Aykroyd: “I’m having fun. Rather than look at a portfolio of equities, it’s nice to be actually building value” with a company.
On his other investments and business interests: Aykroyd had a chunk of money in GE, but he says he sold the stock when it was at $40 (it closed Tuesday at $20.86). “That was a very good move,” he says with a smile. He’s also active with the House of Blues, the chain of music clubs, now part of the Live Nation empire; he helped found the chain with James Belushi and Paul Shaffer, among other blues-loving celebrities. (Aykroyd also hosts a nationally syndicated House of Blues radio show.)
And yes, he acts (and writes) when the film project seems like a good fit. Right now, he’s determined to get Ghostbusters 3 made, and Bill Murray, who appeared alongside him in the original move, has just announced he’ll be part of the new installment (he previously had said no to the opportunity). “I’ll be doing a lot more writing work” in the coming weeks, Aykroyd says.
On his diet: For Aykroyd, growing older means accepting a cruel reality: You can’t have the kind of breakfast you crave. “Let me tell you what I’m eating now: oatmeal, almond milk, raisins, walnuts and a sprinkling of cane sugar,” he says. And what would he like to eat? Aykroyd launches into a long list of morning favorites: bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, huevos rancheros, scones, maybe a beer (“a cold Canadian Labatt 50,” he specifies) and a Bloody Mary. “That’s the way we eat in Canada,” says Aykroyd.
On how hard he plans to work in the future: Despite his many endeavors, Aykroyd still considers himself semi-retired. Hey may not be appearing on a weekly TV show, but he is spending time on the aforementioned projects, especially promoting Crystal Head (by his count, he has made 128 appearances at retail venues in support of the brand). But Aykroyd isn’t opposed to slowing down further – eventually. “I love that word ‘retirement,’ I do,” he says.