Bourdain News: Sad and Happy

January 14, 2020

By Karen

I just learned that Anthony Bourdain’s brother Chris has announced the death of their 85-year-old mother Gladys on Friday, January 10, 2020, in hospice in the Bronx. The New York Times just reported it this afternoon.

(If you’re not an NYT subscriber, you may be able to open a free account to get to the article. That’s how I got all the NYT links in this post.)

Chris said Gladys had been in failing health for some time.

She worked at the NYT as an editor from 1984 to 2008, and wrote articles for it and other publications on the side. Back in 1978, she had a profile of Julia Child published in the NYT after visiting Child in Southern France. That was the year Tony graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, but I don’t know if he accompanied his parents on that trip to France, possibly as a graduation present?

Her obituary credits Gladys as the force behind Tony getting the career-launching article published in The New Yorker that led to his book deal for Kitchen Confidential. She happened to know the wife of The New Yorker’s new editor, who had been an NYT reporter, and Gladys vouched that Tony’s work was good enough for the woman to show to her husband.

The article was published and the rest, as they say, is history.

Gladys was born in 1934 and married Pierre Bourdain in 1954, a year after he got out of the Army. Tony was born in 1956.

Gladys’ obituary says she separated from Pierre in 1980 (Tony would have been about 24). Whether they ever divorced, I don’t know.

When Pierre died in 1987 at age 57, his obituary made no mention of Gladys.

Gladys died with Tony’s name tattooed on her wrist — her only tat.

Now for the happy news…

Minutes before I saw the sad news about Gladys, I read that that Bourdain’s co-author Laurie Woolever has finished one of the books they were working on before he died. It’s called World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, and will go on sale October 13. It’s available for preorder on Amazon.


Cats Working Shares Christmas Wishes

December 24, 2019

By Karen

Tony’s been with us for eight weeks, and he’s made himself at home. I often catch Max and Roc gossiping about the new kid behind his back…

The big boys are also not above tag teaming the little guy when they think they can get the best of him — but they never do. Tony always finds a way out…

I’ve found that having a cat named Tony Bourdain to supervise my cooking is almost like having the human still with us. That is, if Anthony Bourdain ever had big paws and no thumbs, a super-long tail he swished through all the food, and a terrible habit of leaping onto the counters.

At Thanksgiving, Tony didn’t let my cranberry relish go into the oven until he made sure I’d used enough sugar….

Like his namesake, my Tony also loves French cuisine, never above trying to steal my breakfast croissants…

We’re having a low-key Christmas this year, but Max and Roc are excited and have been filling Tony’s ears with tales of what’s in store because this is his first one. They’ve got him a little freaked out by the thought of a giant kitty coming down our chimney…

Because Christmas got crammed in so tight with Thanksgiving this year, I didn’t put up the big tree with all the cat ornaments, so the kitties have been making do with our little fiber optic tree…

Roc enjoys hanging out with the tree during the day — whenever he can snag Max’s rocker unoccupied…

…Like when Max goes off to play Elf on the Shelf. Here he is, taking pointers on from Fred Astaire on how to be a debonair spy…

Now it’s Christmas Eve. The boys have all paws crossed that they’ve been good enough to earn a visit from Santa Kitty. They hope to find their stockings filled with toys and treats in the morning. We hung Adele’s stocking one more time because she’s our Christmas angel this year…

The extra things hung by Adele’s and Tony’s stockings are the 2019 Fancy Feast ornaments, which I’ve been collecting since the 1980s. They sent two this time, so it seemed they naturally should go to the kitty who left us and the kitty starting his new life with us.

All of us Cats Working wish you and yours a very happy holiday season, no matter where, how, or when you celebrate it. And thank you for sticking with us even when it’s a long stretch between posts.


Cats Working Welcomes “The New Kid”

November 17, 2019

By Max and Roc

Roc: Since we lost Adele on September 12, I’ve made Max’s life hell. I didn’t realize how much I depended on Adele for company, even though I annoyed the shit out of her most of the time. Max was taking the brunt of my frustration and loneliness.

Max: Karen was devastated to lose Adele, who’d been here over a decade before I ever showed up, which was the very day after Adele lost her BFF Yul to kidney failure. I think she wrongly connected dots on those two events and always blamed me for Yul’s departure.

It was hard to live as Adele’s prey. Once she was gone, I finally felt free and loved it. Then Roc started hounding me constantly to wrestle, which we haven’t done since he was tiny and couldn’t beat me.

Roc: Karen put up with our scrapping for about six weeks before she found me a new friend going by the name Kappa, but whom we’ll call “The Kid” for now…

Max: The Kid and one brother were six weeks old and half dead when they were brought from Northern Virginia to the Richmond Animal League. There was no info on what happened to their mother. The Kid was malnourished, dehydrated, underweight, had ear mites, an upper respiratory infection and a heart murmur. The works.

RAL got him better and neutered him before placing him in a couple of foster homes. Then blood started coming out of his butt for no reason they could find.

Karen had hoped for a younger kitten; this one was nearly five months old now and on the verge of becoming a hard-to-place teen. But he was extroverted like Roc, so Karen decided he deserved a shot at a better life.

Karen had the Man Cave upstairs equipped for the slow introduction new cats are supposed to get. But once in the front door, The Kid shot out of his carrier and explored every inch of the house while Roc and I sat there going “WTF?” The Kid even ventured out on the beams!

To impress on you how dangerous this is, here’s our living room. For us big cats, it’s routine to leap from the beams to the kitty perch or the bookcases. It’s an Evil Knievel move for a kitten. (The Kid did fall off the middle beam soon after, but miraculously missed the furniture on the way down and didn’t miss a beat.)

Roc: The Kid and I were hanging out and playing within an hour of his arrival…

Max: With the heat off me, I could watch those two knuckleheads roughhouse from my comfy chair…

Roc: The Kid did spend his first night in the Man Cave just to calm him down. I spent the night camped outside his door to make sure he was OK. Who could resist this face?

Max: The next day, he wasted no time checking out Karen’s desk, where he learned how fascinating a cursor can be…

Roc: He jumped right in helping us keep tabs on the neighborhood from the big kitchen window…

Max: I even let him help me with squirrel patrol on the deck…

Roc: It was nice to have company at meals again…

We were getting along great, but I’ll admit I was surprised when The Kid followed me into the “locker room” to watch me do my “business!”

Max: Halloween night, Karen let him try a little ‘nip. I think he liked it…

Then we all joined him on the kitchen table to get in on the action…

Roc: The Kid soon revealed an intense interest in all things culinary. Karen can’t keep him off the counter. He has no fear whatsoever of the stove, on or off…

The Kid’s first Sunday, Karen made a big pot of chili, which he had to inspect…

He was also desperate to try her homemade beer bread. That’s right. Beer…

Max: The Kid can devour a 5.5 oz. can of Friskies Shreds in about two minutes (which means stealing Roc’s half). Karen hasn’t had a plate of food he hasn’t attacked since he got here. This morning he went after her breakfast…

I know it looks like a puke on a plate, but Karen said it was Potatoes O’Brien with a couple of eggs thrown in and it was delicious.

Roc: After breakfast, The Kid stole Max’s food (Max eccentrically eats in a mine field of Karen’s junk, the coffee table)…

Max: Karen bought The Kid “Da Bee,” a stick toy which was his favorite in his second foster home. He’s already on his second bee after demolishing the first one. This is Karen’s attempt to capture him playing cute with it…

She also tried for a nice portrait of him, but he preferred to look like he’s in Witness Protection…

Roc: He’s claimed the late Cole’s favorite teddy bear. The teddy seems happy to have a kitty again…

Max: The Kid’s got salt-and-pepper fur, a long, lanky physique, a daring and adventurous spirit, and a love of the kitchen, booze and cuisines feline and human, so we’ve named him…

Tony Bourdain


Democrats Need to Talk Straight About Health Care

October 16, 2019

By Karen

Though I no longer have a dog in this fight because this month I finally got to enroll in Medicare, my hair still ignites when I hear the Democratic presidential candidates misleading us — whether in ignorance or intentionally, I don’t know — about how to reform health care.

If you’re confused about Medicare for All (a.k.a. “universal coverage”), let me explain the jargon…

Insurance – The crux of the problem. Candidates say “insurance” and “health care” interchangeably, but they’re totally different. Insurance is a piece of paper. Health care is visiting a doctor. The company who sold you the paper may not pay for your doctor’s visit.

Private Insurance – Candidates say this to mean insurance individuals buy for themselves AND insurance that employers provide for workers. Again, two completely different things. When dissing Medicare for All, candidates say, “People don’t want to lose private insurance they love.”

NOBODY loves true private (individual) insurance. It’s expensive because insurers cherry-pick and jack premiums based on age and health. It often has a high deductible, it can be canceled without warning when you get sick, and it can pay little to nothing on claims.

Employer-provided insurance is controlled solely by employers, who can change it, cancel it, or shift its cost onto workers. If you quit or get laid off or fired, you lose that insurance.

To control costs, both types of private insurance may lock you into “provider networks.” You see the doctors the insurer wants you to see, or go elsewhere and pay most or all of those medical bills yourself.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) a.k.a. Obamacare –Obama and Biden managed to pass this in 2010 over Republicans’ dead bodies for people who can’t get employer-provided insurance. It has an online marketplace a.k.a. “the exchange,” where you can buy insurance. Because the ACA didn’t go live until 2014, insurers spent four years royally screwing people (like me) who already had individual insurance by raising premiums astronomically.

ACA insurers on the exchange offer no discounts (see “Subsidies” below). Policies available on the exchange depend on which insurers do business in your area. It’s totally up to the insurers. There may several, one, or none.

Subsidies – Insurance premiums under the ACA are cheaper for people with low incomes because the federal government shovels billions of dollars in subsidies to insurers to make up the difference and keep them profitable.

Public option – Today, the ACA offers insurance only through insurance companies. The proposed “public option” is insurance provided by the government. The easiest way to have that option is to let people under age 65 enroll in Medicare.

Single-payer system – This would create a central federal billing and payment hub (think Medicare) that doctors would bill for providing health care for all Americans (universal coverage). There would be no paperwork for patients and it would have no co-pays, no deductibles, and no surprise bills. England, France, Canada, all of Scandinavia, and many other countries do health care this way because it’s more efficient and cheaper.

Medicare for All – The universal, single-payer system that eliminates insurance and pays for all Americans to receive health care from birth to death.

Here’s where some of the Democratic candidates stood in last night’s debate…

Joe Biden wants to keep the ACA and add the public option. Problem: insurance companies continue getting billions in federal subsidies that could otherwise pay for actual health care.

Pete Buttigieg wants “Medicare for All Who Want It.” He says people should keep private insurance if they like, which is bullshit if it’s employer-provided. He wants to keep subsidies to control costs, still shoveling taxpayer money to insurers to keep their profits up instead of paying for actual health care.

Amy Klobuchar wants to reduce premiums. She thinks punishing Big Pharma will do that. Insurance and drugs are separate industries; they have nothing to do with each other. The only overlap is when your insurance doesn’t cover your drugs and you have to pay full price.

This morning on Morning Joe, Klobuchar complained about Medicare for All kicking “149 million people off of their private insurance.” She’s another one confused about employer-provided insurance that workers have no control over.

Elizabeth Warren wants Medicare for All, but must be unsure of the numbers because she won’t say how she’d pay for it.

The ONLY candidate who fully understands the problem and how to fix it — because he “wrote the damn bill” — is Bernie Sanders. Under his plan…

No American will need health insurance. Instead, we’ll channel what we now spend on premiums, co-pays, deductibles AND surprise health care bills into one system.

A single, centralized billing and payment system will drastically cut administrative overhead and expense for the entire health care industry. This federal system will also have clout to negotiate lower rates for health care services.

You can go to any doctor. Networks won’t exist.

Not a penny from taxpayers will be wasted on subsidies to boost insurance company profits.

I believe, with Bernie, that not only will we all come out ahead financially, but no one will have to go bankrupt from disease or illness.

Check out this publication from the White House from March 2018 called The Profitability of Health Insurance Companies. It says insurance companies have done just dandy since the ACA took effect (emphasis mine)…

“As government policy amplified eligibility and per-enrollee spending, the stock prices of health insurance companies rose by 172 percent from January 2014 to 2018 resulting in improved profitability and outperforming the S&P 500 by 106 percentage points.”

And its conclusion says…

“Despite an initial rough patch in the ACA marketplaces, the ACA Medicaid coverage expansion and subsidies to insurers have resulted in a large increase in health insurer profits. Health insurers’ stock prices more than doubled the impressive gain in the S&P 500 since the law’s main provisions took effect on January 1, 2014. Much of insurers’ increased profitability has resulted from increased Medicaid enrollment and increased payments per enrollee in Medicaid expansion states where the federal government pays nearly all the costs. While insurers initially incurred losses in the ACA marketplaces as they adjusted to new regulations and a relatively unhealthy risk pool, insurers are now profiting on the individual market as well, with higher premiums that are largely covered by federal premium subsidies.

Bottom line: Any candidate, Democratic or Republican, who talks about subsidies, or even insurance, is for squandering our taxes to keep the biggest obstacle to health care — insurance companies — profitable.


Anthony Bourdain Auction: More Information

September 18, 2019

By Karen

OCTOBER 3 UPDATE: You can now preview photos of everything up for auction and see opening bids at iGavelAuctions.

Two hundred-fifteen items from Anthony Bourdain’s estate will be auctioned online October 9-30 by Lark Mason Associates on their website, iGavelAuctions. Items may be previewed beginning October 2.

People.com reproduced many of the photos The New York Times (subscription only) ran of some items believed to be most grabby for Bourdain’s fans, including his writing desk, a jacket he was given by the Navy when he was rescued from Beirut in 2006, and a chef’s knife made especially for him in South America in 2016.

During the auction period, Lark Mason will have some of the items on exhibit in the firm’s offices in New York; New Braunfels, Texas; and Savannah, Georgia.

It’s being widely reported that 40% of the proceeds will fund the Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship at his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America. Barron’s added that this honor was established “in partnership with chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés in June.”

The remainder of the proceeds will go to Bourdain’s estate.

Lark Mason estimates the market value of the items to be between $200,000 and $400,000. I personally think we’re looking at a sale that will easily fetch seven figures.

I’ve learned from a trusted source that many of the items were selected because Bourdain acquired them after he separated from his wife Ottavia in 2016. They have little sentimental value for his family nor associations with his life as a husband and father.

The item that stands out to me is the creepy painting Tony bought a week before he died titled, The sky is falling. I am learning to live with it, by John Lurie.

Tony visited the artist at his home for the Lower East Side New York episode, which was the last aired Parts Unknown. Lurie made Tony two hard-boiled eggs. Tony’s assistant Laurie Woolever revealed to the NYT that Tony paid $19,000 for that painting.

Here’s the brief list of items with estimated values the iGavel site provides…

  • Brad Phillips (Canadian), Cristine and Me as Still-Life, oil on canvas, 2016 ($2,000-$4,000)
  • John Lurie (American, b. 1952), This Party Sucks, watercolor on paper ($1,000-$2,000)
  • Peter Lovig Nielsen teak flip-top desk, Denmark, 20th century ($800-$1,200)
  • Custom Bob Kramer steel and meteorite chef’s knife ($4,000-$6,000)
  • Chrome duck press from the Paris episode of The Layover ($200-$300)
  • Vietnamese blue-and-white ceramic tall bottle form vase, with cover ($250-$450)
  • Original typed manuscript or early draft for A Bone in the Throat ($700-$1,000)
  • Simpsons script for Bourdain episode, “The Food Wife,” with signed inscriptions to Bourdain ($800-$1200)

I have been able to obtain another partial, but more extensive, list. Here are some small items Cats Working readers might be interested in bidding on…

  • White chef jacket
  • Zippo lighter engraved, “No Reputations. Desert Special 2011”
  • Art pottery ceramic green umbrella stand
  • Framed photo and note from Billy Joel to Bourdain, dated 2005
  • Molded glass ceiling light fixture
  • Two dark blue ceramic lamps

Art will figure prominently. The titles of works Bourdain collected say a lot. Here are more…

  • Phillips, Eat, Pray, Get the Fuck Out, watercolor on paper
    • Tan Lines in March, watercolor on paper, 2013
    • Just Jumping, oil on canvas
  • Lurie, The Judge was hypnotized by alcohol, jet print on rag paper
  • Ralph Steadman (British, b. 1936), Rats in the Kitchen, artist’s proof inscribed to Bourdain, 2009
    • Hunter S. Thompson, Twisted Meat Artist, artist’s proof
    • The Brain of Hunter Thompson, silkscreen, artist’s proof
  • Etching, Street View from Saigon, and a print of Angkor Wat Ruin
  • Les Ruines d’Angkor, Indochine, modern
  • African carved wood and metal ritual figure, Congo
  • Nepalese carved and lacquered wood mask, and a Tibetan silver decorated animal skull

There’s also some furniture, ostensibly from his last apartment in the Time Warner Center because the pieces are all dated 2016, including…

  • Shell Lake Woodcrafters Sap soft maple black shelf or media center
  • Stickley Mission Style one drawer nightstand
  • Stickley tall bookcase

And a wood vanity with drawers and mirror, a tall mahogany dresser, a walnut credenza, and a small red and black low table.

My list also has seven sets of cuff links and three watches, including a Rolex and a pocket watch.

I’m told this is by no means the entirety of Anthony Bourdain’s possessions, regardless of media reports about how sparingly he collected things. The bulk of his belongings are still in his estate’s custody.

However, what the family is parting with will allow future culinary students to travel and study abroad and give Bourdain’s fans who wish to do so an opportunity to purchase material things that he touched and which touched his life.


Cats Working Says Good-Bye to Adele

September 16, 2019

By Karen

I’m deeply saddened to report that Adele passed away on Thursday, September 12. She was 19 years and 5 months old, the last of the original Cats Working team who inspired my book, How to Work Like a CAT.

Without missing a beat in her routine until the very end, Adele became yet another victim of chronic renal failure, which she lived with for over two years. In her lifetime, she watched four “brothers” who were her world also succumb to CRF — Rex, Fred, Yul, and Cole.

Adele and Yul

This past spring, Adele also began developing a tumor on her neck. It didn’t hurt or bother her and seemed comparatively the least of her ailments, so she didn’t undergo any aggressive diagnosis or treatment for it.

Cole and Adele

Adele drove the daily agenda around here until her days slowly became more bad than good. When most foods lost their appeal (and we tried them ALL) and her meds weren’t helping, and even sleep didn’t bring much relief, we knew it was time to let her go while she still had her dignity. Her death was very peaceful.

Max and Roc are adjusting like a couple of rebels without causes to the newly quiet house and Adele’s empty favorite spots. They’re facing life for the first time since kittenhood without their etiquette coach and disciplinarian. They are better cats thanks to Adele’s tough love.

Max and Adele shared a bed

I’m missing my Delly so much, feeling the weight of accumulated grief from losing another decades-long companion to a scourge of epidemic proportions that veterinary medicine inexplicably seems to NEVER make any headway against. It’s taken me days to bring myself to write this and I’m in tears as I type.

Roc and Adele


Book Review – Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview

September 9, 2019

By Karen

I read The Last Interview, a 109-page trade paperback, in two sittings over the weekend. I believe it’s the 23rd installment in a series about deceased writers, musicians and celebrities.

It begins with an introduction by food writer Helen Rosner about how she discovered Bourdain and eventually got to know him personally. They were in touch right up to his death, and she never got to respond to his last note.

It’s unclear if she selected the seven interviews in the book, arranged chronologically from 2003, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, January 2018, and finally June 3, 2018, the last Sunday he was alive.

Quick digression on production quality. This book isn’t going to age well in your Bourdain collection. It’s printed on that coarse, cheap paper that yellows. And I wonder about the editing. Some chapters are transcripts of live appearances, and I was surprised to find typos like “Namimbia” and “Columbia” (the latter misspelled four times).

During a 2011 appearance in Sydney, Tony said about his daughter Ariane, “I don’t want her reading terrible shit about me on the internet, behaving badly toward women, for instance. I’m not going to do that.”

I just shook my head, thinking, “No, Tony, you did something much, much worse.”

As a Bourdain watcher since 2007, I didn’t really learn anything new about him here. The most notable bit for me was when Tony mentioned in his 2013 interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson the Roman condiment garam. He described it as “essentially rotten fish guts and rotten fish sauce,” and said it was as ubiquitous a seasoning in Europe as salt is to us. If he’s ever mentioned garam on TV, I missed it, and it was another example of his encyclopedic mind.

January 2018 is a transcript of Bourdain on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. That might have been the last time I saw Tony alive in real time. He seemed in good spirits, saying, “I’m an enthusiastic son of a bitch.”

In hindsight, we know he was then embroiled in trying to extricate his girlfriend Asia Argento from charges of allegedly raping a 17-year-old boy. You may refresh on the timeline of that in this archived post.

The last chapter is an interview with IndieWire, which was published on June 3, a Sunday. Parts Unknown Hong Kong first aired on CNN that night. It was also the weekend Argento cavorted around Rome for the paparazzi with Hugo Clement.

Obviously unaware he was being betrayed as he spoke, Tony raved about working with Argento on Hong Kong, which she supposedly directed. “My god, I’d love nothing more than to repeat the experience. She made it incredible.”

In other interviews, he’d called that shoot some of his best work. It’s become one of CNN’s “lost” episodes because they no longer rerun any Parts Unknown Argento was involved with.

Bourdain went on about Argento: “She listens to my advice and frequently if not most of the time, rejects it. That is something Asia cannot help but do. She is brutally honest about herself and anything, and it’s a great quality.”

I just about gagged on that paragraph. And when I turned the page and realized that was the last line in the book, my jaw dropped. It felt like the editor deliberately left readers to wonder, was Bourdain really that deluded or just lying? We still don’t know.

You can read that particular interview at IndieWire.

On Tuesday, June 5, Bourdain, while filming in France, would see the photos of Argento with Hugo. We’ve heard only unverified stories about arguments, and Eric Ripert told Tony’s mother Tony had been in a “dark mood,”

On Friday, June 8, Ripert found Tony dead in his hotel room of apparent suicide.

Personally, for the foreseeable future I’ll buy any book about or by Bourdain. Fingers crossed he left something more to publish. But I’d say go ahead if you want to give The Last Interview a miss. Reams of more illuminating interviews are available online.

For example, I was surprised that “Bourdain Confidential” in Popula from February 2018 with Maria Bustillos wasn’t included.

Or even better, you can just reread the books Bourdain wrote before his life took that last fatal turn.


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