Bourdain Loses the Thumb Ring — and What Else?

By Karen

I fear it’s the beginning of the end of Anthony Bourdain as we know him. He’s not-so-slowly morphing into Ward Cleaver* and he seems to be enjoying it.

His earring is long gone, replaced by a shiny new wedding band. Now he says his beloved thumb ring lies at the bottom of the Bosporus in Turkey because it has “outlived its usefulness.”

The only vow to change he hasn’t kept is to hang up his leather jacket.

To top it off, this week he’s phoning in a new episode of No Reservations from home base in New York, visiting ethnic restaurants in Manhattan’s surrounding boroughs. He was probably home in time every night to tuck in Ariane, and it must have felt good. Real good.

Lately, he’s been providing a lot of uncharacteristic glimpses into his personal life. I think he’s trying to prepare us for his retirement from TV by showing us he’s found an even better gig — husband and father.

But first, it looks like the Travel Channel intends to have Bourdain, Samantha Brown, Andrew Zimmern, and some other guy shilling a new Chase Sapphire credit card. They’ve been easing Bourdain into endorsements with an ad claiming he uses to make all his travel plans.

The buzz says that the Chase ads will be “interstitial.” Webster’s definition of that word makes absolutely no sense to me in this context, but it sounds like they may make Tony whip out a Chase Sapphire card to pay for things on the show.

I can see Brown and Zimmern effortlessly working it into their schtick, particularly Brown, who loves to shop. But somehow I can’t see Tony complying without some snarky comment, or at least a face. When has he ever paid for anything on NR, except that vintage Hawaiian shirt?

All these clues make me think Season 6 of No Reservations will be Bourdain’s last before he goes into perpetual rerun syndication. If it’s true that he and Ottavia are expecting another child (just a rumor!), I see his career headed toward writing, with occasional guest appearances here and there.

I’m OK with that. I’ll read anything he cares to publish for the rest of his life.

It’s been interesting to watch Bourdain’s evolution since his book, Kitchen Confidential, brought him fame, but our bad boy is growing up fast and we’ve got to be willing to let him move on.

On other fronts…

TV Junkie has proclaimed the Montana episode of NR “pure crap.”

Cats Working reader Adele tipped me off to Zimmern’s new show, Bizarre World, and Pressdemocrat makes a perceptive point about the title. I’ve only seen a clip from the premier episode in Cuba, but I think the show will cement Zimmern’s image as the quintessential Ugly American.

Tony’s producers, Zero Point Zero, are spreading their wings. Chris Collins and Lydia Tenaglia are also directing/producing Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth for WGBH in Boston for PBS. Perhaps they also see the end of No Res in sight?

And to keep Bourdain from getting a swelled head, The Faster Times shares how he has come to loathe Tony. He’d rather watch Adam Richman eat against the clock. Go figure.

* Ward Cleaver was America’s image of the perfect dad in the TV sitcom, Leave it to Beaver, which ran from 1957-63. Ward wore a suit and tie every day to an undisclosed high-paying occupation, while his stay-at-home wife June vacuumed the house wearing high heels and pearls, and neither of them ever yelled at or hit their two sons, Wallace and Theodore.

27 Responses to Bourdain Loses the Thumb Ring — and What Else?

  1. Bob says:

    Say it isn’t so…. I think if the Tony from 10 years ago ever ran into this marshmallow of a TV host he would beat him to the point of exhaustion with one of his own fry pans from Les Halles.

    Yes I understand that he is married and enjoying the autumn of his years with a hot young wife and child, Possibly Children??? But to loose the ring, K it may be getting tight from all the weight he has put on in recent years but you know they can re-size those things.

    I guess the writing may indeed be on the wall, Tony’s 15 minutes may be up. Long gone is his snarly devil may care attitude. It may be that the good life and the lack of black spaces on the map for him to visit have killed the Tony we knew and loved.

    RIP our friend. We can always put on “A Cooks Tour” if we really want to see you angry again.

  2. catsworking says:

    Bob, read Bourdain’s blog post. It’s all there. The thumb ring is gone. He even called it a health hazard, a haven for germs. Since when has he ever worried about germs? Talk about kicking the corpse.

    You make a good point about Original Tony probably wanting to kick the crap out of Today’s Tony. I think he would.

    Since he’s not cut out to act or do any more cooking, I don’t see any other niche for him on TV except travel and, as you said, he’s already hit most of the globe’s highlights. He dabbled in a talk format with that experiment “Around the Table,” and it didn’t go over well. Of course, the guests deserved a lot of the blame there.

    Writing is something he can always count on, and he can do it anywhere. He’s got to have oodles of material to be turned into memoirs or novels. And it’s a work-at-home gig.

    It would have been nice to freeze him as he was and enjoy him forever, but this is real life. He’s moving on. I know he’s been saying he’d like to travel and eat on someone else’s dime as long as they’ll let him. But I strongly suspect he’s had enough and he’s just making the 6th season to have a good package to sell in syndication. If the Travel Channel makes him flash a Chase Sapphire card, it will be just one more reason to bail.

    And he probably wants to go out while people still want more, rather than becoming a tired old cartoon of himself and getting canceled.

    I could be wrong about everything, but he keeps throwing out these little clues…

  3. Bob says:

    Well you know Karen your right, we can’t just stick Tony in a freezer and expect him to jump out all wild eyed and coked out.

    Like everyone he’s grown, he has the experience of years behind him, and a hot wife and beautiful daughter to boot. If the old Tony and the new Tony did meet on the street in some parallel universe. Maybe the old younger one would look on the older one with shock and Horror. Oh but the things the wiser one has seen since then, a divorce, single life, a wife and child.

    The world laid out before him in so many ways. Fame dare I say Culthood??? The young Tony would only gasp if he dare think of such things.

    So maybe his ring is at the bottom of the ocean, so what it’s still Tony, and oh what stories he has to tell…

    PS Buddy if your reading this, come to Winnipeg, we have Cold Beer and Wings!!!

  4. Adele says:

    Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I think Tony has one more season in him, after the one he’s filming now. He’s mentioned so many places he’d like to visit, and I think the Travel Channel will want to keep him around as long as possible and perhaps make it worth his financial while. We may miss the snark, but this is the first year the entire series has been nominated for an Emmy.

    I picture the last season as being one in which he’ll revisit some favorite places. Sort of a farewell tour. And then I hope he’ll get down to writing.

  5. boscodagama says:

    Hardly Ward Cleaver, he’s going for Leonard Cohen. At least according to the lady-wife.

  6. catsworking says:

    Adele, I hope you’re right. I’d like to see a 7th season myself, but I’m not holding my breath. Since the Travel Channel is up for grabs, who knows who his new masters will be, and what they will want? If it comes under the thumb of some young hotshots, they may opt to dump Grampa in favor of fresh goofballs. Tony’s got a lot of young fans now, but how much longer they’ll think he’s cool is debatable as he settles comfortably into being a middle-aged parent.

  7. catsworking says:

    Uh, OK, Bosco, if you say so. I’ll have to take your word for it. I am monumentally deaf to modern music and had to Google Leonard Cohen to find out who he is. None of his song titles rang a bell either, but he sounds quite a bit more serious than Bourdain probably every aspires to be.

  8. boscodagama says:

    It’s Tony’s current wistfulness, as in “wear my trousers rolled”. Dare he eat a peach?

    But Leonard Cohen, modern?

  9. Adele says:

    Bosco, I saw Leonard Cohen in March, and even though he’s in his 70’s, he held me in rapt attention throughout the 2 and 1/2 hour concert. Old, yes, but he still has an air about him that makes even his erotic songs sound plausible. I expect Leonard’s music is not exactly Tony’s cup of tea, but he’d appreciate the poetry “My friends are gone; My hair is grey, I ache in the places where I used to play.”

  10. catsworking says:

    Bosco, these days, I think he’d only eat a peach after gently stroking its soft fuzz against his cheek.

    I told you I know NOTHING about Cohen. He’s still performing, so I consider that modern, as opposed to Mozart, who hasn’t done a concert in years. What would you call him? A has-been?

    You’re right. Tony does seem to be going through a wistful phase, which only makes me think Ottavia IS pregnant and he’s contemplating having TWO kids. One kid you can drag around the world on a shoestring, but 2 gets to be a logistical nightmare. And if, as someone said here, they already know it’s a boy, he’s got that whole dynastic thing to think about.

    What I’m wondering is what made him decide to ditch the thumb ring in Turkey, of all places. I wonder if that will be included in the episode, or it was a personal moment. If it was filmed, I think he can expect some backlash for going soft.

  11. Bob says:

    Cobra to Mouser, Cobra to Mouser…
    The Package is Away.. Repeat
    The Package is Away..

    PS Leonard Cohen Rocks.

    There was a discussion about him a few topics back actually..

  12. catsworking says:

    Cobra, we read you. The Mouser is standing by…

    I’ve got to find out more about this Leonard Cohen guy. Seems I’ve been missing something.

  13. boscodagama says:

    The recent documentary on “Heavy” Leonard is pretty tedious. I couldn’t get through all of it.

  14. Bob says:

    Here’s a little primer on Leonard for ya

    And finally an Interview with the Master, Yes It is the same guy!!!

  15. catsworking says:

    Thanks, Bob! This is all very interesting. I like his lyrics. He’s not much of a singer, though he’s got a certain style about him. And from the interview, it looks like he’s grown pretty long in the tooth. Why have I never heard of this guy before?

  16. Joan Toast says:

    Yes…pleeease…time for Tony to fade away!

    There is not enough Botox in all of Arabia to erase who he really is.

  17. MorganLF says:

    Hold on. The guy getting older and copping to it do we have to hammer him?

    I can relate. I just gave my niece (age 21) many thousands of dollars of the bitchinest clothes in my closet. Leathers and fitted size 6 little black dresses, tight pencil skirts, tiny Chanel style black jackets, fabulous sequined mini dresses, wide lizard belts, stiletto booties, stiletto pumps, in short-all that is huge and “IN” this season.

    This hoard of fabulousness served me well when my hair waved down the middle of my back and I WAS a size 6. As I sobbingly gave up these treasures my niece asked me why I was doing so (it clearly pained me) and I told her the truth, that even if I got down to that size again I would look silly in them at my age.

    I guess he does not want to become a comic cipher, “aging bad boy” refusing to lose his trappings of cool. He is rightfully revolted by assholes like Fieri who is nothing more that a pudgy soft wannabe with no street chops and all the fake accouterments.

    Dude when was the last time you sold all your shit for dope money? As if some peroxide and tats make you bona fide, pleeeze!

    I like this Tony too; just read him and listen to him, he is still smart, funny and relevant.

    PS: Don’t know Leonard Cohen either but Bob I swear if you don’t stop shilling Winnipeg, I’m gonna start countering with my neighborhood we got beer and wings too!!

  18. Adele says:

    Morgan, you make a good point. There are few things sadder than an aging bad boy wanna be. Tony’s shows have been kind of flat lately, though. But I think that the format can really only go so far, and from here on out, he’ll require either some fabulous scenery, really interesting guests (those guys he was hanging with in Montana, for instance, didn’t add much), or some novel situation like this week’s “Meet the in-laws” show — which I eagerly await. At this point, I’d really like to see him do a PBS show, like Mario’s Spain show (but good). He could really get in depth with a place (France and Vietnam come immediately to mind) adding his unique point of view.

    Sounds like your niece scored the mother lode. You’re a good auntie. And regarding Leonard Cohen, he never had much of a voice, but the man can write. And even though he looks like somebody’s Jewish grandpa, he’s still damn sexy, if you ask me.

  19. boscodagama says:

    Heavy Leonard used to play in country western bands in Quebec before he was noted as a poet..

  20. catsworking says:

    Morgan, you make a good point. I’ve got some fabulous evening clothes hanging in my closet right now that used to knock ’em dead on cruise formal nights that 1) I can no longer get into and 2) would look silly on me anyway. I can’t even stand to go shopping for clothes now because everything that’s “age appropriate” in my size is so FUGLY. It’s extremely depressing, so I can imagine what Bourdain is going through, particularly with Ottavia and a toddler there to remind him every day that his youth is gone. I’d hate it.

    Thank you for admitting that you’ve never heard of Leonard Cohen either. Now there’s 2 of us.

  21. catsworking says:

    Adele, I’m with you on Leonard Cohen. I watched some of the old video Bob linked to, and I could have really gotten into him (Cohen, not Bob). Today, not so much. As you said, he looks like Grandpa.

    Well, I have seen My Winnipeg and I think it’s PERFECT for Bourdain. I could see him doing an episode of No Res up there in the same style.

    And Bob, what was with those horses getting frozen in the river trying to escape the fire? Did that REALLY happen?

  22. Bob says:

    Madden for his playfull way of depicting Winnipeg has pretty much stuck to the historical truth.

    Although I do not know the historical basis for that particular story it would not surprise me in the least that a team of fire horses could have gotten frozen in the river. Remember it OFTEN gets down to -40 here in the winter.

    Spit will actually freeze before it hits the ground at that temp.. Yet we still love our slurpees!!!

  23. Adele says:

    Bob, just remember, if My Winnepeg gets Tony to your fair city, it was I, who first suggested it as a perfect Bourdain film. That ought to at least get me an autograph.

    Karen, I completely forgot about the horse-sickels. That was very eerie.

  24. Bob says:

    IF and that’s a big IF. He actually even reads my appeal and somehow the clouds part and the hand of God himself delivers Tony to Winnipeg again I will do my level best to get everyone autographs..

    Thanks for the Idea though… If they are reading this.
    By now they must think we have gone loco in the melon.:P

  25. MorganLF says:

    Karen & Adele,
    I saw the early Cohen videos and he did look sorta hot, if you will, Bourdain hot.

    Karen the last thing I said to my niece after packing up the bags of loot, was “great all the ugly clothes left for me!” Geez I hate shopping for all the tailored age appropriate gear I am forced into! I think for the DC Food Fight venue I’ll just go burka…fosaking my dreams of fitting into my leather bustier and f’me pumps.

    Looking forward to Sardinia tonight.

    On a sadder note a cool dude I went to high school with, a real mad man with addiction issues who later in life cleaned up got married and became a fixture in the fight world died last night. Just got up from dinner and went to his den and dropped dead of a massive heart attack.

    He was the older, funny crazy man that was one of my friends first boyfriend. We used to make him drive us the the beach. I tripped for the first time in his bedroom listening to the Stones, later we all went to a park and communed with nature, then I went home and had dinner with my family!

    He was a funny, sardonic bastard and he’ll be missed; he was 58.

    Don’t mean this as a downer just a place to say so long. If I know Dennis he’s puffing furiously on a Marlboro and laughing about the time he pushed me in the mud.

  26. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I’m so sorry to hear about Dennis. Last year I found the obituary of my first long-term boyfriend in the paper. He was 69 (we were a May-December item at the time) and he’d never gotten married. He asked me once, and I turned him down.

    When the old beaus start dying off, it gets your attention.

  27. MorganLF says:

    Thanks Cats, I went to the wake today, sad and weird. He had obits posted all over ESPN and was well regarded in the boxing world.
    The obligatory collages of pictures were all over, lots of memories of days gone by, and yes I shed a tear.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had an ex pass away, must be a freaky feeling.

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