GUEST POST: That Time I Almost Met Anthony Bourdain

July 31, 2018

By Holler Dweller

[I’ve run few guest posts over the years, but this essay appeared in the comments today and it’s well worth reading. I found it spot-on with what we’ve all been feeling about Anthony Bourdain’s passing, so I had to share it. Karen]

Anthony Bourdain never knew me. Certainly no one reading this knows me and I could easily be labeled a “fan,” even a distraught fan, since the tragic event of June 8. But Bourdain’s death has affected me in ways a 52-year grown woman should not be affected. Let me tell you why.

I am one of those people Anthony defended in the West Virginia episode. No, I was not in the episode. No, I am not even from West Virginia. Kentucky. Yea, I know. Kentucky is even worse in the minds of the “civilized.” Yea, I go to church. Yea, I know Bourdain didn’t. Yet, he portrayed more Christianity than what is generally sitting in the pews on Sunday morning.

He gave us respect. A rare gift in our political climate. And we respected him back. But as much as I respected and admired Bourdain, his writing, his travels, just him…and after the West Virginia episode I loved him like a family member. No matter his supposed faults or failings, I believe he was a true moral human being that cared for the lives and situations of others. This was evident. And all the more hurtful to realize that he apparently felt the kind of loneliness and despondency that bears down on generations here in the Coal Belt, the Rust Belt and the Bible Belt. In this, he certainly had much in common with us. Probably more than he knew himself. Probably more than our labelers out there care to know.

I first saw Anthony Bourdain on a No Reservations episode at probably 2 a.m., as a rerun and during my own dance with darkness. I hadn’t tried to kill myself. Entirely, anyway. But I definitely was despondent. I definitely thought about it. Then after crying myself to sleep, waking in fitful screams, muffled by the inability to get a deep breath anyway, I got up to protect my sleeping husband. I took my Buspirone and turned on the TV.

I never watched cooking shows. Why? I didn’t care to eat. Food was just one more drudgery. Why bother? There I saw this lanky guy with a humorous cockiness, but not without merit, walking around speaking in a voice that was better to me than any counselor I had heard. He wasn’t judging anyone. He was sarcastic, witty, lyrical, hilarious and bone-chillingly accurate. He sliced and diced me with words. He was basically showing me that life was in the simple…in the good. In good food. In friends and family. In life. And suddenly…all of that was…good.

I listened to reruns for four hours and fell asleep to his lyrical prose and commentary. He made me want to be a writer. To do those things. Step out of my non-comfortable zone and actually taste those tomatoes, and garlic and wine. To travel to those places. To find that life…out there.

Instead of a deep dark pit, there was a horizon and, amazingly, I could faintly see it, vicariously through him. I can still see that darkened apartment room. That flickering screen at 2 a.m. Somewhere in one of the episodes, he was walking away from the camera, he looked back over his shoulder straight at me and smiled. He was daring me to try a different life. And I felt like I might. And then. I did.

After a few devastating personal trials, I went back to school. And I kept watching him. When I felt down I watched his shows till I felt that freedom of knowing again that you can choose your reaction to the world and things around you. And just like he would later state that eating a bad hamburger caused him days of serious depression, I found that eating at a new-found place, and traveling to get there, lifted me up out of that Appalachian miry clay.

I tasted food I had never considered, coming from the poor South, and often it and the camaraderie of family and friends, transported me safely away from those long tentacles of depression. My husband, my son and I would often try out new places and rate it on whether Bourdain would like it or not.

Later, when my son begin dealing with his own crippling depression and even drug abuse, Bourdain’s travels and wit encouraged him, too. Giving him a lifelong love of cooking and food that he has always come back to. A chef’s knife, inspired by the one Bourdain writes about in Kitchen Confidential is still my Veteran son’s prized possession. At times he has awoken to his own war- induced fever dreams and…we’ve watched Bourdain at 2 a.m. together.

In the last 20 years since those black periods of my young adulthood, I not only woke up but I rose up. An Appalachian kid with mostly no hope of having much of a life, went to college on a 1.5 GPA, after being told I couldn’t. I ended up with four degrees and multiple experiences of travel and food and new friends along the way. I became a “yuge” liberal to the consternation of people who’ve known me all my life. And even when I tell them it hasn’t changed me and that they are actually closet liberals, too, they just don’t know it, they shake their heads and I…go watch reruns of a guy who gets it. He really…got it.

So, in 2016 while traveling in my big-shot, out-of-the-holler-job, I found myself in the Houston airport. My husband and I are sitting there and I look up. And I see him. He’s doing that same long-legged, lanky-arms, swinging fast-walk. And the hair. And the attitude. I poke my husband. Catch him!

My husband goes running. I am walking as fast as I can behind and I lose sight of both in that sea of forgotten travelers. Finally, I see my husband heading back. He looks sorry as he knows I really…no REALLY…wanted to meet Bourdain.

So, we watch. He watches one way, I watch the other. Like anxious parents. Or possibly crazed Beatles fans from the ‘60s. Not sure what it must have looked like. It’s funny how much you can get to know a person from watching them on TV. And how a person’s walk and manner of holding themselves will let you know who it is, even when you can’t really see them yet. Our plane boarded. I took one last look over my shoulder and we were gone.

How I wish we had caught him. I don’t know what I would have said. I wouldn’t have wanted to bother him. But I would have wanted to let him know the influence he had on my life just because of his “cooking” and “traveling” show. His work was GOOD. He was doing so much GOOD. He himself…was GOOD.

As a liberal person of faith, I would love to tell him that he was gifted by God himself. I do believe that God used that long- ago night and his influence on taking a chance and living a different life as a significant part of my own journey getting back to sanity.

If one word of our meeting could have possibly put that reciprocal flicker of hope in Bourdain’s mind at his moment of desperation, I would have run the harder and screamed the louder through that throng of people like an Appalachian church-girl would never be allowed to do. And I would have proudly proclaimed he was beloved. If only.

May you be at peace. May you have the answers you were looking for. May you somehow know the GOOD that you did for people who can never tell you. And I believe that someday we may find you…by your walk…on those loftier streets.

Bourdain’s Ex-Girlfriend Keeps Stirring the Pot – Why?

July 25, 2018

By Karen

It’s been nearly seven weeks since Anthony Bourdain died by suicide on June 8 in Strasbourg, France, while filming an episode of Parts Unknown with his best friend, Eric Ripert.

A week later, Tony’s ashes were flown home and a small private funeral service was being planned for family and close friends. I haven’t seen other information on that, nor word of any public memorial, although murals and dinners and special menus to honor Bourdain have been spontaneously springing up at restaurants everywhere.

The family has been largely silent, except for occasional pings from Tony’s wife Ottavia here and there that indicate she’s keeping tabs on what’s being posted about him on social media.

It’s left a huge vacuum for Bourdain fans, who are still searching for answers. Yes, Tony talked about suicide over the years. Yes, he talked about feeling depressed sometimes. Yes, he looked tired and listless in the last Parts Unknown CNN aired.

Bourdain described in his book, Medium Raw, how he fantasized about ending his life during a visit to St. Martin after splitting from his first wife, Nancy, around 2005. At that time, his fame was budding, he wasn’t long out of debt, and he was childless. As he’d say in the intro to A Cook’s Tour, he “had nothing to lose.”

But he didn’t do it.

From then, his life seemed to take two steps forward for every step back until he was an internationally recognized voice for cultural tolerance who attracted an enormous following, as evidenced by worldwide outpourings of shock and grief at the news of his death.

We’re still asking why. Who may have influenced him? What sent him over the edge this time?

And into that void steps his former girlfriend, Asia Argento, 42, an Italian actress he’d been seeing since April 2016 and supporting in many ways.

Because you can Google the dirt, I’m going to skip her history with Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement and her previous relationships with men except one — Hugo Clement.

Since Bourdain’s death, Argento has been active on Twitter and Instagram, ping-ponging from sadness to jubilation to defiance and anger.

People magazine reproduced a photo Asia recently published of herself with Tony during his penultimate Parts Unknown shoot in Florence, taken May 27. This was the Sunday before Argento spent a weekend in Rome with Clement.

[NOTE: I’ll provide links to, but not post, recent photos of Argento because I simply don’t want her face on Cats Working.]

During Argento’s weekend with Clement, two different paparazzi, one in a bar and one in the streets, photographed the couple dancing, flirting, holding hands, hugging. They were seen in the lobby of the hotel where she often stayed with Bourdain.

The photos were published on Tuesday, June 5. By Friday morning, Bourdain was dead. This prompted a backlash against Argento for cheating, although she claimed through her proxy, Rose McGowan, that her romance with Tony was “open.”

People who seem to have been close to Bourdain but are remaining anonymous claim that after the paparazzi photos came out, Tony and Argento were frequently fighting by phone and interrupting the shoot in France.

Ten days after Bourdain’s death, the Daily Mail reported that Argento had posted on social media, “Life’s a bitch, and then you die.”

Three weeks after Tony’s death, the Daily Mail reported on Argento’s continuing grief process by publishing her series of latest “fuck you” messages and a nude selfie.

Now it’s nearly two months later, and Argento has shifted into full attack mode, as revealed by writer Leah McSweeney, who wrote on Instagram that she received an email from Asia’s attorney demanding that she take down her Penthouse opinion piece, “HOT LINES: Can We Talk About Toxic Femininity?”, and apologize to Argento.

Just within the past week, Argento took to Twitter to dispute the timeline of the French authorities. In the U.S., Bourdain was reportedly found hanging and unresponsive sometime early on Friday, June 8, after he failed to show up for breakfast with Ripert. (Keep in mind that France is 6 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast).

Argento’s tweet said:

She apparently got the date wrong because Tony was in a French morgue by 9 p.m. June 8, so she must have meant Thursday, June 7.

French authorities later added that Bourdain had alcohol in his system.

If her tweet is true, it would seem that Argento has shown her hand. She was in contact with Tony, who was probably drinking, as late as Thursday at 9 p.m., which might explain why he failed to show up for dinner with Ripert that night.

In an extensive interview Bourdain gave to Maria Bustillos of Popula in February 2018, he recalled an argument he’d had with Argento where she said things that hurt him deeply. He explained, “…we’re texting back and forth, ‘cause we only argue by text.”

That indicates he and Asia were texting that Thursday night. And now Tony’s brother Chris has his phone and everything that may still be on it. It remains to be seen if the rest of that story will ever come out.

The question is, why is Argento digging her hole even deeper as a contributing factor in Bourdain’s suicide? Is it an insatiable need for attention, good or bad? Or perhaps it’s because she’s unwilling to let go of the celebrity-by-association she gained from being with Anthony Bourdain, which has been reduced to a sad little footnote at the end of the last page of his life story.

I hope one day Bourdain’s family and friends will heal to the point where they can speak on the record and bring some closure to this loss by providing whatever facts they know about what happened. In the meantime, Argento can spin it whichever way she wants.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Earns 7 Emmy Noms

July 13, 2018

By Karen

Nominations for the 70th Annual Emmy Awards are in, and media outlets are getting the number wrong on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. I’ve been reading it garnered six nominations. But I pored through all 65 pages of noms and found SEVEN, and here they are. (For brevity’s sake, Bourdain’s listings are complete, but I’m dropping the boring details on the competition):

Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Lagos • CNN • CNN Original Series and Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.; Morgan Fallon, Director of Photography, Jerry Risius, Director of Photography, Tarik Hameedi, Director of Photography
  • Blue Planet II • The Deep • BBC America
  • Blue Planet II • One Ocean • BBC America
  • Chef’s Table • Corrado Assenza
  • Jane • National Geographic

Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Lagos • CNN • CNN Original Series and Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.; Hunter Gross, ACE, Editor
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 3 • HBO
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • Wild Wild Country • Part 3 • Netflix
  • The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling • HBO

Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series

  • Anthony Bourdain: Explore Parts Unknown • CNN ( • CNN, Roads & Kingdoms; Kate Kunath, Executive Producer, Joey Zadwarny, Producer
  • The Americans: The Final Season • FX Networks
  • The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story: America’s Obsessions • FX Networks
  • Jay Leno’s Garage • NBC (
  • Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen • Bravo (

Outstanding Informational Series or Special

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • CNN • CNN Original Series and Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.; Anthony Bourdain, Executive Producer/Host, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia and Sandra Zweig, Executive Producers, Morgan Fallon, Producer
  • Leah Remini: Scientology And The Aftermath • A&E
  • My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman • Netflix
  • StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson • National Geographic
  • Vice • HBO

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera)

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Seattle • CNN • CNN Original Series and Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.; Brian Bracken and Nick Brigden, Sound Editors
  • Blue Planet II • Coral Reefs • BBC America
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 1 • HBO
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • The Vietnam War • Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968) • PBS
  • Wild Wild Country • Part 1 • Netflix

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera)

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Lagos • CNN • CNN Original Series and Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.; Benny Mouthon, CAS, Re-Recording Mixer
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 1 • HBO
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • The Vietnam War • Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968) • PBS
  • Wild Wild Country • Part 1 • Netflix

The last nomination has special significance for me because I’ve said before that Bourdain was becoming the “Susan Lucci of the Emmy for Outstanding Writing” after repeatedly being nominated but passed over. My fingers are crossed he finally nails it this year.

Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Southern Italy • CNN • CNN Original Series and Zero Point Zero Production, Inc.; Anthony Bourdain, Written by
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 1 • HBO
  • Icarus • Netflix
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like • PBS
  • The Vietnam War • Episode 8: The History Of The World (April 1969-May 1970) • PBS

Asia Argento appears in this Southern Italy episode, but if I remember correctly, she was an extra in meal scenes more than a content contributor. Undoubtedly a generous Bourdain gesture to give her more exposure to U.S. audiences.

Although Tony said he considered it one of the highlights of his television career, the Parts Unknown episode in Hong Kong, presumably directed by Argento, did not make the cut for an Emmy.

The Emmy ceremony is Monday, September 17, on NBC.

AND: Yesterday, the LA Times recently ran an open letter to “anyone who loves Anthony Bourdain and what he stood for” asking us all to give Argento a pass on any role she may have played in his death. I only recognized four names among the signers, so I must admit I wasn’t terribly moved.

More Bits on Bourdain’s Last Months from WSJ

July 11, 2018

By Karen

Some new information about Anthony Bourdain’s last months has been out there in an extensive interview by Howie Kahn in the Wall Street Journal, but I only recently found it.

It was published online March 28 under the title, “Anthony Bourdain’s Globalist Mission.” (I got to view it once, then got blocked for not being a subscriber, so take your chances.)

A print version published in April was entitled, “The Man Who Ate It All.” These are the bits new to me that I gleaned from it.

Tony was living alone on the 64th floor in a Midtown Manhattan apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows providing views of the city and the Hudson River.

At 11:30 a.m., he was already drinking beer (and smoking). It must have been early January when Trump called African countries “shitholes” because Kahn described Tony’s January 17 appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as if he were there.

Parts Unknown was the highest rated cable news program in its time slot and nominated for 25 Emmys, with five wins.

Tony said, “Am I searching, am I seeking, am I always looking for something more? Yes! I do this for no other reason.”

He had hung photos of Fidel Castro and Iggy Pop on the walls, but his bedroom walls were bare. Perhaps that’s where he was planning to hang his newly acquired paintings from Jacques Pepin and “The Sky is Falling. I’m Learning to Live with It.”

Kahn wrote that Tony and Asia Argento “had fallen in love while shooting the Rome episode.” (April 2016) He goes on…

“In retrospect, it was also an extended first date, and one Bourdain thought was coming to an end too soon amid the fascist architecture. ‘It was a very sad scene,’ he says. ‘I think both of us thought it overwhelmingly likely that we would never see each other again.’”

If only.

The article said Tony’s marriage to Ottavia was ending, and by the time he met Argento, “he’d given up on the concept of romantic love. ‘I was dead,’ he says.”

This confirmed my belief that the affair began when he and Argento were together in Rome and served as an impetus for separating from Ottavia in September. (In December 2016, he drew up his will leaving the bulk of his estate to daughter Ariane.)

Tony also mentioned the book he was working on, described as…

“A collection of essays, many of which will touch on the theme of loneliness — will be more emotional than anything he’s ever attempted.”

Was it finished enough to publish? Will his co-author Laurie Woolever be able to finish it? Time will tell.

Tony said he was also trying to line up financing for a scripted TV project, but only revealed that each season of it would have taken place in different locales, like New York, Berlin and Tokyo.

The interview ended with Kahn asking Tony if he was ever exhausted and would like more balance in his life. Tony said…

“Too late for that. I think about it. I aspire to it. I feel guilty about it. I yearn for it. Balance? I f–cking wish.”

Tony added that he once told Ariane he might quit his job in a few years to spend more time with her, but she burst into tears, saying, “But Dada, your job is so interesting!”

This conversation may have happened around the time Tony told People magazine that he’d probably “die in the saddle.”

My takeaway is that Bourdain had wearied of his globe-trotting and wanted a way out but couldn’t find one. Argento gave him periodic breaks where he could stay still and be happy for a few days. But then she yanked those out from under him in the most public and humiliating way possible.

It leaves a conundrum for his fans. We loved his body of work and wanted it to keep growing, but it had stopped making him happy. The more we learn, the more his suicide seems to become the inevitable end of his life’s arc, rather than the tragedy of an impulsive moment.

Reader Morgan sent these two photos from Facebook of Tony and Ottavia in happier times, as I prefer to think of them…

PS: Last week I saw Drugstore Cowboy, the movie about a junkie couple that Bourdain always likened to his marriage to Nancy. Near the end, Matt Dillon (Tony) makes a speech that seems to explain Tony’s inexplicable, fatal attraction to Argento…

“Nobody, and I mean nobody, can talk a junkie out of using. You can talk to ‘em for years, but sooner or later they’re going to get hold of something. Maybe it’s not dope. Maybe it’s booze. Maybe it’s blue. Maybe it’s gasoline. Maybe it’s a gunshot to their head. But something, something to relieve the pressures of their everyday life, like having to tie their shoes.”

Whenever someone dies, their raison d’etre is instantly frozen in time. They can add nothing to their persona or philosophy of life. Those left behind can only dissect what the person ever did or said to form a conclusion about who they were and why they’re gone. We’ve reached that point with Bourdain, and he would hate it.

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