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:
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.