Anthony Bourdain probably filmed Parts Unknown season 12 Indonesia in April 2018, about the time his $200,000 payment went to Jimmy Bennett in hopes of killing Bennett’s claim that Tony’s then-girlfriend, Asia Argento, had sexually assaulted Bennett as a teenager.
Bourdain filmed one scene at a Bali resort surrounded by sunbathing and swimming tourists while he braved the heat in jeans, sipping an umbrella drink, mocking Wagyu beef sliders, and seeming to hate every minute.
Then a one-eyed man named Lawrence ferried Bourdain to a former penal island, where they shared an enormous lobster and talked about death. Tony says, “I’ve thought about, as one does, how do I want to go?”
Lawrence suggests, “You want them all to cry, don’t you?”
“No. Leave me in the jungle. I don’t want a party. ‘Reported dead.’ You know, what actually happens to my physical remains is of zero interest to me unless it can provide entertainment value. Throw me into a wood chipper and spray me into Harrods [London department store] at the middle of the rush hour. That would be pretty epic. I wouldn’t mind being remembered in that way.”
Two months later, Bourdain didn’t get his “epic” ending; he was cremated in France on June 13 and his ashes flown home to his brother Chris on June 15, ten days before what would have been Tony’s 62nd birthday.
But the rest of what he said is pretty spot-on. We know he killed himself by hanging with some alcohol in his system, but no suspicious drugs. Period.
“The family will likely have a small, private ceremony of some kind, said Gladys Bourdain, his mother. ‘He would want as little fuss as possible,’” she said.”
So, we still don’t know for sure. Many restaurants have been hosting special dinners in Bourdain’s memory, as on October 5 at Sardine in Madison, Wisconsin. It was ostensibly to honor Jacques Pepin, but when Pepin and his daughter Claudine arrived, they learned it was also a suicide prevention fundraiser.
Barring some new revelations in a CNN documentary and a biography scheduled for 2019 release, this could well be the end of the story. Except…
Tony’s ex-girlfriend, Asia Argento, used Trump’s well-known tactic of spreading lies by claiming “people are saying” to tearfully tell the Daily Mail details of a far-fetched tale about Tony’s death that she claims Rain Dove told her.
But, of course, Asia doesn’t believe it. Anything to paint herself as the victim.
As we’re watching Parts Unknown’s final episodes, it becomes clear Bourdain was increasingly preoccupied with death. Although Indonesia footage was edited posthumously with the benefit of hindsight, it includes THE most grisly scene I’ve ever seen on ANY Bourdain series, bar none. And I’m not talking about the whole pig roasting on a spit.
It’s a human funeral, beginning with a close-up of the deceased’s face as the body is being prepared for final rites. The public cremation includes the sight of the now-skinless, hairless blackening skull, fingers, joints and bones. Finally, the fragments and ashes are gathered into a cloth, several people wade into the nearby surf, and the remains are dumped into the water.
The cremation was supposed to be the mourners’ happy phase of the ceremony, and an off-screen voice explains…
“Time is circular. Death is but the beginning of another journey.”
One has to wonder if Tony believed that, and if those words came to mind in that hotel room in France, making what he was about to do seem not such a bad thing.
The episode ends with a bit of recycled voiceover (from Greece?), where Bourdain says…
“All stories should end on a beach. All the good ones do, anyway. Why should this one be any different?”
I wonder if it’s a clue for us that his family scattered his ashes in the Atlantic. I hope so. It seems fitting, considering how much time he spent living near it and flying over it.
PS: I started Bourdain’s last graphic novel, Hungry Ghosts, today. Stay tuned for a review. (So far, I’m impressed by its high-quality hardcover production for the amazing low price of $11.99.)