Unauthorized Bourdain Bio Coming Oct. 11

By Karen

Since my last post about Max’s winter retreat is picking up Bourdain buzz comments about an upcoming book by Charles Leerhsen called Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain, due out October 11, I’m doing this post to give us somewhere to post any further comments or intel.

I first wrote about this book with some details on Leerhsen back in April.

The New York Times this week published brief excerpts (may require a subscription to access). It must have given Leerhsen such a nice bump that Amazon is already tagging the book a “Best Seller.” In the article, Leerhsen says both Ottavia and Nancy (Tony’s wives) were cooperative.

The Bourdain estate (i.e., Ottavia as executor) apparently has no objections to the book, but Tony’s brother Chris tried a few times without success to stop publication until inaccuracies he cited were corrected. No word on Nancy’s opinion of it.

We shall see how accurate we find it when we read it.

Print and online publications have picked up the Times piece and rehashed their own versions without adding new content.

However, reader feijicha found a story in People magazine that has a bit more.

And here’s an article in Bon Appétit with some fresh information.

If Leerhsen is on the level, this book would answer many questions we’ve hashed out here for over four years. It includes material I’ve always said must have been on Bourdain’s electronics when he died — namely, texts with the girlfriend (whom we don’t name because she probably Googles herself).

Those texts could have only come from Ottavia, since Chris objects to the book.

I’ve hoped someone on Tony’s side would finally expose the girlfriend’s culpability, and if this book credibly does that, great. And, Ottavia, well played.

Eric Ripert, surprisingly, was one of few in Tony’s circle who actually spoke to the Times about the book, which he’s read. He said it contains many inaccuracies, as well as details he told to only a few people.

One ghoulish note: As research, Leerhsen and his wife traveled to France and stayed in the hotel room where Tony died.

I’m going to leave it there for now. I’ve reached out to Leerhsen twice this week (via Instagram and his website) asking for a Cats Working interview after I’ve read the book, but have had no reply so far. Stay tuned…

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38 Responses to Unauthorized Bourdain Bio Coming Oct. 11

  1. bassgirl23 says:

    AA’s instagram story today has a picture of (presumably her) wearing a shirt with an image of a guy weightlifting and making a face, and she’s captioned it “stop busting my balls”. Which is apparently a direct quote from one of her last text exchanges with Tony.

    I think you’re right – if Ottavia is the only one who had the ability to release the texts, she’s done so to let the world know exactly what kind of person AA was and is.

  2. catsworking says:

    bassgirl, it’s so cute how the skank likes to communicate with messages on her clothes, like a kid or a Trump supporter.

    Remember, after she must have sent that last text about her balls to Tony, she posted a picture of herself (on Instagram, I think) in a T-shirt that said something like “Fuck You” and wrote in “And you know who you are.” As soon as word of his death broke, she deleted that and became the hysterical “widow” who was bereft without her “rock.”

    Skank just had a birthday. She’s 47 but still no smarter/classier than the day he plucked her out of D-list obscurity.

  3. Donna says:

    Yeah, I’m going to read it. I have a feeling that the inaccuracies are very few. If AB’s wives are cooperating,the gory dark details are mostly accurate. Who would know better than the women he put through the ringer?

  4. feijicha says:

    the Bon Apetit article says about the book: “publisher Simon & Schuster has described as “definitely unauthorized,” ”

    It also says that while his brother has objected, “Leerhsen told the Times that “the estate has not objected, and I don’t anticipate any objections” regarding his surfacing the material from Bourdain’s laptop.”

    It then says “Former colleagues and line cooks declined interviews, in part because Bourdain’s former agent Kim Witherspoon allegedly asked them not to speak with the author”

    So it’s not clear who the 80 or so interviews the author claims he did were with.

    If there are details that Eric only told a few people (presumably how he listened thru the wall to see if he could hear Tony, among other things), well, that would make it easier for him to identify possible sources.

  5. MorganLF says:

    Im sick of her. Shame on him for being played like a chump,we all assumed he was smarter than that…and for such a stink pig…

  6. Bob says:

    Like you I have been dreading this muckrakers book on Tony. Anyone who follows him half seriously already knows of his flaws and what issues plagued him till the end. No need to poke the bear except for for cash.

  7. Bonnie C. says:

    I’m actually looking forward to reading this, just as I have all of Bourdain’s books – the ones written by him as well as the ones written about him. I think it’s easy enough to determine what “is” & “isn’t”, & I think that everything has its part in painting a thorough & well-rounded picture of the man – good &/or bad.

  8. catsworking says:

    feijicha, the only way he could have gotten to the texts was through Ottavia, since Chris clearly has issues with the book. Ottavia has always been on top of squelching anything shady concerning Bourdain, but she’s silent about the book. Tacit approval.

    What concerns me most about Leerhsen’s sources is that he foraged for people outside Bourdain’s circle who, he says, felt “left behind by the Tony train.” So, I expect to see more bad than good, including some spite.

    But in the end, the whole purpose of the book (for Bourdain’s estate) might be to expose the skank for the nasty piece of work she is. If Leerhsen has the deets on her machinations and manipulation of Tony for her own gain, he’s done well.

  9. catsworking says:

    There’s no low that thing won’t stoop to, to draw attention to herself. Her Instagram content is that of a promiscuous, depraved lunatic. The fact that she hasn’t been in any relationship with a man for any appreciable length of time says more about her than the men who take their turn on her.

  10. catsworking says:

    Bob, the muckrakers were out there almost as soon as Bourdain died. It takes some searching because they’ve dropped way back on the list, but there are still several broken English self-published books about him for sale on Amazon the last time I checked.

  11. catsworking says:

    Bonnie, I’ve got all his books as well. The one I had the hardest time getting was “Typhoid Mary.” The last time I saw Tony in person, I asked him to autograph it, which must make it very rare now.

    I’ve also got all the books written about him, except for the ones I mentioned to Bob that were written by crackpots who didn’t do their homework.

  12. YourMomsHouse says:

    From a recent LA Times article where the author responded to recent criticism.

    “Bourdain’s brother, Christopher, called the book “hurtful and defamatory fiction” and refuted the allegations made in it, according to the New York Times. He also said that two emails were sent to the publisher to correct errors.

    “Every single thing he writes about relationships and interactions within our family as kids and as adults he fabricated or got totally wrong,” Christopher told the newspaper.

    But publisher Simon & Schuster stood by Leerhsen’s book, which will be released Oct. 11, by saying: “With all due respect, we disagree that the material in the book contains defamatory information, and we stand by our forthcoming publication.”

    In an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times, Leerhsen said Thursday that Christopher’s “objections are at once vague and sweeping.”

    “He says I got everything wrong about everything. When pressed to get specific he often begins arguing for my side,” the author said, noting that the brothers had been estranged and that Bourdain grew to dislike Christopher “intensely, partly because Chris campaigned to replace Tony on TV, when Tony contemplated retirement.”

    Leerhsen also alleged that Christopher “teased the idea” of writing a book for Simon & Schuster “that would be better than mine.”

    “Other family and friends who’ve seen advance copies have confirmed that my take on the Bourdain family dynamic is accurate. [Chef] Eric Ripert [who was with Bourdain just before he died] also said he saw mistakes but offered no specifics and in fact marveled at some of the information I got,” Leerhsen added.

    https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2022-09-29/anthony-bourdain-final-texts-biography-family-response

    Whoa. That’s a harsh thing to say someone’s dead brother grew to dislike them intensely. I wonder what the family dynamic was? The golden child vs the scapegoat situation? The article also says

    “The biography also delves into Bourdain’s “never-before-reported childhood traumas” that “fueled both his creativity and the insecurities that would lead him to a place of despair.”

  13. catsworking says:

    YourMomsHouse, thanks for this excerpt from the article. I had just read it before I popped over here to check for comments.

    Christopher certainly comes off sketchy. He “campaigned to replace Tony on TV?” WTF? How? And writing a book himself, that actually makes sense. Maybe to work through his feelings, like Tom Vitale did. And it could be about their growing up, which Chris says Leerhsen got all wrong.

    But if they were estranged, why did Chris receive Tony’s ashes from France (and his possessions, I believe)? Their mother Gladys was still alive. There was Nancy. Eric Ripert.

    The “childhood traumas,” since Chris didn’t cooperate, may have come from Nancy, who knew Tony in high school, if not earlier, and spent nearly half his life with him, altogether.

    I still haven’t heard anything from Leerhsen about an interview, but he’s probably being besieged by much bigger fish.

  14. Tina says:

    It’s just my opinion that Ottavia cooperated with this project, because her silence on these news stories last week speaks volumes. I believe she wanted all this to come out so people can see how AA damaged Tony and their family. But I do think that a lot of what will be in the book is stuff we already know or suspected: that he was pushed over the edge at the end by text messages from AA, that he wanted to get out of doing the show because it became mentally and physically too much for him, and he didn’t know how to get out of the situation with AA … the situation she put him in and he probably felt so humiliated by it all he didn’t know what to do except … well, we know how the story ends.

  15. catsworking says:

    Tina, agree with everything you say. It was my understanding that brother Chris initially took possession of Tony’s ashes and belongings he’d had on the trip, but at some point he must have turned things over to Ottavia as executor of the estate. Then it was up to her how to proceed.

    I’ve been reading other interviews with Charles Leerhsen, and he said his book is “unauthorized” because he was not asked by anyone in Bourdain’s circle to review (and approve) the manuscript before printing. They shared information and just let him run with it as he saw fit (which is usually how it works with reputable journalists and authors).

    The ONLY one who raised objections has been Chris, and Leerhsen said the objections are so broad and vague that there’s really no way to deal with them. So, the media, with its usual sloppiness and inattention to detail, keeps saying “friends and family” are against the book, but that’s apparently bullshit. They’re just trying to make their reporting more salacious.

    The only person he could have gotten those texts from is Ottavia, and she’s not publicly saying a word about any of it, which is smart. She knows how litigious the skank is. Even if a frivolous defamation suit would get laughed out of court, it’s still time and money wasted on both sides. Ottavia patiently waited over four years until she saw the chance to set the record straight, and then she took it. I applaud her for that.

  16. Tina says:

    Absolutely, 110 percent agree with you, too. I had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before everything had a chance to come out. Bravo to her for being the strong woman that she is. And thank YOU for all your writings on this and other subjects.

  17. Cwyn N says:

    Hello Catsworking, I was hoping you would get an advance copy to review, as you did for Tom’s book. Perhaps we will find it’s best for everybody that the author himself will sink or swim with nobody helping “on the record.”

    Argento’s “victim” text definitely sounds like low-level narcissist tactics when done milking a boyfriend.

    But his texts are equally weird too, he completely ignored how blatantly she was dumping him. And seeing prostitutes too? Ew.

    I’m hoping we get more context in the book of how long she had been trying to end things. She does come across in these snippets as ungrateful. But she may have tried nicer ways of letting him go, before resorting to the blunt things she did like cancelling the shoots and getting photographed at the hotel. He could be the guy who just won’t accept a breakup, and the author is correct in concluding that Tony didn’t like the look in the mirror at that point. They both just sound self-obsessed and entitled, really.

    I will definitely be reading the book and look forward to your posts! ❤

  18. Bonnie C. says:

    That is SO true Cwyn!! So very many fans – myself included – can spend a lot of time wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to the people in the limelight that we’re fond of (sometimes a bit fanatically so).

  19. catsworking says:

    Cwyn, thank you for your kind words. And Tina, too!

    I’ve read that Tony and the skank fought a lot and had broken up several times. In fact, the crew hoped her cheating would cause the breakup that would stick.

    His desperation to stick with her was irrational. It was as if he felt he deserved to be abused.

    On the other hand, he had just begun paying Jimmy Bennett $10,000 a month (he paid $200,000 upfront, then owed 18 installments of $10,000 until it hit $380,000) for silence about the skank molesting him, and those payments extended well into the following year (2019) had he lived. None of that came out until after he died, but it was a constant reminder to him of how much he’d compromised himself and endangered his career and his cred for her.

    She had manipulated him into a perfect blackmail situation, which she could use to maintain the upper hand and do whatever she wanted.

    PS: On the Jimmy payments, I read somewhere that the skank made one $10K payment on her own after Tony died, then reneged on the rest.

  20. Glamourmilk says:

    Catsworking – I think you’re right. It wasn’t necessarily that he couldn’t accept that she broke up with him but that he’d put so much more into the relationship than she had that he felt like a fool when she humiliated him so completely. The skank has just been on Italian tv complaining about this book and how it’s vultures who should mind their own business (that’s not her words, but it was something along those lines). Funnily enough, she neglects to mention that she herself has made a book where she reveals intimate details that completely throws Tony under the bus – and then she has the nerve to complain about this new book. The irony is, this book wouldn’t be necessary without her deplorable behaviour toward Tony both when he was alive and after he died. She mentioned how the people behind this book would meet their karma. I don’t think she should talk about karma too much – she’s got a shitload of the bad kind waiting for her. Funny how she lies about how he never asked her for help, but yes he did. She just refused to help. Some girlfriend, after he had done everything to help her. She also says that Tony never asked his wife for help – how on earth would she know anything about that? She hasn’t got a clue. I think she’s gone into complete damage-control – again.

  21. CindyE says:

    New York Times has a good review of the book in today’s issue. Sorry, I could not get it to link here.

  22. catsworking says:

    Glamour, someone on Instagram sent me an article in Italian (which I translated) making these same points, so it must have been a description of the interview. She did call Ottavia a “vulture” (at least, Google Translate thought so). She knows it MUST be Ottavia outing her, there’s nothing she can do to stop it, and they loathe and despise each other’s guts like only true Italians can. 😉

    Since the Bennett payoff was something Tony had agreed to do long-term (18 months), if he and Asia had broken up and he’d lived, he’d have been paying $10K a month for another 13-14 months or so (I forget how many months were left). It would have been like making payments on a car that had been totaled or a house that burned down.

    And she probably would have gone into overdrive screwing every man she could get her paws on — in public so the paps could catch her — just to rub Tony’s nose in it and humiliate him further. He knew that’s how it would play out.

    It seems this is the book that’s going to expose what we’ve suspected about the skank all along, so once people start reading it, she’s going to be doing damage control for a while.

  23. catsworking says:

    Thanks, Cindy! NYT is tricky. I’ve used up my freebie articles, so it may take a while for the review to get picked up somewhere accessible. They often do.

  24. Glamourmilk says:

    Two texts between AA and AB have been posted on Twitter today (I think) where AA threatens to kill herself and AB has to reassure her. She used suicide as a way of manipulating him into giving her what she wanted (most often money):

  25. Tina says:

    The whole thing with the prostitutes really bothers me. I know to each his own, but I guess hearing that detail about Tony disturbs me. And now those texts that AA is tweeting about today, I think, is also really disturbing.

  26. catsworking says:

    Glamour, I saw that tweet a little while ago and wondered if it’s authentic. How would the person who posted the picture of the phone have gotten it? It reminds me of the crap Rose McGowan and her buddy Rain Dove were shoveling right after Bourdain died.

    But I totally believe that the skank would have threatened suicide as a way to control him.

  27. catsworking says:

    Tina, I’m with you on the prostitutes. I’m having a hard time believing it. Maybe Leerhsen found some and talked to them. As he got famous, it just seemed like an extremely stupid risk to take for sex, health- and reputation-wise.

  28. Glamourmilk says:

    Fair point. We’ll have to wait and see ’till the book comes out.
    On a different note, have you seen the series The Bear? I’ve heard so much good about it so will try to get to watch it. About the life in a kitchen/restaurant and supposed to be “authentic” – whatever that means 🙂

  29. Tina says:

    Catsworking, the prostitute thing bothers me on another level because AA used that excuse right after Tony died….that the relationship was open and he was seeing prostitutes. I just chalked it up to her lying at the time and I would HATE to say she told the truth about something.

  30. Bonnie C. says:

    I don’t know why, but I don’t find the prostitute thing that difficult to swallow. Remember – there are prostitutes & then there are prostitutes. It’s not just sleazy disease-riddled “ladies of the night” standing on street corners. I don’t think it’s so out of realm to think that Tony may easily have had private high-end connections in that department.

  31. catsworking says:

    Glamour, I haven’t heard a word about The Bear. (PS: I took the liberty of editing your comment because you wrote “kitten/restaurant.” Must have cats on your mind!)

    A new season of Hell’s Kitchen just started, with Ramsay pitting 40-something experienced cooks against 20-somethings, which seems intriguing. But the old farts lost their first challenge, and the kids won dinner with Gordon on a yacht.

  32. catsworking says:

    Tina, I asked Tom Vitale about the prostitutes and didn’t really get an answer, so I feel pretty sure there’s truth to it, as much as I hate it. Also, I think Morgan has pointed out that he talked about visiting brothels in one of his books when he was at loose ends in the Caribbean after Nancy.

  33. catsworking says:

    Bonnie, true. He just never struck me as being one to feel so desperate for sex that he’d go to the trouble and expense. But who knows? Men think with their dicks.

  34. Bonnie C. says:

    And again – an expensive high-end “call girl” or “escort” isn’t exactly the same thing as the street-corner variety. Not good either way, but not quite as desperate.

  35. catsworking says:

    Bonnie, I have been picturing the street-corner variety. I just can’t see him wanting to spend hours with some strange woman who could be dumb as a brick, unless he had a strict rule of “all f**king, no talking.” Also, objectifying a woman that way seems to go against his grain.

    But I guess I’m thinking of the mythical St. Tony. There was also the evil Tony, whom he called Vic Chanko. I could totally see Vic Chanko romping with hookers.

  36. Bonnie C. says:

    I can’t speak for worldwide (or from personal experience – lol!), but I do know that in Manhattan there are extremely expensive “services” where the women (& men) are extremely intelligent, well-versed in all the social graces, & don’t in the least consider themselves “objectified” in any way. They consider it nothing more than a job like any other.

  37. catsworking says:

    Bonnie, yes, I could see that. The NYT book review mentioned lots of prostitutes, so maybe Charles Leerhsen will shed light on this next week.

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