Conversation with Tom Vitale, Part 2

October 19, 2021

By Karen

Continuing my chat with Tom Vitale, author of In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, published October 5. Tom filled me in on one aspect of Bourdain’s career that no one ever seemed to ask him about…

Anthony Bourdain’s Creative Process

CW: I’ve always been fascinated by writers’ habits. When Tony wrote at home, he worked first thing in the morning. With the volume he constantly put out, I was surprised when you told me he was a two-fingered typist. The documentary Roadrunner showed him in action a few times…

Tony’s early writing in his NYC apartment (from old unfinished documentary footage used in Roadrunner)
Years later, his typing technique hadn’t improved

CW: Since Tony always knew he’d have to write a voiceover, or edit one, did he write when he traveled? Did he carry a notebook for taking notes? How did he collect his material?

TV: He did have a notebook. A couple times he asked me to procure one for him when we were on shoots. He liked black Moleskins and would use whatever ballpoint or gel pen was handy.

All his writing was handwritten in first draft, always early in the morning, as far as I know, or late at night. Sometimes those times were the same.

Voiceover scripts we had to print out for him, regardless of where we were. He would rewrite them longhand, either on the script or in a notebook, and retype them. He was always very fast unless he didn’t like it and rewrote and typed the whole thing. It was a laborious process he’d go through, even when he had the electronic file.

CW: In the Hong Kong episode, when I first saw that now-classic shot of him sitting on the ferry with a notebook, I went, “Aha! He’s writing!”

Tony scribbles his now (in)famous “Asia” lines in what appears to be an unlined Moleskin with a black gel pen.

TV: He was really a big notebook guy.

CW: Did he ever write in airports during layovers or on planes?

TV: No, I wouldn’t see it that much. I think he needed to be in a zone, some kind of private space without distraction.

CW: I never saw him talk about his writing process.

TV: We had a lot of conversations about writing, because it was up to me when I was the director and the editors to write discretionary shit for the shows. He would tell us things over and over again. One was this “Kill your darlings” thing he’d learned from his writing teacher. Something about hacking up your favorite piece with a bleeding axe because it’s probably too over the top.

He also said that if you write 10 pages and two are even usable, that’s a really good day.

CW: So, you usually did the rough draft for his voiceovers.

TV: Yes, and our scripts he’d return then required a lot of editing. He’d turn a sentence into a paragraph. Sometimes the whole paragraph worked because his writing was so wonderful, and so was his delivery reading it.

But generally, his writing required quite a bit of work. He would make a powerful joke or statement and keep going with it, which then had to be edited for length. That was painful, because it was all really good.

I’m dyslexic myself and have trouble spelling. I imagine Tony must have been somewhat similar because his rewrites were horribly misspelled, with very strange grammar. He didn’t really worry about grammar, at least when he turned things around fast. Sentences would go on for paragraphs.

CW: When he recorded voiceovers, did he just read his script through, or was he watching a rough cut while doing it? From what you’re telling me, he didn’t make any effort to match what he said with the final footage.

TV: Quite often, he would do the exact opposite. He would watch a cut, put it away, and then write. They were very disconnected. He definitely was not writing to the cut. We either had to change what he’d written, or recut to film to match what he had written.

CW: Wow. Now I’m amazed that the finished episodes always meshed so beautifully.

Tom, I think you’ve got enough untold stories for another book. I came up with a title for you. Tony wrote Medium Raw. Your next book could be Raw, but Well Done. Feel free to use that.

TV: I was with him when he was writing Medium Raw. That was a horrible time for him, a lot of pressure. He saw it as a follow-up to Kitchen Confidential, and he was convinced he couldn’t live up to that. He suffered from writer’s block.

CW: I totally understand writer’s block. I started this blog in 2007, after publishing How to Work Like a CAT. Publishers expected authors to do our own marketing, and probably still do. But once I started blogging, it took so much out of me, writing for publication ceased. I’ve got half-baked book projects all over the house now.

I think Tony began doing so many interviews and putting out so much content, it dried up his well and sapped his creativity, too. You sit down to write and realize “I got nothing left.”

TV: That’s the sense I got from Hungry Ghost (title of Tony’s as-yet-unpublished manuscript). That writing was stuff he had not shared yet. It was a new thing to write about, very different, so he wouldn’t have had that problem.

CW: He found another vein to tap into that he hadn’t already used up.

During COVID, which I didn’t expect to drag on so long, I posted seven days a week for 142 days straight. That attracted a group of regular commenters, which was rewarding while it lasted. But the effort burned me out even more than I thought possible.

TV: Tony struggled with the blog posts he had to write for each episode, and it was exhausting for him. It’s hard to keep going at that speed.

CW: Sadly, he didn’t.

BONUS: Roadrunner the documentary came out on DVD October 12, and our own Tony B. was waiting. He hopped up on the TV stand during the first scenes and gave me this rare opportunity to catch him with his namesake…

“OK, you can tell me the truth. Who’s got the most animal magnetism?”

Roadrunner, I’ve Seen It

July 16, 2021

By Karen

The documentary about Anthony Bourdain that we’ve been anticipating for at least two years finally hit theaters today, and I just returned from the first showing.

Besides me, only 11 other people, including four men, were in the audience. I sat in the top row corner in case I got emotional and had tissues ready, but I didn’t come even close to crying. Maybe all I’ve read about the content prepared me.

Context: I’ve followed Bourdain on Cats Working for so many years now, whenever I see anything about him, I approach it with the attitude, “Is this something I didn’t already know?” More often than not, it isn’t.

Here are a few tidbits I haven’t read in reviews and interviews about Roadrunner. For example, when Eric Ripert read Kitchen Confidential and first invited Tony to lunch to meet him, what Eric noticed about Tony was, “He has amazing good manners at the table.” I wonder what Eric expected?

(I took notes in the dark. They came out surprisingly readable!)

My favorite part of the film was early and was not director Morgan Neville’s work. It was all the footage I’d never seen of Tony shortly after KC made him famous. It came from a documentary being made about him at the time that was never finished.

There, we get several glimpses of Tony and Nancy when they were a couple. Their small apartment in New York City was filled with plants and books, and the walls were covered with pictures.

Ottavia didn’t appear as much as I expected, but Neville used some of her black-and-white scenes from the first Rome episode of No Reservations, which it happens I had just rewatched. It was so nice to see them joking and in love.

Later in the film, Ottavia explained that the romantic side in the marriage “dissipated when he started traveling intensely and we couldn’t follow him.” I’d assume that was when Ariane started school. But they always remained friends and even grappled together. She described jiu jitsu as “problem-solving under pressure.”

By the last year of his life, she said Tony was coming by to see her and Ariane only about once a month.

We see Ariane’s face as a toddler and small child. And there’s one quick scene where she looks about nine. She’s getting tall and she’s simply beautiful.

I was moved by the raw emotions and tears — still — when people talked about his death. His literary agent Kim Witherspoon, producer Lydia Tenaglia, artist David Choe, and of course, Ottavia, who has one great regret I won’t spoil for you. Eric Ripert, who was with Tony in France when he died, declined to discuss it.

But the reaction that grabbed me most was from Lydia’s husband, producer Chris Collins, who summed up the whole shitshow of Tony’s last year of life.

Chris was talking about filming the Hong Kong episode, which Tony hired his girlfriend Asia Argento to direct. Tony shocked everyone by firing his multi-Emmy-winning cameraman Zach Zamboni for daring to question Asia, and meekly let her interrupt and direct him in ways he’d have never tolerated from anyone else. Chris simply said, “In Hong Kong, we were trying to help our friend.” But his look said, “If only we knew where that was leading…”

As for Asia’s appearance in the film, I think the Parts Unknown footage Neville used was more flattering than she deserved, and he essentially handed her a pass, considering, although he did flash the paparazzi photos that totally unraveled Tony’s life.

My impressions are still roiling, and I know when I watch it again on CNN or HBO Max I WILL cry. If you want to see it in the theater, don’t wait. I’ve heard the run may only last a few weeks.

I just wanted to create a quick space here for comments.

Bourdain Would Be on Medicare Today

June 25, 2021

By Karen

Today would have been Anthony Bourdain’s 65th birthday and he’d have his Medicare card. Seems hard to believe, doesn’t it?

In 2019, Tony’s friends Eric Ripert and José Andrés began the tradition of June 25 being #BourdainDay to celebrate Tony’s memory, if you care to. proposed five ways to honor Bourdain that I like, so I won’t repeat them, but I recommend them.

Instead, I’ll share some new and personal tidbits I’ve gathered…

Tony’s Last Home – His apartment in the former Time Warner building, now called Deutsche Bank Center, is available again. Bourdain paid $13K a month, the next tenants paid $14.2K. The cachet has apparently worn off because the asking price has dropped to $12K. I immediately wondered if the place is haunted.

I think I’ve been watching too much Paranormal: Caught on Camera.

If you’re interested, it’s a two bedroom, two bath, 1,200-square foot unit with a downright blah kitchen and no charm whatsoever except its panoramic river view. Photos.

Les Halles, the PopUp – Tony’s pre-fame employer, Brasserie Les Halles in NYC, is reopening as a popup from Friday, July 9 through Sunday, July 11 to serve a $95 three-course prix-fixe meal that includes French onion soup, steak frites au poivre and dessert. Reservation required. The restaurant has been closed since 2017.

Roadrunner Documentary – This film is out there now, having premiered June 11 at the Tribeca Film Festival, but it’s hitting theaters and HBO Max July 16. I’ve heard it may have a limited run, so it may be on CNN by this fall?

I get HBO Max, so I’ll probably watch it there in private in case I’m overwhelmed. But if you can’t wait, the American Film Institute is showing it TONIGHT only at 8 p.m. – midnight EDT online. I think admission is $15. Sign up here.

I don’t want to give away spoilers (not that I know many), but I’ve read some disturbing reviews of it. Director Morgan Neville gave this insightful interview to

I think it’s OK to share that three women in Bourdain’s life do not NOT have substantive roles. They are: 1) first wife Nancy, 2) Italian girlfriend, and 3) daughter Ariane.

Reasons: 1) relevance to the years covered; 2) we know this could have gone either way, but Neville realized she’s written her own script, and it wouldn’t have added clarity; and 3) privacy.

Upcoming Bourdain Books – Publication of Laurie Woolever’s Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography has been advanced from October 12 to September 28. That gives you two weeks to read it before Tom Vitale’s book, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, is published on October 12.

I wrote about both of these back in May, and I’ve learned a bit more about Vitale’s book. It’s a memoir of his many years filming with Tony, so behind-the-scenes stories galore, probably many we’ve never heard. The cover that currently appears on Amazon, which I dissed in May, is actually THE cover.

Almost forgot: Cats Working gets a mention in In the Weeds. In what context, I don’t really know. Apparently, my years-long coverage got Tony’s attention more than I ever imagined.

To finish on a personal note with the books, I’m almost finished with World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, and when I got to Trinidad and Tobago, a line Laurie Woolever used from Parts Unknown made me put the book down for a week to process it. Tony is quoted as saying…

“Tobago is what you hope for when you waddle away from the buffet on the SS Norway [bold mine] cruise ship. Lazy beach days, boat drinks, villas, all set to a calypso beat.”

Except that I just watched the episode on HBO Max (with earphones) to write this and what he actually said (at 37:18) was, “SS Norwalk.” Close enough to be suspicious, but I’m taking it as random.

Context: the Norway was “my” ship from 1988–2003. I sailed 23 times and had life-changing experiences, but I’ve published almost nothing about them. It stunned me to think that he could have read enough of my work to mention the ship because it had been long destroyed by then.

But as it turns out, he didn’t.

Tony presumably on Tobago

Jan. 6 Rioters Peeling Away from Trump

June 4, 2021

By Karen

But first, a trailer for the Anthony Bourdain HBO documentary, Roadrunner, debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival June 11, in theaters July 16…

At 1:59, see a nanosecond of Tony in a red sports car with a brunette whose identity I can only suspect. The more her existence gets erased, the more heinously criminal I believe her involvement in his final days. Call me the suspicious type.

Now, to the present…

The FBI has rounded up roughly 500 Capitol rioters. Those with clean records are getting slapped wrists. But the violent ones caught on camera face felonies and promise to be great entertainment at their trials.

FYI, here’s a Justice Department list of everyone arrested and charged. Another list at includes personal details on the perps.

The minute TV cameras stopped rolling, Trump forgot these people exist. Without presidential pardons, desperate defense lawyers are floating, “My client is too stupid to live.”

If we didn’t have such a woke culture, they’d be calling their clients the “R” word.

Defense places all blame on Trump, his enablers and Fox “News” for dishing out a diet of lies to ignorant dupes, and claims they bear as much responsibility as the rioters.

Essentially, defense hopes to thread a needle with an elephant. They can’t go all-out and declare their clients mentally incompetent, because that lets Trump and Fox slither off the hook. Instead, the rioters were relentlessly attacked by incendiary rhetoric and finally succumbed on January 6.

Prosecutors are going to love destroying this argument.

As convicted rioters begin marching off to prison, MAGA cultists who stayed home 1/6 but still believe the Big Lie are left no choice but to wonder where their own willingness to continue eating Trump-Fox garbage may lead.

Rioter Anthony Antonio (the guy who screamed nonsensically about it being 1776), has said: “I kind of sound like an idiot now saying it, but my faith was in him [Trump].”

Antonio’s lawyer Joseph Hurley explained, “You can catch this disease.” Misinformation “is not a defense. It’s not. But it will be brought up to say: This is why he was there. Because he was a dumbass and believed what he heard on Fox News.”

I would add, and because he probably flunked history.

Footnote: Antonio has never voted in a presidential election, so he had no skin in the game.

With a pandemic fresh in their minds, MAGA cultists who hear these dipshits called, by their own lawyers, dumbasses who caught “Big Lie Disease” may realize they’re also infected.

Who needs COVID or masks when you can ingest toxic lies from your TV until your brain mush no longer comprehends that a guy who gets the fewest votes is the LOSER?

The lawyer for “QAnon shaman” Jacob Chansley claims repeated exposure to lies overwhelmed Chansley’s ability to discern reality (and fashion, obviously)…

Photo: Saul Loeb - AFP - GettyImages

Although I despise them, I don’t think all cultists are 100% evil — they’re ignorant. They’ll get the shock of their lives when the trials reveal exactly how Trump and Fox have twisted their sad little minds.

Defections are happening already. On Memorial Day in Florida, Trump falsely claimed “thousands” of boaters waved Trump flags on parade. WTSP in Tampa Bay reported

Just north of the former president’s residence at Mar-a-Lago, “Trump 2024” flags waved in the wind as dozens of boats took to the water.

Two days later, Trump pulled the plug on his 29-day-old From the Desk of blog to “put it out of its misery” (his words) because few were reading.

Trump’s ability to spread poison is waning. His mental faculties are more often discussed than his positions on anything, especially since his delusion that he’ll regain power in August. He’s making no major personal appearances with press allowed. The great showman who lives to feed off crowds like an energy vampire will be babbling remotely via Jumbotron at a Wisconsin rally on June 12.

Rioters’ trials condemning the “Foxitis” contagion and Trump’s growing inability to hide his dementia should thin the cult. Treasonous Republicans still courting Trump’s dwindling base may find themselves like Wile E. Coyote come reelection…

BONUS: Searching YouTube, I came upon this golden oldie cat video that still makes me laugh. In the original version, these cats were meowing at each other. Then someone gave them dialogue…

Special Report: Bourdain News

April 22, 2021

By Karen

I’ve got four new items if you’re a Cats Working reader who’s still interested in Anthony Bourdain’s evolving legacy.

Autopsy Episode on Reelz…

The episode of Autopsy: The Last Hours of… filmed in November 2020 premiers Sunday, April 25, at 8 p.m. ET on the Reelz channel. Here’s their blurb (redacted for length because CW readers know the backstory)…

On June 8th 2018, the world was stunned by the news that award-winning writer and TV presenter, Anthony Bourdain had taken his own life. He was the punk rock chef who found fame as the hip new face of food and travel television… But suddenly, at the age of 61, he hung himself in his hotel room, while filming in France. So what happened? World renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Hunter needs to analyse every detail in the limited available information to piece together what exactly caused the well-loved TV host to take his own life. 

I’ve been watching some of Autopsy for months, waiting for this one to emerge, so I’ll dare to make a few predictions based on what I’ve learned about this show.

Dr. Michael Hunter is going to delve into Bourdain’s drug use, smoking, drinking, diet, and possibly chronic jet lag/sleep deprivation as potentially the REAL reasons behind the suicide, but in the end he’ll go along with what the French coroner concluded on the death certificate without performing an autopsy.

Hunter will never come close to citing the most likely actual cause.

The mention of “limited available information” indicates that neither Tony’s family nor friends cooperated. They know what went down, and they’re not saying. To this day, we don’t even know the final resting place of his ashes.

The show cast an actress to play Bourdain’s last girlfriend, but I would be surprised if they reveal anything we don’t already know about “the last hours of” that situation.

I’ll be watching just to see what they do with what little they have to go on, with fingers crossed that it’s not anything upsetting to Tony’s daughter.

World Travel: In Irreverent Guide

On Tuesday, April 20, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain was published by his imprint, Ecco, but his longtime co-author, Laurie Woolever, really made it happen.

I’ve got my hefty copy. As an owner of every book Bourdain wrote, I can say with “no reservations” that World Travel is — even with line drawings, not the full-page, full-color photos of previous books — THE MOST sumptuous, elegantly produced volume ever to bear his name.

Woolever, after just one hour-long brainstorming session with Tony in March 2017 on what places and points he wanted to include, worked from those notes to craft chapters from literally hundreds of hours of episode transcripts from No Reservations, The Layover, and Parts Unknown, his interviews, articles, notes, blog posts and books. The sheer breadth of her research makes my head explode.

It’s organized alphabetically by country (43 of them), and the quoted Bourdain sprinkled liberally throughout is in bold blue, which makes his voice literally jump off the page.

I’ve just begun it, but I already feel that it’s going to be like having Tony back for a while.

To promote the book, Woolever has done phone interviews with everybody. I’ll share some links, but warn you that they’re similar. She probably knows how Bourdain felt when he got asked for the 100th time how he liked eating a cobra’s heart.

CNN/HBO Documentary Finished at Last…

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain will debut at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City from June 9–20. It was directed by Morgan Neville, who did that Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and produced also by Focus Features. At some point it will be available on HBO Max and shown on CNN, I presume. Here’s the blurb…

The nonfiction chronicle of Bourdain’s life will brim “with the same energy, curiosity, and deep humanity that made Anthony Bourdain the superstar whose life touched so many” in the years leading up to his 2018 death.

This film DID have the cooperation of Bourdain’s family and friends, but I expect the focus will be on his amazing life and leave the many still-lingering questions about his end unanswered.

I found this video interview with Morgan Neville from May 27, 2020, episode #35. He must have been working on Roadrunner then, but they don’t discuss it until 29:30. Neville says basically nothing, and the interviewer does no follow-up, but you’re welcome to check it out.

Last, But Most Exciting, One More Woolever Book…

Laurie Woolever is also compiling a Bourdain biography from interviews called Bourdain: The Oral Biography to be published on October 12, 2021, by Ecco. She mentioned it during her current media blitz, but provided the most detail to Barron’s

I did about 100 interviews with people from all different aspects of his life, from family members to colleagues back in the old kitchen days of the ’80s and ’90s, high school friends, his first wife, plenty of television colleagues, publishing colleagues, friends he made along the way, just a real array of people who knew him really from birth until the end of his life. He was someone who shared a lot about himself, and his whole story is out there of course in Kitchen Confidential, but what I found in working on the book is that there was a lot that I didn’t know. Every single person I spoke with I learned something surprising. And I was pretty steeped in all things Tony for a long time, so my hope with that one is that people will learn more about what motivated him.

PS: In researching this post, I came across other Bourdain “biographies” on Amazon that I wasn’t aware of by people I’ve never heard of. I’ll do some digging on those and report back.

BONUS: Bourdain has this new tribute mural at The Grub Shop on Long Island.

Photo: Yelp/AndaluzTheArtist

More Movies to Now be Ashamed Of

March 25, 2021

By Karen

I’ve been remembering all the old musicals that serve as the soundtrack of my life, and I’m so grateful that they had a chance to be made in the “Before Times.” Today, they’d be rejected by the #MeToo generation as hateful depictions of female subjugation.

First, there’s the story of a famous Hollywood actor who finds himself instantly attracted to a naïve young bit player with aspirations of stardom. She rejects his initial clumsy passes, so he manages to trap her alone on a vacant soundstage. There, he begins grooming her to welcome his lecherous advances…

When Singin’ in the Rain was made in 1952, Debbie Reynolds was 20 and Gene Kelly was a dirty old man of 40. In the story, he brazenly rejects his studio’s attempts to make him an item with the age-appropriate actress he’s built his career with so he can devote himself to seducing this innocent girl.

In the end, the girl proves she has talent to spare and they become a new team, on screen and off…

And here’s more Alan Jay Lerner perversion from 1958 in this misogynistic travesty he concocted with his My Fair Lady composer, Fritz Loewe. It based on a 1944 novella by the French writer Colette.

It’s about a teenage girl who’s being groomed by her grandmother and great-aunt to carry on the family tradition of becoming a courtesan for fun and profit.

If made today, Maurice Chevalier, the beloved actor who sings the opening number, would have seen his entire career smashed to bits — probably with Mia Farrow leading the charge — had he not laid down an ultimatum to Lerner:

“Either you REMOVE this DISGUSTING song from the picture, or I remove MYSELF!”

What WAS Lerner thinking, writing an anthem for pedophiles?

My parents bought an album of songs from Gigi that I knew by heart when I was 5 or 6 years old. I remember specifically feeling washed up when I turned 8 and realized Maurice was no longer singing this one to me…

Leslie Caron was 26 playing 15-16 (and was actually pregnant in the clip above). Like all the other heroines of these nightmares, she wins in the end because Louis Jourdan (who was 37) falls in love with Gigi and decides marrying her is preferable to keeping her as a side piece…

I feel sorry for anyone who can watch these magnificent, beautifully filmed and scored movies and see only depravity in the romances. What is this world coming to?

Wokeness Is Starting to Hit My Limits

March 22, 2021

By Karen

One particular assault accusation against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently got my attention. A woman named Anna says Cuomo kissed her against her will at what appeared to be a large wedding. His lips hit her cheek because she turned her head.

When I saw this picture, I had a flashback to another wedding decades ago…

Photo: CNN

It was probably 1967. I was 13, staying the summer in Massachusetts with my grandparents and forced to tag along to a big Italian wedding. I don’t remember who got married, but I’ll never forget the gorgeous little cream-colored lace dress I wore, which I accessorized with hot-pink fishnets that my grandmother hated. Instead, she made me wear white anklets. With LACE!

We were on the church steps when a great-uncle showed up. I barely knew him. He had the look of a less-handsome Cesar Romero…

Suddenly, this near-stranger grabbed my face in his hands and kissed me right on the lips. And that was my first real kiss with the opposite sex.

Was I “confused and shocked and embarrassed,” like Anna? Did I alert the media to call out Uncle Kissy-Face as a perverted pig?

None of that. I was definitely surprised, but that’s Italians for you. Grabby and affectionate. What’s more cringe-worthy to me was the humiliation of those stupid baby socks.

Cuomo is accused of making gauche passes that sound like assault. If he did, he deserves to be punished. But a kiss at a wedding? Give me a break.

I’m afraid our whole sense of male-female interaction is being twisted beyond recognition. I blew a gasket that Turner Classic Movies feels a need to put Henry Higgins “in context.” WTF?!

TCM plans to hold roundtable discussions before showing certain classic movies to explain why they’re unwoke.

In this new reality, My Fair Lady, the Lerner and Loewe musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, is about a wealthy phonetics expert named Higgins who sets out to subjugate, humiliate and exploit a young women named Eliza Doolittle, whom he considers “a draggle-tailed guttersnipe” — just to win a bet.

TCM thinks Alan Jay Lerner made the story’s ending “less feminist” by giving it the upbeat ending viewers wanted, instead of Shaw’s. Watch it yourself. Higgins and Eliza have just had a final reckoning where he admires her new independence, calls her a “consort battleship,” but she tells him she can do “bloody well” without him. Now, he’s returning home alone…

I’ve watched this movie dozens of times and see Higgins, the “confirmed old bachelor,” finally brought to heel. At last, Eliza has put him in his place. When he tries to save face by inquiring about his slippers, she just smiles because they both know she’ll never fetch again.

I guess young people today think Eliza suffers from Stockholm Syndrome.

What’s surprising is that they haven’t gone berserk yet over another misogynistic musical written by those monsters Rodgers and Hammerstein based on a memoir published in 1870.

In The King & I, a young English widow with a son takes a job in Siam (now Thailand) as a governess. She immediately discovers that her workplace is toxic. Her boss, an Asian male, behaves like a king, walking around half-naked and demanding all subordinates — particularly women — to actually grovel at his feet. He forces Anna to live on-site against her will and be on call 24/7.

The climax of this woeful power imbalance may be the most prolonged and disturbing depiction of workplace harassment, bullying and sexual assault ever captured on film…

Since 1956, movie-goers have mistaken this movie, like My Fair Lady, as a love story without kisses. But now we know that Yul Brynner, his overpowering sexual magnetism notwithstanding, had NO BUSINESS touching Deborah Kerr’s waist without permission, let alone forcing her to do the polka.

Did I forget to mention that in both movies, not only was there great wealth and power disparity, but also age? Back in the day, these were called “May-December” romances, and no one considered themselves a victim.

PS: If Richard Rodgers were still with us, he’d be roasted alive on the spit of #MeToo with an apple in his mouth. He was a family man with two daughters who had a reputation for casual hookups. His music still pops up all the time in TV ads and comprises a sizable chunk of the Great American Songbook but, by today’s rules, we’d be compelled to silence and scrap his every note.

John Lurie Remembers Bourdain

January 28, 2021

By Karen

About a week before he died in 2018, Anthony Bourdain met artist John Lurie and bought his painting titled, “The sky is falling, I am learning to live with it,” for a reported $19,000…

The painting was auctioned with many other of Bourdain’s belongings in 2019 by Lark Mason Associates to launch a scholarship fund in Tony’s memory at his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America. I lost track of what happened to the painting there. But that’s not the point.

John Lurie currently has a six-part series on HBO (Fridays, 11 p.m. ET) called Painting with John. Only one episode has aired so far, and it hooked me.

Bourdain and Lurie met in Lurie’s New York apartment while Tony was filming in the Lower East Side for what became the final episode of Parts Unknown. Lurie boiled eggs for Tony. This clip is a mashup of the episode (and may be indicative in hindsight of his state of mind), but you can catch Tony’s daughter Ariane singing at the end…

Today, John Lurie is living on an undisclosed island somewhere in the Caribbean. His series consists of watching him paint close up (which is rather relaxing, believe it or not) and deliver a stream-of-consciousness monologue to the camera about whatever pops into his head, like an artistic spinoff of Bourdain’s PBS series, Mind of a Chef.

If my calculations are correct, the fourth episode airs on February 12, and that’s the one where Lurie talks about his brief — and he believed blooming — relationship with Anthony Bourdain. So, if you can catch it, it’s probably worth watching.

If you can’t get to HBO’s content, I think Lurie told basically the same story during an interview, so you can read his thoughts in Rolling Stone.

SIDE NOTE: On January 26, Asia Argento’s “autobiography,” Anatomy of a Wild Heart, was published in Italy. With any luck, it will stay there.

Undoubtedly to drum up sales, she now claims that back in 2002 when she was filming the movie xXx, director Rob Cohen forced her to drink a date rape drug and raped her.

Twice. She also speaks a bit about Bourdain in this link to a poorly translated interview, where she’s quoted as saying, “He entered my life on tiptoe.” Quite a comical image for a man who was 6’4”.

Cohen says he and Argento were friends who had an excellent working relationship, and he finds her accusation “bewildering.”

My cynical translation of this is that he thought they were enjoying the film shoot with mutual benefits.

But if we learned anything about our Tony’s final fling from her claims against Harvey Weinstein, she never stops after one alleged “rape.” She’s always available for more.

I’m wondering why she didn’t shoot higher and go after her co-star, Vin Diesel…

What I see is a pattern. Any man who ever hopped between the sheets with her shouldn’t be surprised when she calls him a rapist, just for the attention. It’s pathetic.

Chapter 131: COVID Chronicles

October 26, 2020

By Karen

Day 226

Trump vs. Football: Which I Loathe More is a Toss-Up

Trying to tune in to Trump’s interview on 60 Minutes on CBS with Lesley Stahl at 7:30, I hit the second-most thing I hate on my TV screen — football.

Adele and Cole wrote about it.

Of COURSE there was a game on CBS. There used to be a game almost EVERY Sunday during the run of Madam Secretary. I’d have to DVR several extra hours to catch it because fucking football running late would throw off the whole night’s schedule.

Last night I couldn’t tape Trump because my Verizon DVR can only handle two shows at once and my Sunday queue is packed. I rescheduled everything that reran later, but not knowing WHEN the freaking football would end, I was screwed.

But the game wrapped at 7:15. Whew! Then CBS switched to ANOTHER goddamn game that still had two whole freaking minutes left.

Two minutes in football means at least 30 minutes of mostly stopped clock, watching guys milling around in tight capris, doing NOTHING. And CBS stayed with it, willfully throwing their whole subsequent lineup under the bus, KNOWING the country was anticipating the interview Trump’s been in a lather over all week.

There is so little action in football for the overall time it takes, while still causing so much brain damage and early-onset dementia, it escapes me how it ever became a national obsession. It’s right up there with golf for hours wasted watching players not play. At least golfers don’t throw themselves into piles to indulge in mass ass-grabbing.

Don’t even ask me what teams were playing these games. I didn’t care.

I kept switching back and forth between programs until I finally did catch Trump staring at Stahl with lifeless eyes, berating and bullying her until he lumbered off the set to throw a hissy fit in the arms of his Hopey…

I had to get that off my chest. We have one more week to go before we tentatively find out if we’ve flushed the tangerine turd, so SDNY can indict him on multiple financial felonies and set him on his march to prison.

BONUS: Speaking of New York, you’ve probably heard how Borat set the scene for Rudy Giuliani to grab his junk in Borat’s new movie. Here’s the scene. The moment begins at about 3:30, but watch how Rudy creepily tries to charm the 24-year-old actress before they adjourn to the bedroom.

DOUBLE BONUS: I found this little gem of a move called The Love Punch (2014) (ignore the reviews) on Amazon Prime. It’s a rom-com for boomers starring Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson, set in Paris and the French Riviera. AND it features Celia Imrie, whom I first saw in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and now she turns up everywhere.

Chapter 129: COVID Chronicles

October 19, 2020

By Karen

Day 222

More Movie Reviews

In-person voting at satellite locations begins today in Virginia and a there’s one at a library around the corner from me, with a dropbox. I’ll check the news to see how turnout is before I venture over there. I can stand in line for a while to cast a vote, but if it’s too crazy, I can leave my absentee ballot as Plan B.

This insanely heavy early voting seems a good omen for Biden, but I won’t rest until the Trump crime family is behind bars. Since Trump caught COVID, he’s raving more maniacally than ever. His babbling at rallies revealed he’s considered fleeing the country. It’s rumored that he’s discussed resigning in exchange for walking free on myriad crimes, including those in New York. I hope that doesn’t happen. I want to see him face payback — bigly.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching lots of movies. This past weekend, I saw two “comedies” that were anything but. First was Downhill (2020) with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell playing a couple on an Austrian ski vacation with their two sons. When an avalanche threatens to bury them all, Will grabs his phone and runs, leaving Julia with the kids. Julia spends the rest of the movie traumatized and disgusted with Will, which puts Will into his own emotional crisis. Here’s the review.

It was based on a 2014 Swedish film called Force Majeure set in the French Alps, which I found on Amazon Prime and also watched. Swedish has a lot in common with Norwegian, so I got in some practice. I found these characters more believable yet colorful than the Americans, and the attempts at humor more subtle than the scenes added to give Julia and Will a few funny moments. Here’s the review at

In the end, I didn’t like either one much. But that’s probably because I don’t give two shits about the dynamics of married couples’ relationships. I live with cats.

Here’s another one: Back in 2017, I anticipated, the missed, seeing A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon (Miranda on Sex and the City) as Emily Dickinson. If it ever came to Richmond, it left the next day, but it’s now available on Amazon Prime. Oh. My. God. We need a new word for “ponderous” to describe this one.

Granted, any film about a paranoid recluse who never goes beyond her garden would be action-challenged, but five minutes to pan across a living room wall to show Emily lurking behind a door listening to music? Puleez.

It was surprising in its historical inaccuracy. To name just one, it killed off Emily’s mother, a helpless invalid Emily cared for, years before she actually died, presumably to give Emily more free time to get weirder. I refute just about everything in this review at except in that Cynthia was physically perfect in the role. However, her delivery of Emily’s poetry and almost every character’s dialogue sounded like high school actors doing Shakespeare without knowing what the words mean. It was hard to sit through this one to the end, even though she was only 56 when she died.

Then also on Amazon Prime I happened across Hotel Splendide from 2000, with Daniel Craig and Stephen Tompkinson (whom I crushed on as DCI Banks). This was — by far — the weirdest and BEST one of the bunch. It’s set at a creepy hotel on an island somewhere off the U.K., I think, accessible only once a month by ferry. The guests are fed only seaweed and fish-based meals made by Daniel Craig, which powers the hotel’s vast heating system, which runs on poop.

All hell (and shit) breaks loose when a woman who was once sous chef there — now a chef in the real world — returns and takes over the kitchen to serve real food. But that’s just the surface story. The characters’ relationships and who summoned the woman back to the island make up the real plot.

It’s one of those movies whose humor springs from its own absurd world with its own rules. To enjoy it, you just accept it, like The Grand Budapest Hotel.

These days, anything that takes me away from reality for a few hours is a winner.

BONUS: Comedian Sarah Cooper on How to Drug…

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