Bourdain News Updates

April 29, 2021

By Karen

Dates for the CNN/HBO Documentary…

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain will be shown June 11 at the Tribeca Film Festival (which runs June 9–20 in New York City), then July 16 it will open in theaters. After its theatrical run peters out, it will be available on HBO Max and eventually shown on CNN. As of today, the trailer isn’t available yet. Hypebeast.com reports that the film will include unaired footage from Parts Unknown.

I wonder it that could be bits of the never-finished Florence episode Tony made with his soon-to-be-cheating girlfriend the week before he took his final, fatal trip to France with Eric Ripert.

World Travel: An Irreverant Guide Hits Bestseller Lists…

Work has kept me from diving into this book, but it came out of the gate strong.

Its first week, it was No. 1 on the Washington Post Nonfiction Hardcover Bestsellers list.

Surprisingly, it did not make The New York Times’ corresponding list that week at all.

It’s No. 1 on the Los Angeles Times Nonfiction Hardcover Bestsellers list this week.

At Amazon, it ranked No. 3 for all nonfiction its first week and seems to be holding steady.

And in Canada it debuted at No. 1 in International Bestsellers among Canadian independent booksellers, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Author Laurie Woolever continues her media blitz with a dedication that would make Tony proud. She did a Texas Public Radio podcast that went online April 23.

On April 26 she talked to Anthony Mason on CBS This Morning. Chef Daniel Boulud also appears in the interview and remembers his jitters filming Parts Unknown in his French hometown with Tony.

Finally, My Post-Mortem on the Reelz Autopsy Episode…

I’ll just hit what got my attention. If you’re unfamiliar with the details of Tony’s passing, dip into the Cats Working archives for June 2018 and find my series of posts as the story unfolded.

Dr. Michael Hunter didn’t seem to have any more information than we all had. The show did include one lovely photo of Nancy as a teenager I’d never seen. (I didn’t capture it because I’m respecting Nancy’s privacy as atonement for outing her identity on A Cook’s Tour years ago.)

However, the show failed to mention Tony’s 20-year marriage to Nancy and gave the impression he was single until Ottavia. It also implied that Parts Unknown was his only TV show.

The biggest “get” was Tony’s friend Michael Ruhlman on camera, but he didn’t say anything remotely revealing. He did confirm that Tony seemed tired and unhappy his last few years (i.e., girlfriend years), and seemed to become more insecure as his fame grew.

Dr. Hunter called this “Imposter Syndrome.”

Hunter discussed and dismissed Bourdain’s well-known habits as suspects, drugs and drinking, except as substances that would make someone more prone to depression.

He homed in on jet lag, and speculated that Tony was using Ambien, another depression trigger, but also discounted that as a contributor. (An appropriate dose of prescription medication was found in Tony’s bloodwork, but never named.)

Where Hunter really screwed up was saying several times that autopsy results were “never revealed.” No autopsy was ever done.

The show skirted right up to “rumors of an affair” involving the girlfriend days before Tony’s death, but only as another reason he’d be depressed, not a contributing factor.

The one bit of homework that impressed me was that Hunter claimed to find 19 instances between 2005-2017 where Tony had joked about hanging generally, or hanging himself in the shower.

I suspect the recreation of Eric Ripert charging into Tony’s room to find him in the bathroom was inaccurate. I believe a hotel worker entered first, and I’ve never seen any mention of exactly where Tony did it.

Hunter finally attributed Tony’s death to emotional pressure from the girlfriend situation, traveling and being away from his family, and long-standing suicidal ideation linked to depression. Hunter concluded that Tony “thought his depression was unworthy of treatment or insurmountable.”

Bottom line: Autopsy, The Last Hours of… filled in no blanks for me.

BONUS: I just came across this good article at Mashed about Bourdain that’s a pretty accurate, comprehensive glimpse of him.


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.

Eater.com

WashingtonPost.com

Fodors.com

Esquire.com

TravelAndLeisure.com

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

McConnell Coddles Trump to the End

January 14, 2021

By Karen

But before I get political, I’ve got a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT.

Cats Working reader Tracy is appearing on HGTV Friday, January 15, at 11:30 a.m. EST, in the pilot episode of Reno Italiano

Tracy and her husband Matt bought a centuries-old house in Italy that’s been abandoned for 60 years. On the show, an Italian construction team comes in and renovates it for them, and the results are a surprise. They are planning to leave the U.S. and live there.

It’s a popular format in home improvement TV. My favorite guy for that is Mike Holmes, who looks like Canadian Mr. Clean. I wish he could give my house a makeover. He’d tear it down to the studs and start over.

Tune in or set your DVR to watch Reno Italiano. If it attracts enough viewers, a whole series is a go.

Now, as for Trump…

So yesterday Trump got himself impeached for the second time. A fat lot of good it does, because Mitch McConnell is determined to hang onto his last shred of power by refusing to convene the Senate trial that could immediately convict and remove Trump. He wrote it couldn’t possibly be “fair or serious” if rushed.

It’s not like the whole world witnessed Trump on national TV inciting the riot or anything.

McConnell also coyly leaked that he might be “pleased” about this impeachment and would like to hear the legal arguments (as if he doesn’t recognize sedition. McDonnell might even possibly think about maybe considering a vote for conviction.

Apparently, Trump made a little nicey-nicey speech, claiming he never wanted violence and he wasn’t jerking off to the TV while he watched the riot “fight for him” at the Capitol last week.

I didn’t see it. We all know he’s lying and he’ll say anything as the prison walls close in.

But if there’s any report of Trump’s cultists rioting ANYWHERE before Biden’s inauguration, McConnell and Mike Pence need to be arrested tried for treason for aiding and abetting the certified insurrectionist in the White House.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is in tatters, split between those who think Trump’s cult went too far or didn’t go far enough. The latter faction is culling its own herd as the FBI rounds them up to face criminal charges.

Since Trump knows he faces no immediate consequences for trying to kill Congress, and he’s said he won’t attend the inauguration, the only unknown now is where he’ll hole up until the subpoenas and indictments and canceled business contracts start rolling in. Presumably Mar-a-Lago.

On the cat front…

I’m being stalked by Roc’s Fuglen the Bird and Tony’s Yellow Sparkle Ball (which he just rediscovered under that pile of tatty brown paper he likes to play in). If I spend any time in any room, I find both of them lurking nearby…

While I was taking that pic, Tony couldn’t resist a photobomb…

Sometimes he also brings me his Christmas Miracle Froggy, which has already lost both eyes and one leg.

Roc says “Hi” from his spot on the printer…

And Max has finally recovered fully and is back to his usual state of perpetual annoyance…

I’m trying to help Max kick his new Gerber baby food habit, but he’s still showing up every morning and evening for a fix. Now that he’s taken the full 14-day course of meds I was sneaking into it, it’s a pricey vice at $1.19 a jar (how to people afford to feed babies?). Max now also has a fondness for snuggling up to a hot water bottle. I can still indulge him in that (that green towel behind him is his bottle).

BONUS: Since my Twitter feed is suspended, I was a little late finding Randy Rainbow’s latest, “Sedition”…

For the record, when Randy refers to reusing the song, this is what he’s talking about. It’s from May 2020, about Trump’s response to COVID…


Chapter 139: COVID Chronicles

December 14, 2020

By Karen

Day 275

South Dakota Can Suck It & So Can Salt Lake City

South Dakota has been running absurd tourism promos featuring Mount Rushmore (surprisingly, WITHOUT Trump’s face superimposed on it), with carefree vacationers exploring the state’s vast wilderness with nary a mask in sight. The taglines are: When you’re ready to travel. Great places are waiting. Explore them responsibly.

First of all, with 41% testing positive and roughly 11% of the state’s population infected with COVID (as of today), it’s a stretch to call South Dakota a “great place.” Unless your perfect vacation involves sickness and death.

And with Governor Kristi Noem one of Trump’s biggest fangirls who mocks Biden’s efforts to control the spread and does NOTHING to protect her constituents, you have to laugh off their advice to “explore responsibly.”

Here’s the South Dakota Coronavirus Map and Case Count from The New York Times.

While I’m in that part of the country, Bravo recently expanded the Real Housewives franchise into Salt Lake City, so I had to check it out…

It confirmed my suspicion that the concept is decaying. Aspiring housewives have been watching the show and get cast thinking they have certain expectations to fulfill. Apparently influenced by the Mormon belief that perfection is attainable, this Salt Lake City bunch succeeded in jumping the shark right out of the gate. (Mixed metaphor?)

First, there’s the inescapable Mormon thing. Some of them embrace it, some reject it, some feel conflicted. If you like your housewives ruminating on a cultish religion that’s heavy on secret rites and has a sketchy backstory, this is your franchise.

For example, Mary is married to her step-grandfather. Yes, you read that right. Jen converted to Islam, and she blows great gobs of money, spitefully, just because she can, so ostentatiously, she makes the New Jersey housewives’ Italian gaudiness seem the epitome of understated elegance.

At the other end of the spectrum, two of the SLC housewives (Lisa and Meredith) are virtually personality-free and indistinguishable from each other.

These women behave badly at parties, wear dresses without underwear, swear like longshoremen, and get crazy-drunk (I think I may be remembering only Jen scenes here — she reminds me of early Danielle Staub, but less classy). It’s as if they’re on a mission to disgrace and offend every Mormon in Utah.

From the first episode, most of them already hated each other and jumped straight from introductions to catfights.

I tried to give any of them a fair chance grow on me by watching three episodes, but it never got better and I dropped it. It won’t surprise me if there’s so much righteous indignation in Salt Lake City that this dog of a show gets put down after one season.

So, I bid a not-so-fond farewell to Utah, another place you’ll never catch me visiting. I’ll just stick with my battle-tested, well-seasoned housewives from New York and New Jersey, thank you.

Now that I’m back on the East Coast, I’ve been binging Maine Cabin Masters.

Who knew the Maine woods are oozing “camps,” as their owners call them, usually beside gorgeous lakes? The Cabin Masters are Chase (foreman/architect, center), his sister Ashley (interior/exterior designer), her husband Ryan (muscle/brain, 2nd from right) and the crew.

I love them because they remind me of the relatives I had growing up in Massachusetts. If living in Ohio hadn’t taught me to pronounce “R’s,” I’d probably talk like them to this day. (I’ve been resisting a Southern drawl for 47 years now and counting.)

Anyway, the gang renovates these extremely rickety, nasty camps into lovely, functioning homes, some with even two bathrooms. The décor is heavy on paneled walls and ceilings to retain that camp feel, but always cozy and charming.

In my evenings, rather than upset myself watching MSNBC blather nonsense about Trump’s increasingly nonexistent future in politics, I’d rather watch brawny, laid-back construction workers in blue jeans and flannel shirts build beautiful escapes in the Maine woods. Wouldn’t you?


Chapter 133: COVID Chronicles

November 2, 2020

By Karen

Day 233

Election Day Eve & I Relent (a Tad) on Football

Today Trump is jetting around the country spreading COVID, ranting, insulting and likely killing off some of his voters.

I’ve stopped listening to polls. Biden’s ahead nationwide, but infuriatingly tied with Trump in some crucial states. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

This makes me despair for the country, no matter how the election turns out. These Trump supporters see, as the world does, the same evil, greedy, corrupt, lying prick who values no one’s life but his own. Yet they think, “Yup, we need four more years of THAT!”

These hordes of mouth-breathing, toothless, knuckle-dragging, racist, maskless morons have been harassing Biden’s campaign buses and causing traffic jams with their pickup truck caravans, screaming and waving their guns like crazed hillbillies, trying to scare the rest of us into not voting.

If I didn’t hate these Trump supporters’ fucking guts so much, I could perhaps pity such pathetic losers. They’re so ignorant, they’ll sacrifice what little health and livelihood they’ve got to egg on Putin’s puppet so he can sell the country out to Russia. As it stands, I wish them only eternal damnation as traitors.

Tomorrow will be unbelievably stressful, but it’s just the beginning. Today, Trump’s building another wall around the White House and has National Guard on standby. He’s intent on dragging out his demise while lawyers try to disenfranchise millions of voters again to eke out another travesty in the Electoral College.

But, you’re probably wondering about my softening on football, which I unloaded on last week.

I actually do like ONE — former — football player. In fact, I love him. His name is Terry Bradshaw.

Don’t’ ask me what team he played for, what position he played (except he says he threw the ball), nor anything else about his career. I never saw him play a game and I have no clue.

But I have been watching his reality series on E! called The Bradshaw Bunch. It takes place mostly on his beautiful, sprawling Texas ranch and stars him, his wife and three grown daughters (all platinum blondes), their husbands, and Terry’s two grandchildren. His scenes with his granddaughter Zurie are comedy gold.

Terry Bradshaw is hilarious. In one episode, he considered taking a lucrative gig as a spokesman for Viagra…

If you can find it on E!, on NBC, or online, do. I laugh a lot every episode.

But Bradshaw first crossed my radar several years ago when he starred with Henry Winkler, William Shatner and George Foreman on this travel series for two seasons on NBC called Better Late Than Never.

Imagine Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert in their 70s traveling for the first time to exotic lands. Well, they could never be as culturally unsophisticated as this foursome, but the needling banter and pranks would be on par. Here’s a montage of just a few of the group’s crazy moments…

This show always had me rolling on the floor and made me a Terry Bradshaw fangirl. If you need some good laughs and can find this one, go for it.

BONUS: Randy Rainbow was inspired by the Disney movie Enchanted to ask, “How Will You Vote?”…


Chapter 95: COVID Chronicles

July 1, 2020

By Karen

Day 112

Roc May Feel Guilty & EU Shunning Gets to Me

I call this Roc’s “Hall of Good Intentions.” For the past week, he’s been bringing presents to my bedroom that never quite make it all the way (of course, Tony was on hand to photo-bomb)…

Maybe Roc’s trying to make it up to me for his sleeping in the living room with Max as their contest to determine King of the Couch continues. Meanwhile, Tony has been coming to bed with me and seems to enjoy having me all to himself (I’ve been taking lots of pics of him because he’s currently helping a good cause and hopes to become a star, details coming soon)…

Last night for the first time, Tony cuddled in the crook of my arm, which meant I spent that time lying on my back, a position I can’t fall asleep in. But it seemed like an affection breakthrough, so I stayed put as long as Tony did.

In yesterday’s comments, talking about the EU ban on Americans, I mentioned to our Danish reader the song about Copenhagen that Danny Kaye sang in the movie Hans Christian Andersen

I got teary-eyed watching it. Americans becoming unwelcome pariahs in much of the world, thanks to Trump fostering spread of COVID-19 here with unbridled glee and doing NOTHING to help the states contain it, makes me feel hopeless and almost worse than this fucking lockdown.

If you’ve never traveled outside the country, you don’t miss it. But after once having strolled around some of the most beautiful cities of Europe, finding yourself cut off from them because your country’s leader is a demented, murderous monster is crushing.

It brought to mind this song from the show, Do I Hear a Waltz?, which I believe to be an underrated musical. Richard Rodgers composed the music and produced it in 1965. It was originally intended to be a Rodgers and Hammerstein show, but Oscar Hammerstein died of cancer. One of his final wishes was to have a young composer he’d mentored, Stephen Sondheim, write the lyrics.

Neither Rodgers nor Sondheim thought the book, The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents, made good material for a musical, and it ultimately ran for only 220 performances on Broadway.

You know the story if you ever saw the 1955 movie Summertime with Katharine Hepburn and Rossanno Brazzi. Hepburn plays a spinster secretary who, while on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Venice, meets and falls in love with a semi-married shopkeeper. Elizabeth Allen and Sergio Franchi had those roles on Broadway.

This song you’ve probably never heard, This Week Americans, is sung by the proprietress of the Venetian pensione where the spinster stays. Sondheim managed to work in just about every cultural stereotype you can think of, but it reflects how, once we dump Trump, I hope the world can think of Americans again…


Chapter 94: COVID Chronicles

June 30, 2020

By Karen

Day 111

Are the Cats Plotting a Coup? & Trump’s Toadies Outing Him as a Moron

I just went downstairs to get some lunch, and when the cats heard me coming, they froze (sorry, I didn’t have the camera). I found them sitting in an informal circle around the big beige perch. Was it my imagination, or did they all look guilty? Their looks seemed to say, “Did you happen to hear any of the shit we were just saying about you?”

My birthday’s not for months, so what could they be up to? Earlier today, Tony did say “Hello”…

The brouhaha over Trump’s complicity in Putin’s Kill-Americans-for-Fun-and-Profit scheme continues. The only silver lining we’ve seen so far is that the White House is finally cornered into admitting what most of us have known all along.

Trump doesn’t have a freaking clue — nor an ounce of curiosity or concern — about what goes on, nor how to deal with it.

That latest blonde bimbo calling herself his press secretary insists Trump STILL hasn’t been “briefed” about Russia offering bounties on our soldiers.

We know Trump doesn’t or can’t read. We know he sees and hears only what he wants to, and only if it includes his face or his name, and it preferably appears on Fox “News.”

So, what does it take to enlighten the so-called leader of the free world about ANYTHING? Must the FBI and CIA duct-tape him face-down on a table and ram the intelligence so far up his flabby orange ass that it pushes the Adderall crumbs out of his nose? Would THAT get his attention?

Sadly, in the end it won’t matter. You’d think Trump’s steadfast intent on remaining totally ignorant about EVERYTHING — even when he’s killing people — should cause Pence, the cabinet and Congress to do what it takes to remove him immediately. Instead, they’re getting ready to celebrate July 4 with a two-week vacay while the rest of us try not to die. They’re determined to let Trump rampage until whoever’s still alive in November votes the bastard out.

Carl Bernstein just wrote an article for CNN that’s long but well worth a read about Trump’s phone calls with world leaders. The information is gleaned from series of interviews with people in the White House who heard the calls or read transcripts and notes, which are much more plentiful than we’ve been led to believe. Trump demeans female leaders like a chauvinist pig, calling Angela Merkel “stupid” and Theresa May “a fool.” He dismisses Obama and George W. Bush as “imbeciles” and “weaklings.”

Trump will drop everything 24/7, even golf, to take calls from Erdogan of Turkey, who calls him often (why?). Putin treats Trump like a stooge. There’s much, much more.

In a word, every country Trump had spoken to by phone has recordings proving he’s a mentally deficient and inept moron — as if our own news media’s warehouses full of video footage isn’t proof enough.

Meanwhile, I applaud the European Union for putting the U.S. on its list of banned countries, along with Russia and Brazil, because of our COVID-19 containment failures. It means I can’t make a transatlantic crossing anytime soon to or from cities I love, like Dublin, Paris or Lisbon. But if it delivers another crushing blow to Trump to make innocent American travelers pariahs thanks to his incompetence, so be it.

Hmm… Max and Roc are now hanging out in my office, supposedly napping. Should I be worried?…

BONUS: Democratic strategist and truly funny guy, James Carville, has written my favorite kind of satire, Trump’s Farewell Address.

DOUBLE BONUS: Randy Rainbow channeled Bye Bye Birdie to write this delightful anthem for the COVID-19 age…


Chapter 89: COVID Chronicles

June 25, 2020

By Karen

Day 106

#BourdainDay News from the Home Front

Were Anthony Bourdain still with us, today would have been his 64th birthday. In 2019, his chef friends Eric Ripert and José Andrés began celebrating by designating June 25 #BourdainDay. All that’s required in recognition is to raise a glass or have a great meal that Tony might have loved — which is to say, do whatever makes you happy.

Restaurants all over are featuring specials in his memory. For example, Tojo’s in Vancouver is recreating the seven-course menu served when Bourdain visited in 2008, with a portion of proceeds going to Mind the Bar, a fund for local restaurant workers dealing with depression. Even in death, Bourdain still champions worthy causes.

GoTraveler posted a tribute consisting of early Bourdain TV clips that left me smiling. He was so exuberant when he and his earring embarked his globe-trotting adventure…

I met Anthony Bourdain’s wife Ottavia in November 2009 when several Cats Working readers and I gathered in Washington D.C. to attend the annual Capital Food Fight, which Tony was hosting with José Andrés…

Since then, Ottavia and I have occasionally touched base, and she graciously provided an update on how she and daughter Ariane are doing.

Ottavia’s parents live in Italy’s Lombardy region, which was the epicenter for COVID-19 there. Bourdain once filmed an episode of No Reservations featuring them and other members of Ottavia’s family. Fortunately, they have been able to stay healthy.

But Ottavia wasn’t so lucky. She’s gone back to school to study neurobiology (she had once studied dentistry in Italy before emigrating to the U.S.). In February, she got her EMT (emergency medical technician) license.

She told me she caught COVID-19 in mid-March, probably in school or on the bus, so her plans to begin volunteering as an EMT had to get scratched. Here’s what she told me about coronavirus:

“It was AWFUL. I wasn’t one of the worst cases and I managed to stay out of the hospital, mostly because I have a stethoscope and a pulse oximeter at home and I could check my lungs’ sounds and my oxygen concentration. It took me over three weeks to recover. I still have lingering issues.”

Ottavia is in her early 40s (her 1965 birthdate repeated all over the internet is wildly inaccurate). She describes this lingering aftereffect of COVID that I haven’t seen reported anywhere:

“I had completely lost my sense of smell and could barely taste anything. But things were getting much better until last week, when I started smelling a sinister scent. Like rotten carcass. I was sure there was a dead mouse in the apartment, although Eddie and Ariane couldn’t smell anything. I went on a hunt for hours. But then I realized that I could smell that scent in meat, tuna, coffee, body wash.

“I emailed my doctor, and turns out that many people who recovered from COVID-19, and had lost their sense of smell, are now, weeks later, suffering from parosmia, a distorted sense of smell. For some it’s so bad they can’t even eat because everything tastes like rotten meat.

“I’m sure this too will pass, but it’s a scary virus because there are still so many unknowns. It’s maddening to see how many people are nonchalant about it.”

Ariane and Eddie haven’t gotten sick, and Ariane even tested negative for antibodies, so somehow Ottavia managed to successfully quarantine while they were all living in the same apartment.

Ottavia has had a relationship with Eddie Cummings for several years. They met at Renzo Gracie’s Academy while practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

I don’t know how much of a role, if any, BJJ still plays in their lives. Eddie is completing his master’s degree in applied mathematics and plans to go on to Ph.D. studies.

Ottavia is keeping busy with a lot of summer school classes. Last year she told me she wanted to study neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and would love to earn a Ph.D. in biomedical science.

Daughter Ariane is 13 now and studying for high school admission tests she’ll be taking in the fall. Can you believe how time flies?

It sounds like Ariane has some strong Bourdain genes. She’s already taller than Ottavia. She’s a straight A student. For hobbies, she’s into playing music and painting. Ottavia also reports that Ariane is a great writer.

Ariane is certainly old enough to surf the ‘net, and she does. And what she sometimes finds about her father is disturbing.

In case Ariane’s surfing ever brings her to Cats Working, I want to say that none of us know the full story after 2016. Only after Tony was gone did we learn he’d become deeply entangled in an explosive mess created by that woman he was dating. Had it come out while he was alive, it would have damaged his reputation and possibly ended his relationship with CNN. So, anything he did to keep that woman happy and quiet may have been to protect his own family, not because he preferred her.

Since this woman has never shown the slightest regard or respect for Tony’s family before or after his death, anything she puts online about him can only be construed as self-serving and possibly cruel by intent. She’s firmly established that’s how she rolls. Our only reasonable response is to ignore it and her.

I think I’ll be celebrating #BourdainDay later with a dirty martini. Cheers!

BONUS: InkedMag.com has a series of links to amazing tattoos of Bourdain people have posted. Check them out.


Chapter 72: COVID Chronicles

June 8, 2020

By Karen

Day 89

Zamir Marks Two Years Without Bourdain

#BourdainDay, as commemorated by Tony’s friends Eric Ripert and José Andres, isn’t officially until June 25 on what would have been Bourdain’s 64th birthday.

But Zamir Gotta, Tony’s Russian sidekick from many memorable adventures going all the way back to his first series, A Cook’s Tour, says today is Bourdain Day because it marks two years that we all learned Tony had killed himself in his hotel room in France. It’s still hard to accept.

And fans still have many of the same questions we were left with in 2018.

[You can visit the Cats Working June 2018 archive for several more posts on details as they emerged. July 2018 was about him as well, and a search on his name will uncover developments here and there ever since.]

No public memorial service was held in New York beyond the avalanche of notes and flowers left in front of Les Halles (since closed), the last restaurant where Bourdain worked before his TV career began.

I’ve never seen any word about the final resting place of his ashes, if there is one.

Restaurants worldwide ever since have held special dinners and other events, with many of the proceeds going to suicide prevention. Artists have drawn murals. Here’s a great example on the side of a building in Fishtown, Philadelphia, by @jespaints in August 2019…

Here’s a video about a massive mural done by artist Krystal Cooke in Flint, Michigan, last year.

Some of Tony’s furniture, books, manuscripts, art and personal belongings were auctioned off to fund the Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship at his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America. The auction raised nearly $2 million — FAR more than anyone expected. His custom-made chef’s knife alone fetched $231,500.

This past January, Tony’s mother Gladys passed away at age 85, leaving only his younger brother Chris and daughter Ariane as surviving blood relatives.

I wonder how Bourdain would have coped with self-quarantine and travel being internationally shut down during COVID-19. I think he would have kept busy writing, editing others’ books for his Ecco imprint, and planning his own future projects. He would have recognized that his TV career as he knew it was probably over, or could evolve in a restricted way he’d find unworkable.

He might have well have seen this pandemic as a blessing and an opportunity to change course, since he seemed to be so bone-tired near the end.

And how would he have supported today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement? You know he’d be all in for fighting Trump’s never-ending attacks on immigrants and every American who isn’t rich, white, racist and male.

We can only imagine what a force for good he would have been.


Chapter 65: COVID Chronicles

June 1, 2020

By Karen

Day 82

Bravo’s Below Deck: My Great Escape

After about 45 cruises over the past 32 years — without a next one in sight — I’m addicted to a three-series franchise on Bravo TV called Below Deck, which is set on luxurious motor and sailing yachts.

It’s a microcosm of shipboard life, boiled down to three basic departments:

  1. Galley – a chef
  2. Interior – a chief steward managing 2nd and 3rd stews
  3. Deck – a bosun managing two or three deckhands (one usually female)

The captain navigates and oversees all operations as the final authority. The motor yachts are usually about 150-160 ft., and the sailing yacht was 180 ft. (Today’s “small” cruise ships are about 900+ ft.)

Below Deck originally was set in the Bahamas and Caribbean, sailing with Captain Lee, advertised by Bravo as “The Stud of the Sea.”

After cruising many years in the Caribbean myself, that’s how I initially got hooked. When the islands were devastated a few years ago by hurricanes, that series moved to Thailand for Season 7, giving the crew a change of scene for their wild nights in port, partying between charters.

Below Deck Mediterranean, the second series, has female Captain Sandy. Season 5 begins TONIGHT, sailing from Mallorca, Spain, with a first-time-ever all-female leadership team: captain, chief stew and bosun.

Season 1 of Below Deck Sailing Yacht wrapped just last week, sailing from Corfu, Greece.

The sailboat had some notable differences. Accommodations were tighter and the vibe was much more casual (i.e., the crew never wore epaulettes signifying rank). It sailed primarily on motor power, but every episode featured at least one scene with the masts up, which sometimes made the boat list so sharply, everything went flying.

Captain Glenn was a laid-back guy, and things got out of hand almost immediately when the chief stew fell for the chef and began haranguing him to sleep with her (in the master guest cabin between charters — ew!) even after he wanted out. When the rest of the crew finally got fed up with the constant public affair, Glenn stepped in. That chief stew was the whole boss-from-hell package. She had the nerve to accuse her stews of complaining behind her back and failing to meet her “perfection” standards as thanks for them taking up the slack while she was mentally and physically MIA.

The three series have had some overlap because in real life the chefs and crew hop among ships as they find gigs, or get hired mid-season if someone quits or gets fired, which usually happens for lying, goofing off, being incompetent or a PITA.

I guess to protect the boat owners’ privacy, the boats sail under stage names and the crews wear corresponding logo uniforms, but the boats’ real identities are all over the internet.

Every episode is about how the crew copes with pleasing often-difficult, obnoxious, demanding guests to earn good tips. How they survive in tight quarters and get along (or not). And how they handle the unexpected: storms, breakdowns, injuries, accidents, fights. One deckhand almost drowned (and gave Captain Lee a stroke) when he fell from the stern of the moving boat with his leg tangled in a rope. Fortunately, the quick-thinking cameraman dropped his camera and freed the guy’s leg just in time.

There’s never a dull moment.

Below Deck is the show I need right now. It’s an escape to beautiful places where people are dining and drinking and enjoying themselves like I used to. For an hour, I forget that my life for the foreseeable future means being prisoner to a deadly pandemic and watching my city terrorized by riots while a homicidal dementia patient cowers in the White House basement and destroys the country.


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