Review: Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain

October 18, 2022

By Karen

I’ve switched to e-books mostly, due to bulging bookcases, but for any book written by/about Anthony Bourdain, I MUST have the real deal. Opening Charles Leerhsen’s Down and Out in Paradise brought Bourdain back to life for hours of good and bad revelations.

But then Tony was gone again.

I’ve written enough words here since 2007 about Anthony Bourdain to fill several books myself. Since his passing, the more I’ve read about him — which often confirms theories I had — the less I’ve felt we knew him.

Leerhsen took the backdoor to his subject because Bourdain’s “authorized” group (exception: his two wives) shut him out. The result fills in many blanks. And I’m not just talking about the circumstances of his death, but how he became who he was.

Despite Tony’s mantra, “What you see is what you get,” and his disdain for pretense, Leerhsen explored how Bourdain carefully revealed only the polite, polished tip of the extremely dark iceberg of his inner workings.

Although prepublication reviews hyped those final, fatal texts between Tony and his girlfriend AA [no longer named here because she lives for attention] right before his suicide, the bulk of Leerhsen’s research dealt with the “nobody” years before Kitchen Confidential changed Bourdain’s life.

Old friends and co-workers we’ve never heard of remembered more about Bourdain’s school and restaurant days than ever seen before.

Because Leerhsen had to rely heavily on unnamed “confidential sources,” at times it could be unclear what was fact and what was Leerhsen trying to connect dots.

And I did get confused about who actually spoke to him because he’d write, “Lydia [Tenaglia]” or “Chris [Collins] said, ‘Blah, blah, blah,’” as if ZPZ had cooperated, only to find out in the endnotes that their quotes were from third-party writings.

Tony’s brother Christopher has complained that Leerhsen muffed everything about early family life, but I’d say he confirms the more tactful version Laurie Woolever presented in her Definitive biography.

No matter how you slice Tony’s mother Gladys, she was monstrous. For example, what kind of mother doesn’t tell her kids for years that they’re half Jewish?

One factual error I did find was about Tony’s paternal grandfather, Pierre Michel, on page 38. According to meticulous genealogical research submitted to Cats Working, Pierre wasn’t immediately deported upon arriving in America as a boy, but adopted by an American.

To use a sports metaphor Leerhsen would appreciate, I think he dropped the ball on page 269, misstating that Bourdain paid Jimmy Bennett $380,000 in a lump sum to keep mum about AA’s raping him at age 17. The New York Times broke the story after Tony’s death in 2018 and Cats Working reported that he paid $200,000 upfront, with 18 monthly installments of $10,000 to follow.

I believe Bennett ultimately collected $250,000 before AA defaulted when Tony’s death permanently closed the Bank of Bourdain.

I mention this as potentially the gorilla in the room with Tony and AA. She may have dumped Tony the night he died, but he was still legally bound to continue paying for Bennett’s silence to save her face.

The burden of having his own duplicity/stupidity/hypocrisy in that mess exposed may have figured hugely in Leerhsen’s hypothesis (which I agree with) that Tony ultimately couldn’t stand who he had become.

Speaking of AA, Leerhsen’s descriptions of her beginning on page 229 are almost worth the price of the book. He begins with the understatement, “Her career had not exactly organized itself around a robust demand for her services,” and the smackdowns just keep on coming.

He writes that even Ottavia had to Google the fellow Italian and told someone, “One of the first things that came up was a picture of a woman making out with a dog.” (True; she did.)

On other fronts, Leerhsen did his homework, finding on page 205 the moment Bourdain’s evil alter-ego Vic Chanko was born (Hint: It goes back to episode 1 of A Cook’s Tour.)

He offers a fuller picture of first wife Nancy than we’ve ever seen, including Zamir’s memories of meeting her when she accompanied Tony to Russia.

But there’s a discrepancy on Bourdain’s current cremated whereabouts. On page 7, Leerhsen says Chris emailed the French authorities to send Tony’s ashes and electronics to Ottavia. But on page 277 he says, “As of this writing, Tony’s brother, Christopher Bourdain, still has Tony’s ashes.” [emphasis mine]

He includes unsubstantiated rumors that Tony had flings with handy fellow TV personalities, such as Nigella Lawson (which I’d applaud if he hadn’t been married to Ottavia at the time), and Padma Lakshmi (no doubt she’d have tried to get in his pants, but EEWWW!).

Much as I hate to believe it, prostitutes seemed to be an ongoing thing with him. Which explains why Tom Vitale went skeevy on me when I asked him about that.

Leerhsen included quite a trove of Tony’s earliest writing, including a poem. (Bourdain’s writing I’ll save for another post because I’m still processing.)

The acknowledgements were a Who’s Who of “Who?” but did include Tony’s old friend Michael Ruhlman and some who have been excluded heretofore, such as Zamir and AA. Absent was the loyal core from the Definitive bio who, as Eric Ripert put it, “want to control the narrative.”

The endnotes seem comprehensive in detailing what Leerhsen found where, but all the juiciest bits whose origins you’d really want to know invariably came from “confidential sources.”

I’m very pleased to add Leerhsen to my bulging bookshelf alongside Bourdain’s books, and hope he’ll give me an opportunity to interview him soon.


Bourdain’s Biographer Stayed in the Room Where It Happened

October 3, 2022

By Karen

In anticipation of Charles Leerhsen’s book coming out October 11, Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain, I’ve contacted him about giving Cats Working an interview once I’ve read the book.

He hasn’t responded to that, but I have pinged his radar because he sent me this link to an article he wrote published Oct. 1, “Anthony Bourdain’s Last Days Revisited.” (It makes you give an email address, but once the site sends you something, unsubscribe, which I did.)

It doesn’t state the article is excerpted from the book, so Leerhsen may be providing additional information here. He discovered that Le Chambard, where Bourdain took his own life, is now squeamish about the whole subject. They refused to let Leerhsen reserve that room (he did get Eric Ripert’s room next door), but the next day, he and his wife actually finagled their way back in and stayed in Bourdain’s room.

Photo: Travelocity

The story ends on a supernatural note that reminds me of some months ago when Roc and I watched a book eject itself from my bedroom bookcase.

The article is definitely worth a read.

In other Bourdain news…

Here’s an interview with Leerhsen by The Guardian that offers some insight, if you ignore the reporting’s factual errors, such as:

  1. In the third paragraph, they mention a show running three seasons. A Cook’s Tour, or even The Layover, were two seasons each. If they’re talking about No Res or Parts, they’re WAY off.
  2. I’ve never seen anywhere that Tony was ever a co-owner of Les Halles. He was broke in his chef days, and he consistently said he never wanted to own a restaurant.
  3. He was 61 when he died, nearly three weeks before his next birthday.
  4. The Hong Kong episode wasn’t posthumous. I believe it first aired in the U.S. the same weekend the skank shacked up with Hugo and cavorted for the Roman paparazzi.

I was luckily able to read the book review published today by Dwight Garner in The New York Times, subtitled “Light on Subtlety, Heavy on Grit.” A few snippets…

“Here are the prostitutes, a lot of prostitutes, and one-night stands, and rumors of affairs with other food-world personalities.”

He compares Leerhsen’s bio to Laurie Woolever’s “authorized” book…

“A previous book, “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography” (2021), compiled by Laurie Woolever, felt like an official Bourdain-industry product. It was worthy but dull.

“It was heavy on pontificating celebrities, from the food, television and journalism worlds, who tried to puzzle out what made this magnificent, pagan, literate, lantern-jawed beast tick, to put him on the couch.

“Leerhsen’s book, on the other hand, has a lot of people trying to join Bourdain on the couch, ideally without his trousers, and thus has more adrenaline and feels truer to life.”

On brother Chris: Here’s a Leerhsen interview with the L.A. Times where he describes what apparently was going on behind the scenes between the brothers, and how Chris tried to deep-six Leerhsen’s book.

[Fun Fact: Did you know there’s virtually no such thing as defaming the dead? They are considered memories, with no active reputation to “protect.”]

The skank vs. Ottavia: Here’s another article called “Everything We Know So Far,” which gives some info on Ottavia’s role and how the skank wanted to erase Tony’s family — at least on social media.

The skank’s reaction: After her last texts with Tony went public last week, she posted a photo of herself on Instagram — defiantly no-class as always.

A friend on Instagram sent me an Italian post from an interview on kikapressandmedia. Translated, it begins…

“Down and out in paradise, the unauthorized biography focused on the character of Anthony Bourdain, has sparked new controversy: once again in the media meat grinder there is AA.” [Abbreviation mine]

AA is quoted on the text messages…

“Those who made the messages public are vultures, and there are many around a famous person. Those who sold them will see it with their karma.”

[NOTE ADDED 10/5: Just noticed another point. Above, AA predicts bad karma for the “vulture” who “sold” her texts (before she did?). Even more ludicrous than thinking her vulgarity has monetary value is her delusion that Tony’s family sought anything beyond the relief of finally getting the truth in print. Or that Leerhsen paid people for cooperation. That’s not how biographers work.]

AA ends with belated recognition of Tony’s child, so she’s working hard for sympathy…

“His daughter, me, my children have suffered, we must transform this poison, I am turning it into my cure. With Anthony we shared being alcoholics, we supported each other with a sense of dark humor, we were very lonely, but two alcoholics together drown.”

Ottavia today? With the provocative click-bait title, “How Anthony Bourdain’s Estranged Wife’s Life Is Drastically Different Since He Passed,” I thought Ottavia had opened up to someone. Wrong. Writer Tara Dugan cobbled together a so-called profile of Ottavia without speaking to her, since there isn’t a single quote, nor providing any fact that isn’t publicly available and possibly dubious. I’m just sharing it as a glaring example of “lamestream” journalism.


Unauthorized Bourdain Bio Coming Oct. 11

September 29, 2022

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…


Let’s Pretend Trump Did Go to the Capitol

July 18, 2022

By Karen

We’ve heard that Trump wasn’t allowed to accompany his armed mob to the Capitol on January 6. But what if he had? Let’s imagine…

The White House and Capitol are 2 miles apart, about 1.995 miles farther than Trump’s ability to “march” anywhere, so he had to be driven. In this tale, his SUV had loyal Secret Service agents, guys Trump could count on to wipe their phones and obliterate all incriminating texts around 1/6.

After his speech at the Ellipse, when Trump barked, “I’m the fucking president and I can do whatever I want. Drive me to the Capitol,” he didn’t have to grab the steering wheel or strangle anyone.

[By the way, Trump driving himself to the Capitol might have been a crime in itself because his New York driver’s license expired in June 2020.

In the heat of his reelection campaign and daily coronavirus briefings, do you think he renewed it?]

His Secret Service detail said, “Yes, Sir, at once, Sir!” (They knew he loves being called “Sir.”) The SUV inched through the rag-tag crowd filling the street, so the usual 10-minute drive took longer. But that gave Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who’d already spent hours crashing through the Capitol Police’s first lines of defense, more time to smash the unreinforced windows, which they’d located thanks to Trump’s sycophants giving them tours to case the place.

The SUV took Trump right to the Capitol steps to spare the germophobe from having to walk through the unwashed masses he loved precisely because of their poor hygiene. Just climbing those steps in shoe lifts and a girdle would be taxing enough for Trump.

Trump was anticipating his High Noon showdown on the House floor with Speaker Pelosi when he declared all vote-counting over and told that bitch, “You’re fired!”

A phalanx of more Secret Service agents materialized to form a human V in front of Trump to clear his path up the stairs, yelling, “Stand down, but stand by!” When rioters glimpsed the dead ferret on Trump’s head, they hailed their leader’s arrival, stepping back and holding their flag-spears aloft in salute.

Once inside the Capitol, Trump strode to the House chamber expecting to find Nancy Pelosi in hysterics and Democrat cowards bouncing off the walls in terror. But it was empty except for vagrants ransacking desks and a bare-chested nut wearing face paint and horns standing at the Speaker’s chair.

Enraged that Pelosi had eluded him, Trump screamed, “Fuck you, Nervous Nancy!” and stomped out.

In the underground garage where Mike Pence and his family were hiding came word that Trump was in the building. “Oh, Mother, he’s come at last to save us!” Pence exclaimed as he headed for the stairs.

From the top of the Capitol steps, Trump ordered some SS agents to lead “his people, but only the armed ones” to where Congress was hiding, because he wasn’t about to squander this opportunity to rid himself of Schumer, Pelosi and their Democrat scum.

Looking over the mob, Trump was inspired to deliver an impromptu speech (which would have come out as, “Stop the steal, rigged election, fake news, witch hunt, hoax, fight like hell, shifty Schiff, Hillary’s emails!” on endless loop). But Mike Pence ran toward him, with Mother waddling in his wake.

“Praise the Lord, Sir! My prayers have been answered. You’re here to deliver us from evil and make America great again!” Pence cried, dropping to his knees at Trump’s feet.

Trump looked down and replied, his voice dripping with contempt, “Mike, are you going to do the right thing or wuss out and be a pussy?”

Panicked and confused after fleeing from the mob, Pence momentarily forgot what Trump was asking about. That nanosecond of hesitation cost him everything.

Trump gestured to an obese, bearded clot of knuckle-draggers standing nearby and said, “Proud Boys, you know what to do.”

Trumps goons grabbed the still-kneeling Pence and dragged him screaming down the Capitol steps. When Pence saw the gallows, he went limp and the Proud Boys easily threw him onto the platform. Trump and Mother Pence had caught up and watched, but only one of them in horror.

As the noose fell around Pence’s neck, TV cameramen in trees a safe distance away broadcast worldwide his lips babbling a final prayer. The next moment, the Proud Boys yanked the rope.

Trump heard the satisfying snap of his VP’s neck as he struggled in midair. When Mike went still, Trump gave his signature thumbs-up.

“Mike got what he deserved.”

The mob roared and began chanting, “Nancy Next, Nancy Next!”

But Pelosi was on the phone with General Mark Milley, who deployed the U.S. Army, which arrived to find Trump smirking amid general jubilation and dancing around Mike Pence’s dangling corpse.

As the troops landed, Trump’s SUV whisked him away because he didn’t want blood splashing on his black cashmere winter coat.

The rioters, now finding themselves leaderless and under deadly threat from highly trained soldiers armed for combat, lunged at the army with their flag-spears. Concealed weapons came out and began firing, including AR-15s, of course.

Screams filled the air as heads and body parts flew all over the Capitol grounds, soaking everyone in unspeakable gore. Both sides suffered so many casualties, the epic Civil War confrontation at Antietam will henceforth be remembered as a garden party.

Since it was all broadcast live, the whole world watched the U.S. president lead a barbaric attack on the government he’d sworn a sacred oath to protect and defend.

Trump, now safely back in the White House after a quick stop at a McDonald’s drive-through, watched TV as he scarfed down three Big Macs and two large orders of fries swimming in ketchup. When he flung his porcelain plate against the wall, as 1/6 Committee witness Cassidy Hutchinson later described, it was not in rage, but celebratory.

Trump reveled in his self-made “American carnage” all afternoon, flipping from station to station. He replayed many times favorite moments when his people blew U.S. Army troops to smithereens.

It wasn’t until dusk, when his people were too hungry and exhausted to continue fighting, that Trump called a press conference. His message was simple and from the heart:

“You’re all very special people and I love you, but you can go home now. Thank you for your hard work. You are true patriots. I am going to reward you by giving you what you want more than anything in the world. I declare Donald J. Trump president for life.

“As of this moment, I’m dissolving Congress and firing all the Joint Chiefs. All branches of the military, including my most brilliant Space Force, now report directly to their Supreme Commander, Donald J. Trump. I declare martial law throughout the land. The 2020 election never happened, and we’ll never need an election again. Thank you, and good night.”

Trump took no questions.

As the rioters packed up, Congress returned to find their building in shambles, including urine in every corner and human feces all over walls, paintings, and statues.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer stood together, looking through a broken window at the silhouette of Mike Pence framed by moonlight, hanging from the gallows. If they still had jobs, they would have drawn up a list of possible members for a committee, which would then decide if the events of 1/6 needed to be investigated to determine if it was even remotely conceivable that Trump or anyone with him had possibly committed any crimes.

Mitch McConnell finally felt safe enough with all the Democrats gone to poke his head out of his shell and Kevin McCarthy pulled his thumb out of his mouth. Even though now also unemployed, they chanted in unison, “All Hail our Glorious Leader!”

Trump left the Supreme Court and Justice Department intact because he needed them to enforce his will and persecute his enemies. In an odd twist, he appointed Merrick Garland his new attorney general because he knew Garland would never dare to make a political fuss by charging anybody with anything. And he never did.

Pence’s killers faced no punishment. The rioters who slaughtered Capitol Police and Army troops were exonerated by Trump’s next executive order, which stated, “Since the United States loves the Second Amendment more than life itself, everyone must own a gun and murder is no longer a crime.”

Nobody lived happily ever after, including Trump. After about a year, dementia had reduced his mind to such mush, he couldn’t remember he’d ever been president. But the damage he’d been allowed to do wiped the United States of America right off the map.


Jan. 6 Committee, Please Stop Teasing Us

July 11, 2022

By Karen

What I’m sick of seeing, besides Trump’s putrid orange face and Mitch McConnell’s animated rotting corpse, is certain members of the January 6 Committee giving “interviews” to cable news talking heads who seem to have a boundless propensity for flinging themselves against brick walls.

I’m looking particularly at you, Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren.

At least Jamie Raskin will slip us decent teasers, such as the public hearings are going “blow the roof off the House.” Do tell!

This past weekend, Adam Kinzinger graciously confirmed that White House attorney Pat Cippollone’s testimony on July 8 didn’t contradict anything other witnesses had already said. So, White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson wasn’t committing perjury for 15 minutes of fame. Nice to know.

And every time Liz Cheney opens her mouth and the word “Trump” comes out, it’s like watching her father Dick shoot his best friend in the face all over again — but this time in the best possible way.

But Schiff and Lofgren, didn’t your mothers ever warn you, “If you have nothing useful to say, don’t go on TV and pretend you do”?

Here’s how these faux interviews typically go…

Interviewer: Mr. X was spotted going into the committee hearing room this morning and he seemed to be in there all day. That’s enough time to ask a lot of questions. Can you tell us how it went?

Member: Yes, we had invited Mr. X to come and speak to us, but I’m not at liberty to confirm that he complied, nor what might have been discussed if he did.

Int: Will we be seeing Mr. X testify under oath at a future televised public hearing?

Mem: Out of deference to my colleagues who will be chairing future hearings, I must refrain from divulging the names of their potential witnesses.

Int: Can you give us any idea of the themes your future hearings will tackle?

Mem: I don’t want to get ahead of our esteemed chairman, Mr. Thompson, who is ably steering the course of our investigation. But I can say we have gathered a wealth of evidence on a range of topics.

Int: Can you tell us how many more hearings the committee plans to hold, and might they extend into August?

Mem: New information is coming to light daily as new witnesses come forward, so the duration and number of any remaining hearings is not something I’m able to speculate on at this time.

Int: Can you tell us where these new witnesses are coming from? It’s been reported that you’ve already interviewed over 1,000 people.

Mem: The hearings so far have inspired others to contact us and share facts they possess which they may not have realized were relevant until now. We are grateful for their cooperation.

Int: Will your committee be making criminal referrals to the Justice Department?

Mem: It was never our intention to determine whether any criminal acts ever actually occurred. We are merely putting information we’ve gathered before the American people so that they can decide.

And there goes five minutes of all our lives we will never recover, and we learned absolutely NOTHING. Watching these media whores do their coy little minuet around substance — enabled by so-called cable “news” hosts — is enough to make anyone’s hair spontaneously combust.

Just give us more hearings, and if you can’t tell us anything more in between, then shut up.


Thoughts on Jan. 6 Hearings So Far

June 22, 2022

By Karen

We’ve had four hearings to date. I’ve watched every minute because this is too important, and I don’t trust TV pundits’ recaps’ accuracy.

Photo: wmur.com

I feel as if Trump’s gaslighting is now coming from journalists (I’m looking at you, Maddow and Reid) who keep using words like “shocking” and “bombshell” to describe the hearings. Have they forgotten their reporting since 1/6, or are we watching different hearings?

This cognitive dissonance spreads like a fungus because with the hearings foolishly held during business hours, working people rely on pundits, who regurgitate only what they consider highlights. That is, viewer bait, not necessarily important stuff.

The baseline fact is that Trump & Co. committed sedition by trying to overturn the election through coercion and insurrection. It was as illegal as it appeared. These hearings are just gilding the lily, dumping on us and the Justice Department an additional mountain of actionable evidence that should send Trump & Co. to prison forever.

As for the hearings themselves, I’m so over-saturated with Trump and his crimes, I absorb all information through the filter of, “Is this something I didn’t already know?” The answer is mostly no.

From the first prime-time hearing, my major takeaway was that the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers arrived at the Capitol hours early and skipped Trump’s speech so they could begin the rampage while Trump whipped reinforcements into a frenzy.

Bottom line: The insurrection was planned and coordinated with the White House, not spontaneous.

A subsequent hearing revealed that Trump has bilked $250 million from his cult for a nonexistent “Defense Fund.” He probably continues to this day because no one’s stopping him. He’s already stolen millions from his Inaugural Fund, gifts from foreign leaders, boxes of top-secret documents, and overcharged the Secret Service for profit, so why not?

Every hearing reiterates that Trump was told ad nauseam the election wasn’t stolen. They’ve also confirmed that Rudy Giuliani is a washed-up drunk, Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman plotted treason, and they’re all low-hanging, rotten fruit, but Merrick Garland coulda-shoulda-didn’t arrest them all months ago.

A truly sickening unintended consequence has been the glorification of Mike Pence and other Republicans who have testified. The truth is that Pence scoured every possibility to proclaim Trump the winner. But since he and all these witnesses had the sense to see prison looming if they obeyed Trump, they “did the right thing,” a.k.a, their jobs. Period.

Also, as the plot unfolded, with the exception of Arizona’s House Speaker Russell Bowers, who issued a press release no one saw, they all publicly said NOTHING to alert the country to Trump’s coup attempt.

Any other day, they’re still greedy, selfish, polluting, misogynistic, gun-loving, child-hating racists who want only to see white men owning and running the entire country again.

One huge takeaway from Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger: 28,000 ballots had NO vote for president, but did vote for Republicans down-ticket. Had all those voted for Trump, it would have been 173% of the 11,780 Trump demanded Raffensperger “find.”

Bottom line: Georgians didn’t want Trump reelected.

Why hasn’t this been a huge headline, media?

Raffensperger also told questioner Adam Schiff that Georgia found only four instances of votes from dead people. I expected Schiff to ask, “And who were those votes for?”

We’ll never know because Schiff let it drop. I’m going to take a wild guess and say Trump, because most of the few fraudulent votes anyone has found were for Trump.

That’s one small nail in the coffin, but a crucial one in driving home the point that the MAGA cult’s moral bankruptcy matches Trump’s own, and is even more dangerous by sheer numbers.

Yesterday’s hearing featured two black female Georgia vote counters. Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly named and reviled them with false accusations of vote tampering, which has stirred up the MAGA cult to have them living in fear for their lives.

This is a dot the media is doing a poor job of connecting. Trump’s continued freedom to spew lies is still inspiring bottom-feeding, brainwashed, armed scum to commit violence for him. Like the 1/6 insurrectionists, these people need to be tracked down now, arrested and dealt the most severe consequences the law allows, because nothing else is getting through to them.

Which brings me back to Attorney General Merrick Garland. I was incensed to see him almost giddy when asked if he’s watching the hearings…

Yeah, he’s watching, but is he DOING anything? Well, just yesterday, Garland hopped over to Ukraine to promise them he’ll deliver justice to their war criminals.

Bottom line: When the 1/6 hearings end, Garland had better deliver justice to the traitors in his own country who his inaction is enabling to STILL plot a coup, or he and the rest of us are all fucked.


Review: Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice for ZPZ with “Nomad”

May 19, 2022

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain set the bar so high for travel series, I wonder if we should retire the format for a generation, like a super-athlete’s sports jersey, after watching Zero Point Zero’s Nomad with Carlton McCoy on CNN.

I feel sorry for Bourdain’s heir. Carlton McCoy is tracing incredibly deep tracks without the experience or maturity to either fill or reshape them.

Scheduling Nomad at 10 p.m. (ET) Sunday, CNN did McCoy no favors because he follows Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. After an hour of Tucci charm, sophistication, wit and easy Italian banter in gorgeous settings, McCoy barely stands a chance.

I’m speaking with generational bias. McCoy is 37, with a shaved head, one of those itchy-looking stubble-beards, and tats all over. His personality reminds me of Rick Steves, and not in a good way.

McCoy’s quick backstory: Father Black, mother Jewish, but raised in the Pentecostal church of his paternal grandmother. Grew up in Washington D.C.’s tough, underprivileged Southeast section. Bounced around high schools, but managed to graduate with a scholarship to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America).

While working in restaurants, he studied wine and became a master sommelier. Only 5% who take it pass that exam, and there are fewer than 300 master sommeliers in the world.

He brings to the show a chef’s knowledge of food and what makes a good wine pairing. So far, that’s about it.

Remember Bourdain’s voiceover opening to No Reservations?

“I’m Anthony Bourdain. I write, I travel, I eat, and I’m hungry for more.”

This is McCoy’s…

“I’m a nomad, driven to move in and out of different cultures, different worlds. We celebrate diversity by embracing what makes us both unique and the same. After all, we carry our travels with us to our next destination. That’s what life is all about. Let’s do this.”

OK, wake up, I’m not finished!

Like Bourdain, McCoy’s voiceover is clear (more on that in a minute), but the content is as personally insightful and humorous as a book report about the dictionary.

Nomad’s inaugural episode is Paris, a place McCoy has visited before. The B-roll included all the usual tourist sights. The show wraps at Elysée Palace (the French White House), where McCoy talks to one of President Emmanuel Macron’s chefs.

But to its credit, for most of the episode, McCoy is in the seedier outer arrondissements, the banlieues parisiennes or No Go zones.

Nomad emphasizes the new, the next generation, with little acknowledgement of origins. Cultural context was Bourdain’s forte, thanks to his insatiable study of literature and film.

Nomad feels like early No Reservations. The camera work is safe and competent, and scenes tick the usual boxes…

  • Bowl of noodles at hole in the wall
  • Famous chef cooking in Michelin starred restaurant
  • Host strolling the streets

In the second episode, Korea, McCoy meets up with an old CIA classmate, and they immediately hit Seoul’s open-air market, including a meal of blood sausage and chicken feet washed down with local booze and beer.

Has your déjà vu alarm gone off yet?

When McCoy leaves Seoul for the countryside, they load the car with hard-sided, unscuffed luggage.

OK, that’s something new.

I can’t remember ever seeing Bourdain’s luggage. He wanted us to think he could and did go anywhere with just a carry-on. Stanley Tucci probably has steamer trunks for his impeccable wardrobe, but he’d never show them.

In the third episode, McCoy travels back to D.C. and hangs out with old friends, relatives and teachers. It seemed far too early in the series for him to be showing us his roots.

At the end, I expected to see Bourdain’s crew all over the credits, but there were only Chris and Lydia as executive producers. On second thought, new names mean Tony’s crew has moved on, and I’m glad. They reached the Emmy pinnacle for cinematography and writing, so going back to scratch with a noob would have been unthinkable.

With time, McCoy will probably grow into the job. But if he gets a second season, ZPZ must address his sloppy diction. His conversations almost need subtitles. His voice isn’t distinctive and he speaks too fast and slurs his words.

One other beef: He needs to lose that ridiculous New York Yankees baseball cap that screams, “I’m a dumbass American tourist!”

In the remaining season, McCoy travels to Ghana, Toronto and Mississippi. If you want more details on his early life, I found this excellent article by Amiee White Beazley.


Taking a Pass on 2022 Kentucky Derby

May 7, 2022

By Tony

Here’s a confession for all my peeps: Try as hard as I might, I’m just not feeling excited about Triple Crown season the way my predecessors Adele and Fred did. I’m sorry.

A month before I was born, back in 2019, the Kentucky Derby winner was Maximum Security. But he was disqualified for bumping into another horse in the stretch and they gave the win to Country House instead.

I joined the Cats Working crew that October. Roc and Max drafted me to fill Adele’s considerable paw pads as the 2020 Triple Crown prognosticator. But COVID screwed up the order of my first Triple Crown season and the Derby ended up being the LAST race, run in September, instead of the first one. My pick came in second, but he’d already won the longest and hardest race, the Belmont, so I couldn’t claim to know what I was doing.

Not like amazing Adele did back in 2011 when she picked Animal Kingdom and HE WON!

So, I tried again in 2021. When my top pick came in 16th, I began to wonder if I’m really cut out for horse racing. The winner of that Derby was Medina Spirit. But then HE was disqualified after they found some banned substance in his system after the race.

Sadly, Medina Spirit unexpectly dropped dead during a workout on December 6, 2021. But he died a winner, never knowing he was disqualified, because the humans took their sweet time and didn’t reach their verdict until February 2022.

As a result, Medina’s trainer, Bob Baffert, has been banned for two years from tracks on both coasts for doping horses. But for today’s Derby, Baffert managed to skirt the ban by transferring two of his horses, Taiba and Messier, to one of his former trainer associates, who was able to enter them.

After two Derby disqualifications in three years, I think The Triple Crown is morphing into more a series of rigged elections than fair races. It doesn’t matter how powerful or fast the horses are. Some human bastard with an agenda will be waiting like a spider at the finish line, hoping for some sign of “fraud” with which to take out the winner.

You can’t get excited or trust what you see watching these races anymore. If they don’t turn out the way some backroom gang of thugs planned, they’ll throw the thing into dispute until they get what they want, the horses be damned.

I feel really bad for thoroughbreds who train hard and run themselves ragged in qualifying races for the Derby. In the end, none of it matters. Their reputations and fates are in the hands of sometimes deceitful, greedy people who will dope or drag any horse’s good name through the mud to win.

Cats Working wishes all the horses a safe trip today, and we’ll be watching. But nobody’s got paws crossed for a winner, because any horse’s “victory” may be just a temporary illusion.


Got a Bit of Bourdain News to Share

April 18, 2022

By Karen

Found: His Chef’s Knife – If you’re in Singapore, stop by the display at The English House by Marco Pierre White, which is where you’ll find Anthony Bourdain’s beloved Bob Kramer chef’s knife, that chrome duck press he bought after seeing one in the Paris episode of The Layover, as well as a few pieces of his art collection.

Photo: AntiquesandtheArts.com

I believe Tony originally paid $5,000 for the knife. The English House got it for a cool $231,250 at the 2019 auction of Tony’s belongings. At the time, I don’t think we knew who the knife’s highest bidder was. But now the truth is out there.

The English House is also serving, in Bourdain’s honor, his favorite Italian pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe.

Unauthorized Biography Postponed – Publication of Charles Leerhsen’s unauthorized biography of Bourdain, Down and Out in Paradise, has been postponed from June to October 11 for reasons unknown.

I’m lifetime-banned from Twitter, but I was able to stroll through Leerhsen’s Twitter feed to see if I could find out more. From his retweets, Leerhsen is undeniably liberal, but his bona fides include being Donald Trump’s ghostwriter from 1988-1990 on Trump’s second book, and he wrote an article about how he is no fan of Putin’s greasy orange sock puppet (my description, not his).

In February, I found this pair of tweets…

What “intimate sources” on EARTH could he be talking about? And how would Bourdain’s “personal files” be in anyone’s custody but his family’s? And since the book is “definitely unauthorized” (according to the Amazon blurb) Tony’s family’s lack of cooperation is admitted.

I’m not attacking Leerhsen’s credibility here, but he seems to raise his own bar extremely high for delivering trustworthy, significant new facts.

From other tweets I found, he did some genealogical digging into Tony’s late mother Gladys’ ancestry. He could find the scoop on Tony’s paternal forebears right here at Cats Working — and maybe he did.

Brasserie Les Halles Has Moved On, But Not Too Far – Bourdain’s last kitchen workplace in New York City closed in 2016, but its darkened front instantly became a makeshift memorial site after his death in 2018, entirely covered with notes and flowers from fans.

It reopened recently under new ownership as La Brasserie, still with a French bistro vibe. As a remembrance of Bourdain, the signature dish of steak frites remains on the menu.

Bourdain Market Idea Revived, in a Fashion – Bourdain regretfully pulled the plug in 2017 on his vision of founding a Singaporean-style food court in NYC, to be called Bourdain Market. But the James Beard Foundation has picked up the baton and is working with the same developers Tony partnered with to transform Pier 57 into a food hall and community gathering place. It sounds like it may lack the international flair Tony was hoping for, but it proves his idea wasn’t such a pipe dream, after all.

Where Are the Crew Now? Helen Cho – While recently watching season 2 of the HBO series, Painting with John, I noticed Helen Cho’s name listed in the credits. “John” is artist/musician John Lurie, one of Bourdain’s last acquaintances. Remember Helen from Roadrunner? She seemed the one most ferociously willing to “go there” when it came to acknowledging who probably pushed Tony too close to the edge.

As it always seems to happen in life, soon after seeing her name, Helen did an interview with Eater that crossed my radar. She’s gone the freelance route with her work and seems to be making good connections. I wish her every success.

Cats Working PS – That earlier tweet by Charles Leerhsen about Bourdain’s world beginning to “shift and fade,” reminded me of one of the things I miss most about having Tony on the planet — discovering new people through him.

For example, John Lurie is a person I’d never heard of until Tony bought one of his paintings and had him on Parts Unknown. Now I absolutely love that guy and the quirks of his boundless imagination. He makes me want to dust off my watercolors and try again.

Come to think of it, Marco Pierre White is another one. When it came to celebrity chefs, Gordan Ramsay and Emeril pretty much comprised my repertoire. Bourdain introduced me to Jacques Pépin, Eric Ripert. Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefevre, Marcus Samuelsson, David Chang, Gabrielle Hamilton, I could go on and on.

Not to mention Nancy, Ottavia, Ariane, his brother Chris. Zamir. Crew member Tom Vitale.

When Bourdain’s world stopped spinning, my world stopped expanding, in a way. No one else has been opening new doors to new people and places the way he regularly did for me, just by waking up every day and letting his curiosity lead him.


Some Days, I Just Can’t…

March 24, 2022

By Karen

Does anyone else feel like they can’t handle one more scandal, disaster or war?

First, we had to endure four years of Trump’s firehose of lies and gaslighting — now five years+ and counting because the DOJ must secretly worship Trump at a shrine they’ve erected in the basement.

Bad as that was, it was overlapped by two years of coronavirus pandemic, which virtually wiped my memory of my existence during 2020 and 2021.

Those two slow-rolling nightmares made my hair thin and my skin break out in a full-body rash I’m still dealing with. (I took up meditation and the skin is much better, but scalp psoriasis persists, thanks for asking.)

Photo: New York Post

Today, you turn on the TV and it’s wall-to-wall coverage of Putin’s unjustified, illegal Ukraine invasion. I can watch only about 10 minutes of CNN before I have to turn off. That’s because I freak out knowing the world is just WATCHING — helpless to stop it — while Putin tries to obliterate a country and murder its entire population.

I abandoned MSNBC completely after Rachel Maddow swanned off to make the movie nobody’s waiting for about a forgotten asshole, Spiro Agnew, just when we need her to keep connecting dots and nailing Republican traitors until they’re brought to justice or voted out (or retire or die).

If I hear one more talking head say Putin “may have” committed war crimes, my own head will explode. We have laws defining war crimes. How many demolished civilian homes and public buildings, and bodies being dumped into mass graves, do we need to see before the gutless media admits and unequivocally states…

PUTIN IS A WAR CRIMINAL WHO MUST BE PUNISHED

Yesterday I heard Secretary of State Antony Blinken say the U.S. has determined that Russian forces “have” committed war crimes and they will be held accountable.

So, we round up and prosecute all the small-potato soldiers? Crush the little guys perpetrating death and destruction on the orders of a homicidal megalomaniac?

Why does this feel familiar? Oh, right. Merrick Garland’s massive “crackdown” on MAGA 1/6 rioters who stormed, vandalized and shit all over the U.S. Capitol.

Our leaders are essentially saying we must NEVER go after power-hungry madmen who launch heinous assaults against humanity to stroke their own egos and make their dicks feel bigger. It might upset them.

I feel like I expend all my energy trying to maintain my sanity while the people who are supposed to uphold justice twiddle. I’ve got no capacity left to cope with earthquakes, floods, mudslides, tornadoes and new COVID outbreaks.

I’ve deliberately kept SCOTUS developments off my radar since Biden confirmed his pick would be a black woman. I knew he’d pick someone vastly more caring and competent than Trump’s cruel, subversive ideologues, Kavanaugh and Barrett. I don’t need to watch the confirmation hearing to know Republicans will act like the hateful, ignorant, misogynistic, racist hypocrites they all are.

As with Putin and Trump, we already have mountains of evidence proving beyond doubt that many Republicans in Congress are corrupt, treasonous scumbags with zero regard for decency or human life. What we don’t see is anyone who should be confronting and punishing them doing it.

That’s what’s depresses me most. The brave Ukrainian people will succeed in repelling Putin from their country because defeat is not an option for them. But victory will come at the steepest imaginable cost.

Meanwhile, the U.S. sticks to its goal of letting all the bad guys win — at least, the ones who are politicians.


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