Unintended Consequence of Silence RE: Bourdain’s Suicide

November 27, 2018

By Karen

CNN has eked out its last moments of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. His apartment has new tenants. His condo is on the market because his wife and daughter have moved elsewhere.

In spite of his books, reams of interviews, TV shows and movie appearances still available to read and watch, because his voice is gone on current events, he’s inexorably blurring and slipping into irrelevance, like a dream remembered.

It’s been nearly six months, and not only do I still feel no closure, but I’m troubled by how his suicide is morphing in a way he never would have intended.

On November 13, The Wall Street Journal ran an article, “The Dark Side of the Restaurant World.” It led with a Chicago restaurant manager, Charles Ford, deciding “he would no longer be silent about his three suicide attempts,” and discussed the physical and emotional toll of restaurant work — long hours, abysmal pay, never-ending physical demands.

But the sentence that got my attention was, “Through Mr. Bourdain’s literary manager, Kimberly Witherspoon, the late chef’s family declined to comment for this article.”

On one hand, that made sense because Bourdain hadn’t worked as a chef since 2000, when he began filming A Cook’s Tour for Food Network.

On the other hand, his family’s silence let his suicide be used as a consequence of what ails the restaurant industry. This is what they should have said…

ANTHONY BOURDAIN DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF OVER A JOB HE HADN’T DONE IN NEARLY TWO DECADES.

I think by his count, Bourdain spent 28 years slaving in restaurant kitchens. He was proud to pull himself up the chain until he achieved head chef status at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City. He told this story across several books. If there’s someone out there with a better memory, please tell me where he ever mentioned feeling suicidal over working in a kitchen.

What I recall is his pride in having the toughness and stamina for the work. He loved hanging out with co-workers after a brutal shift. Later, when he had a platform, he became their most outspoken advocate, particularly for the immigrants and women.

I truly sympathize with Charles Ford’s struggles, but I wonder what Bourdain would have said in his snarky days about a general manager who worked in a suit everywhere but over a hot stove and couldn’t hack it.

Kitchen workers have grueling jobs, but I think they’re mistaken to make Bourdain their poster boy for suicide. It’s just like how people still insist on calling him a “celebrity chef” when he NEVER was.

Pre-Kitchen Confidential, nobody ate at Les Halles because Tony Bourdain was the chef. He’d be the first to say it. By the time he became a bona fide celebrity, he hadn’t been a chef for years.

So far, Chef Daniel Boulud has been the ONLY acquaintance to come anywhere near speaking what’s probably closer to the truth about Bourdain’s death. This month he told Us Magazine Bourdain died because “his heart was broken,” and that his death was “a shock to everyone, absolutely.”

Tony’s mother Gladys said essentially the same about his lack of suicidal tendencies when the news first broke.

In the months since, those of us seeking the truth have taken a closer look at the dark forces that began to consume Bourdain in 2016 when he fell in with Asia Argento and her friends.

This past September, Argento was still giving teary interviews about how she felt Bourdain had abandoned her and her two children (for the record, her daughter is 17 and her son now lives with his father in the U.S.), with no mention of Bourdain’s own 11-year-old daughter.

This month (November), Argento was reported to have hooked up with a paparazzi sprung earlier this year from his second jail stint, they had sex on her table, and he claimed to be besotted with her. Italian media soon reversed course, reporting it was a stunt Argento pulled for money and publicity. Whichever version is true, that’s just a peek at the woman Bourdain considered his “soulmate” until he learned three days before he died that she had cheated on him.

Tony’s family didn’t hold a public memorial service because they didn’t think he’d want one. But memorials are for the living, not the dead. Into the void have grown many pop-up homages, mostly by restaurant chefs, which is great. Bourdain was their champion. His life had become one of showing us restaurants and their menus all over the world that we’d otherwise never know.

He was restaurant workers’ biggest cheerleader, but I think he’d be the last to consider his death emblematic of how hard and hopeless kitchen work can be.

Rather, he was a SURVIVOR of it and proud to be. It was his life AFTER being a chef that killed him. We still don’t — and may never — know exactly what aspects of his life did it.

Unfortunately, this silence has left the door open to whatever spin anyone wants to put on it. I don’t think Bourdain would have approved.

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Bourdain’s Ex-Girlfriend Keeps Stirring the Pot – Why?

July 25, 2018

By Karen

It’s been nearly seven weeks since Anthony Bourdain died by suicide on June 8 in Strasbourg, France, while filming an episode of Parts Unknown with his best friend, Eric Ripert.

A week later, Tony’s ashes were flown home and a small private funeral service was being planned for family and close friends. I haven’t seen other information on that, nor word of any public memorial, although murals and dinners and special menus to honor Bourdain have been spontaneously springing up at restaurants everywhere.

The family has been largely silent, except for occasional pings from Tony’s wife Ottavia here and there that indicate she’s keeping tabs on what’s being posted about him on social media.

It’s left a huge vacuum for Bourdain fans, who are still searching for answers. Yes, Tony talked about suicide over the years. Yes, he talked about feeling depressed sometimes. Yes, he looked tired and listless in the last Parts Unknown CNN aired.

Bourdain described in his book, Medium Raw, how he fantasized about ending his life during a visit to St. Martin after splitting from his first wife, Nancy, around 2005. At that time, his fame was budding, he wasn’t long out of debt, and he was childless. As he’d say in the intro to A Cook’s Tour, he “had nothing to lose.”

But he didn’t do it.

From then, his life seemed to take two steps forward for every step back until he was an internationally recognized voice for cultural tolerance who attracted an enormous following, as evidenced by worldwide outpourings of shock and grief at the news of his death.

We’re still asking why. Who may have influenced him? What sent him over the edge this time?

And into that void steps his former girlfriend, Asia Argento, 42, an Italian actress he’d been seeing since April 2016 and supporting in many ways.

Because you can Google the dirt, I’m going to skip her history with Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement and her previous relationships with men except one — Hugo Clement.

Since Bourdain’s death, Argento has been active on Twitter and Instagram, ping-ponging from sadness to jubilation to defiance and anger.

People magazine reproduced a photo Asia recently published of herself with Tony during his penultimate Parts Unknown shoot in Florence, taken May 27. This was the Sunday before Argento spent a weekend in Rome with Clement.

[NOTE: I’ll provide links to, but not post, recent photos of Argento because I simply don’t want her face on Cats Working.]

During Argento’s weekend with Clement, two different paparazzi, one in a bar and one in the streets, photographed the couple dancing, flirting, holding hands, hugging. They were seen in the lobby of the hotel where she often stayed with Bourdain.

The photos were published on Tuesday, June 5. By Friday morning, Bourdain was dead. This prompted a backlash against Argento for cheating, although she claimed through her proxy, Rose McGowan, that her romance with Tony was “open.”

People who seem to have been close to Bourdain but are remaining anonymous claim that after the paparazzi photos came out, Tony and Argento were frequently fighting by phone and interrupting the shoot in France.

Ten days after Bourdain’s death, the Daily Mail reported that Argento had posted on social media, “Life’s a bitch, and then you die.”

Three weeks after Tony’s death, the Daily Mail reported on Argento’s continuing grief process by publishing her series of latest “fuck you” messages and a nude selfie.

Now it’s nearly two months later, and Argento has shifted into full attack mode, as revealed by writer Leah McSweeney, who wrote on Instagram that she received an email from Asia’s attorney demanding that she take down her Penthouse opinion piece, “HOT LINES: Can We Talk About Toxic Femininity?”, and apologize to Argento.

Just within the past week, Argento took to Twitter to dispute the timeline of the French authorities. In the U.S., Bourdain was reportedly found hanging and unresponsive sometime early on Friday, June 8, after he failed to show up for breakfast with Ripert. (Keep in mind that France is 6 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast).

Argento’s tweet said:

She apparently got the date wrong because Tony was in a French morgue by 9 p.m. June 8, so she must have meant Thursday, June 7.

French authorities later added that Bourdain had alcohol in his system.

If her tweet is true, it would seem that Argento has shown her hand. She was in contact with Tony, who was probably drinking, as late as Thursday at 9 p.m., which might explain why he failed to show up for dinner with Ripert that night.

In an extensive interview Bourdain gave to Maria Bustillos of Popula in February 2018, he recalled an argument he’d had with Argento where she said things that hurt him deeply. He explained, “…we’re texting back and forth, ‘cause we only argue by text.”

That indicates he and Asia were texting that Thursday night. And now Tony’s brother Chris has his phone and everything that may still be on it. It remains to be seen if the rest of that story will ever come out.

The question is, why is Argento digging her hole even deeper as a contributing factor in Bourdain’s suicide? Is it an insatiable need for attention, good or bad? Or perhaps it’s because she’s unwilling to let go of the celebrity-by-association she gained from being with Anthony Bourdain, which has been reduced to a sad little footnote at the end of the last page of his life story.

I hope one day Bourdain’s family and friends will heal to the point where they can speak on the record and bring some closure to this loss by providing whatever facts they know about what happened. In the meantime, Argento can spin it whichever way she wants.


French Now Say Bourdain HAD Been Drinking

June 25, 2018

By Karen

Today should have been Anthony Bourdain’s 62nd birthday, but instead we’re still trying to learn the truth about why the hell he isn’t here to celebrate it, after taking his own life during a Parts Unknown filming in France on June 8. It appears alcohol played a bigger role than we knew.

The day it happened, it seemed almost that the French dispatched Inspector Clouseau to investigate. Bourdain’s death was immediately ruled a suicide with no foul play implicated and his body was whisked off to a morgue.

If only the French knew what fans and those close to Bourdain knew — he suffered from an inexplicable, self-destructive obsession with Italian actress Asia Argento, 42, one of the women who helped launch the movement to take down Harvey Weinstein.

From the beginning, the stench of Argento’s dark, demented existence permeated the relationship, but Bourdain publicly and persistently extolled Argento’s “magnificence” and myriad virtues that few could see.

The two-year affair culminated in two damning series of photos taken by separate paparazzi in Rome of Argento being flirty and intimate with a 28-year-old French journalist. Three days after the photos appeared online, Tony took his own life.

On Friday, June 22, exactly two weeks after Bourdain’s death, the French released statements about their toxicology report, the only known investigating they did — not the report itself…

First it was, “no trace of medicine, no trace of alcohol.”

Then they said, “trace of a nonnarcotic medicine in a therapeutic dose.”

That was amended to, “trace of alcohol.”

Now this morning on the Today Show, NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports the French are saying there were “significant traces of alcohol.” And that “there were signs he drank significantly the night before he was found” hanging in his hotel room.

WTF, WTF, WTF?

It doesn’t change the fact that Argento is still likely a major contributing factor, but it could indicate that Tony tried to self-medicate the pain of her publicly humiliating him and then taunting him on Instagram. When that didn’t work, he resorted to permanent oblivion. If he was suffering from depression, alcohol may have been what sent him over edge into the abyss.

At this moment, I’m not seeing corroborating news reports to back up NBC, but I’m just putting it out here as another chapter of the story. To me it indicates there’s probably more yet to be revealed to help us understand.


New Facts on Bourdain’s Final, Fatal Attraction

June 20, 2018

By Karen

CORRECTION: It’s been pointed out to me that I got my wires crossed in the 5th paragraph below (now crossed out) about the divorce. I erroneously linked back to my blog post of February 2017 where People had just announced Bourdain was dating Asia Argento. The replacement paragraph has a correct link to the original September 2016 Page Six article about the divorce.

I’ve felt like a mouse bumping into blank maze walls while trying to uncover what led Anthony Bourdain to die June 8 by suicide. But I’ve gained a few insights from a source I can’t name (sorry!) who’s close enough to the situation to have unquestionable validity. Please, just trust me.

First, I’ve been completely wrong to suspect Tony suffered from an underlying medical condition. The rumor about Parkinson’s is untrue. He had a thorough health exam several weeks ago and checked out fine, although he’d resumed smoking and drinking heavily while involved with Asia (which anyone could see).

Tony’s ashes were returned to New York on Friday, June 15, to his brother Chris. I believe there’s still no decision among his close family on how to pay proper final respects. Knowing Tony’s disdain for pomp and formality, he didn’t leave them many options.

We’ve established that Tony was with Asia in spring 2016 filming Parts Unknown in Rome. He was still living with Ottavia and Ariane in New York City at the time, although they were all amicably doing their own thing.

In February 2017, Tony told Page Six that he and Ottavia had been apart for some time, which blindsided her and Ariane. He then got his own apartment, but continued to be involved in Ariane’s daily routine whenever he was in town.

Correction: On September 19, 2016, Page Six ran an article based on “sources close to” the Bourdains who said they had officially separated, had been estranged for a while, and that “there was no one else involved.” Hmmm… Actually, they had recently returned from their annual family vacation together in the Hamptons. The public announcement came as a surprise to Ottavia and Ariane, but Ottavia went along and confirmed it with a carefully worded statement. Tony then moved out and got his own apartment.

He eventually confessed to Ottavia that the separation announcement was at Asia’s urging, presumably so she could step up as Tony’s new partner, which was announced in February 2017.

As he did with first wife Nancy when he met Ottavia, Bourdain took no further steps toward divorce. He said recently he never intended to marry again. He still spent holidays and special occasions with his family in New York.

However, you won’t find those good times anywhere because friends were careful not to post them to help Tony keep Asia believing his split with Ottavia was solid and permanent.

I don’t know how Asia expected him to spend five days a month with Ariane, which he mentioned often with fondness, without seeing her mother, but she’s never been known for clarity of thought.

Basically, Asia demanded that Tony lead a double personal life, in addition to his grueling, nonstop professional schedule.

Ottavia’s social media accounts show scant, if any, mentions of her husband after the separation was announced. I thought it was their mutual agreement to move on. But, to borrow words from Princess Diana, it was more because there were now “three in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Although still legally married to Tony and raising his child, Ottavia essentially became “the other woman.”

I’ve also verified the account by the unnamed friend in People who revealed that Tony was so besotted with Asia, it raised red flags among his friends. The word used to describe it to me was “brainwashed.”

To keep my source’s anonymity safe, I can’t provide more detail now. Suffice it to say that Asia kept the affair tempestuous, and Tony would do anything to keep her happy.

The sad irony is that Bourdain proudly claimed his success was due to his finely honed bullshit detector that helped him avoid assholes. In the end, he got suckered by an asshole who shoveled more bullshit on him than he could live with.

Blogspot blogger Bruce Elliott: Geriatric Genius had good rapport with Tony whenever he was in Chicago. Bruce has written eloquently about Bourdain, Asia and Rose. I can’t sum it up any better than he did in his post describing Tony’s ultimate despair, “To Be Crushed In The Winepress Of Passion”

“I don’t think tears of jealousy filled his eyes when he saw the photos of Hugo and Asia. I think it was her calculated vindictiveness. Instead of jealousy, I think he was overwhelmed with humiliation.”

AND: For the record, this article for the Hollywood Reporter from June 2 may stand as the last writing for publication Tony ever did. He describes living his “cinematic dream” of shooting the now-infamous Hong Kong episode. He effusively praised Asia and her work ethic, although Instagram posts by justicefortony and others describe her as a nightmare.

I believe them because Bourdain rendered his whole tale suspect by disingenuously marveling at how Zach Zamboni and two other photographers were lucky enough to be “mentored” by Christopher Doyle.

Zach Zamboni, Bourdain’s long-time director of photography, has earned three Primetime Emmys and seven nominations for his cinematography, yet Tony FIRED Zach in Hong Kong for allegedly disagreeing with Asia about something.

In this article, Tony also revealed he had gotten an Asia tattoo. Scant honor, since he described his body art as like adding dents to an old car. In any case, they’re all ashes now.


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