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.


John Lurie Remembers Bourdain

January 28, 2021

By Karen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bourdain’s Travels End in the Lower East Side

November 14, 2018

By Karen

On November 11, CNN aired the final new episode of Parts Unknown that Anthony Bourdain’s crew could finish without him. Remaining in limbo is unseen footage from a shoot in May in Florence that Bourdain did with then-girlfriend Asia Argento. CNN has said it will not air whatever film was captured in the Alsace region of France with Eric Ripert during the week leading up to Bourdain’s suicide in June.

Tony’s final wander through the Lower East Side of Manhattan was given kaleidoscopic effects that may have mimicked the mental downward spiral he was trying to conceal. The visit aptly brought his life full circle by showing his stomping grounds of the 1970s and ‘80s, when he was a young heroin addict who thought he had no future.

Once fame found Bourdain, and particularly when he became a father at age 50, we watched him reject, one by one, the trappings of that former life: his thumb ring, his earring, his leather jacket and smoking.

But in the end, he was heavily smoking Marlboro Reds again, and the last leather jacket he chose looked as weathered and worn as the man himself had become.

Bourdain in Lower East Side of Manhattan

(Photo – David Scott Holloway/CNN)

I confess that I had mostly never heard of the musicians, artists, writers and poets Tony met and reminisced with. I’m only about two years older than he, but I must have been living on a different planet, although decades ago I got a taste of his origins.

My family was transferred to New Jersey in 1969 and I became a freshman at Freehold High School, about 50 miles south of Leonia, where Tony would have been in 7th grade. Had we met then, he probably would have scared the shit out of me. I was still reading Little Women, but found myself surrounded by tough kids who smoked pot, had sex and terrorized the teachers.

We moved again when I was a sophomore and I blocked out my year of living dangerously in Freehold, but it would all come rushing back whenever I saw Bourdain talk about his disaffected youth.

The ZPZ cinematographers really captured the LES’s cigarette butts, garbage, graffiti, abandoned shopping carts — a landscape Bourdain could wax nostalgic about. Spinning and blurry video, close-ups of dolls with dead eyes and dirty bare feet, and talk of rats completed the picture. Did I see some man about to bite off a mouse’s head?

From that squalor, thanks to the power of his writing, Bourdain’s world evolved into a $13,000-a-month 64th-floor apartment with river views at Columbus Circle.

Finally, forget the bone marrow or sushi Tony always cited as last-meal preferences. The last meal of his TV career was plain eggs boiled by artist John Lurie in his apartment. It must have been when Tony admired and bought Lurie’s painting, “The sky is falling. I’m learning to live with it.”

The LES episode was filmed in April 2018. That’s when Tony paid Jimmy Bennett $200,000 to make Bennett drop his claim that Argento had raped him when he was under the age of consent.

During the final montage of frantically swirling graphics, I wondered if that’s what Tony saw in his last moment. The accompanying music was Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” and if you listened carefully, you could hear Tony’s 11-year-old daughter Ariane singing along.

If Bourdain had lived to polish the episode, I have no doubt his narrative would have pulled it all together, making the gritty Lower East Side the natural spot for young Tony to hone his tastes in music and art. But without his reassuring voiceover, seeing his sad-eyed, now-haggard face just highlighted for me the dreadfulness of seeing Anthony Bourdain’s hard-won ascent to bestselling author and revered world traveler end in oblivion in a lonely French hotel room.


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