BOOK REVIEW: In the Weeds (with Bourdain)

October 8, 2021

By Karen

This book’s full title is In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain by Tom Vitale, who spent well over a decade working as an editor, director and producer on all four of Bourdain’s travel series: A Cook’s Tour on Food Network, No Reservations and The Layover on Travel Channel, and Parts Unknown on CNN.

When I first wrote about this book back in May, I dissed this cover…

But now that I’ve read it, I think the cover is just right.

We’ve had a Bourdain avalanche lately. Last week it was his Definitive Oral Biography by his assistant Laurie Woolever. And now we have the inside scoop on his TV life.

Both books add considerably to what we thought we knew about Bourdain. What sets Vitale’s book apart (and above, I would argue) Woolever’s is its sometimes almost painful sense of immediacy and intimacy. Vitale’s writing seems infused with Tony’s darkly funny snark. For example, in describing a furious exchange Tom had with a member of the security squad in Libya, he writes…

“Damien reminded me he hadn’t been just any old soldier, but one of those specially trained killy soldiers.”

Vitale also has a keen eye for description and paints vivid pictures of the countries they visited. Of filming in Naples in 2010, he writes…

“Tony walked across the pebble beach and sat on the gunnel of a bright turquoise-and-red-striped fishing boat. It was one of those overcast days that did something strange to the light, amplifying rather than muting color. Clouds obscuring the sunset glowed an almost cotton candy pink and reflected off the shore.”

If you’ve seen the shows (Vitale directed about 100 of them in total), he makes you want to binge-watch them again.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter, “Jamaica Me Crazy,” where they filmed Parts Unknown in 2014. It was one of the rare times that Vitale and other crew indulged in a zany adventure that Tony was largely unaware of. (I happen to know the Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Ocho Rios where much of the action went down.)

In the Oral Bio, we get recollections of those who knew Tony, as told to Woolever, as told to us. But Vitale was THERE, in the weeds. His is a firsthand account of working, often under ungodly pressure, with Bourdain, who had conflicted feelings about even being on TV, and it often wasn’t pretty.

For all of Tony’s empathy with the people he met in his travels, much of the time he seemed oblivious to, or even deliberately fed, the crew’s tension and frustration. While filming in Baja, Vitale recalls Bourdain saying to him…

“Jeez, you never give up, do you?!” he joked. “When I die, you’ll be there at my funeral, poking me with a stick, asking, ‘What are your first impressions of being dead?’”

But I don’t want to give the impression that Vitale is out to trash Bourdain. It’s the opposite. In spite of everything, Tom loved and was devoted to the guy and never dreamed it would end so horribly.

Vitale is unsparing in exposing his own personal phobias and weaknesses, and is probably unaware that his efforts to overcome (most of) them seems almost heroic. He was willing to sacrifice anything to serve what he considered a higher purpose: helping Anthony Bourdain tell his stories.

Another difference with the Oral Bio is the chronology. Weeds opens in the immediate aftermath of Bourdain’s death, then Vitale weaves past and present together in a seamless way that totally makes sense.

Cats Working even gets a shoutout, but no spoilers here.

Vitale’s research involved immersing himself in the vast trove of documentation he’d collected — logs, notes, video. As a result, he could vividly recreate that life in a way that makes you almost forget Tony is no longer wandering the planet.

In the first few pages, Vitale describes an incident with Bourdain in Manila that’s never explained, but it foreshadows what happened to Eric Ripert when he entered Tony’s last hotel room France.

Vitale also recounts a violent incident during their second trip to Borneo that also never gets explained, but it shows a side of Tony darker than anyone has ever seen.

Such was Bourdain’s life. His public persona was all about confidence, love and acceptance, but privately, he was filled with doubts, insecurity and possibly self-loathing. Vitale saw it all, and tried to alleviate the bad stuff when he could.

I’m grateful that Tom Vitale chose to work through his pain and regrets by putting them on paper, giving us a better understanding of the man who entranced the world while thinking so little of himself.

BONUS: Coming up next week is my interview with Tom Vitale.


REVIEW: Bourdain, the Definitive Oral Biography

October 1, 2021

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s assistant Laurie Woolever has pulled off another remarkable feat with Bourdain: the Definitive Oral Biography, although I wonder how “definitive” it will ultimately be. I still have 100 pages to go, but I can’t wait to tell you about this book.

Woolever interviewed 91 people Tony knew throughout his life. Some are his famous friends or career-related contacts whose names I recognize, but many aren’t.

Most notably, Woolever spoke at length with Tony’s first wife Nancy (who also contributed touching never-before-seen photos) and his now-14-year-old daughter Ariane. Cats Working readers who have always wondered about these two important females in his life will be gratified by how openly they share their memories.

The book’s format surprised me in the best way. I expected 91 straight interviews, which risked becoming dull and redundant. Instead, Woolever pulled off the Herculean task of breaking each interview down by topic, then reassembling those pieces under 59 page-turning chapter headings into a miraculous chronological narrative.

Instead of picturing each person sitting across from Woolever with a tape recorder between them, it’s more like she gathered a room full of people to casually share notes on Tony topics like, “I Absolutely Always Saw a Talent in Him,” “I’m Not Gonna Censor the Guy,” “He Was a Man of Extremes,” and so on.

This, coming on the heels of her previous project, where she stitched together World Travel: An Irreverent Guide from Bourdain’s vast trove of published materials, makes me think Woolever does 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles for fun, like those geniuses on YouTube who solve Rubik’s Cubes in 5 seconds.

Tony’s brother Chris and mother Gladys (who died in 2020) are included, and they sketch out the most complete picture yet of Tony’s father, Pierre Bourdain, and Tony’s relationship with him. The closest I’ll come to a spoiler is to say that you’ll see Tony’s parents in a whole new light, particularly Gladys.

Of course, Ottavia pops in throughout, although Nancy naturally dominates the early years when she and Tony were together, and we learn some of her side of that story for the first time. As the person who “outed” Nancy online back in 2008 in an old episode of A Cook’s Tour, I was stunned (and chagrined) by her revelations about traveling to Spain with Tony.

Nancy connected Woolever with friends who knew Tony in high school and at Vassar, but the one period where there seems to be a hole is during his CIA years (the culinary school, not the spy agency), and what kind of student he was there.

With 100 pages still to go, I haven’t quite gotten into his final years and what I know is coming, although late last night I touched the edge of that on page 330 when someone said, “And then fucking what’s-her-name entered his life…”

Woolever, keeping the wagons circled, didn’t interview “fucking what’s-her-name,” nor, I’m curious as to why, Tony’s most notorious “fixer,” Zamir.

My next observation isn’t to fault Woolever in any way, because I’m gaining (and confirming) many insights into Tony’s behavior and events.

Weirdly, many people speak of him in present tense as if he were still alive. But even so, because they and Woolever are two layers between the reader and Tony, I feel like I’m in one of those dreams where you’re searching for someone. You keep meeting people who say, “Oh, he was here a minute ago, and he did this…” but he’s always just around the next corner and out of sight and you wake up without finding him. I guess there’s no escaping this detached quality, given the secondhand material Woolever’s working with. But the people she talks to tell myriad great stories about him.

The other thing that surprised me physically about the book is the rough paper, which seems destined to turn yellow. You’d think anything with Definitive in the title would have some archival quality, but I’m guessing it was a cost decision.

Bottom line: If you’re still curious about Anthony Bourdain, this is a book to read sooner rather than later.

PS: On Tuesday, October 5, we have another Bourdain book coming out, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind-the-Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, by Tom Vitale, who directed 100 episodes of Tony’s various travel shows. I’ve already read it and will have much, much more to come on it, so stay tuned.

Trust me, there’s virtually no overlap between these books, even though Vitale is interviewed in the Biography. I found Tom’s to be the more satisfying book because you can call it anything but detached. However, both are must-reads if you want answers to many (not all) of the questions Tony left us with. I hope we’ll have conversations here about both books, so get reading!


Bourdain Would Be on Medicare Today

June 25, 2021

By Karen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But as it turns out, he didn’t.

Tony presumably on Tobago

The Cats Check In & New Bourdain Book

May 21, 2021

By Karen

It’s TGIF here today. I snapped pics of the crew this morning so you can see how they’re doing. After finally shoveling a mammoth editing project out of here, this week I was finally able start reading World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Laurie Woolever, channeling Anthony Bourdain. I’m enjoying it and awed by the research. But the dips into each country are so brief, I want to rewatch the shows she sourced to see the meals and restaurants again.

AND this week I happened upon a second worthwhile Bourdain book coming out on October 12, same day as Woolever’s Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography, which now has a cover…

Tom Vitale, Tony’s longtime director and producer, has written In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain. It’s being published by Hachette in hardcover (not Bourdain’s Ecco imprint). At only 6” x 9”, I assume it’s more narrative than the oversized photo books previously published about the shows, which is great. I hope Hachette does better with the cover art and this is just their Amazon placeholder…

Amazon’s also peddling at least three unauthorized Bourdain “biographies.” One is 53 pages, has no named author, and you can get it free with Kindle Unlimited. Another is only 17 pages by a writer — probably fittingly — named Dumm. And the third bio is supposedly 30 pages of “interesting facts.”

A fourth 152-page book is an English translation of “Reflections” on his death “by Suicide????” (question marks are in the actual title, so, believable????). The original is in Spanish and seems to be a dredging of the conspiracy delusions we were fed by certain parties in Italy, if you get my drift.

I’ve decided not to read these because it means buying them, and I don’t want to support them. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me — but would totally piss me off — if I found material lifted from Cats Working. Better for them that I never know.

But back to the cats…

Tony says, “Party this weekend like it’s 2019!” He’s got a birthday coming up. Does he look more grown up these days?
Roc says, “Take it easy by curling up in your favorite perch by a window and soak in some rays on your tush.”
Max says, “Relax in your Man Cave or anywhere else you can get away from the crazy frat boys.”

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

Buh-Bye, El Rushbo – Satan’s Expecting You

February 18, 2021

By Karen

Yesterday, I was reading Obama’s book, The Promised Land, when a notification popped up on my iPad that Rush Limbaugh (known by the cats as LimpPaw) had died.

It feels like the universe finally threw us a bone after four years of Trump torture. Last week’s refusal by his Senate cult to convict him and drive a stake through any delusions he may still harbor about a political future was almost more than I could bear.

They say that death comes in threes, so maybe Rush’s demise has started Republicans on a roll. Today, Bob Dole announced he has stage 4 lung cancer. My fingers are crossed for Mitch McConnell to turn purple again and admit he’s got some life-limiting condition going on.

But I digress from Rush. Sometimes if I was out running errands at midday, I’d tune in to Rush to hear what the other side was thinking. Without fail, within minutes Rush would have me pounding the steering wheel and screaming at his arrogance, stupidity and lies until I had to change the station or wrap the car around a tree.

I won’t be a hypocrite (like Rush always was) and pretend for one nanosecond that his death and eternal silence don’t fill me with delight. I have no condolences for Mrs. Limbaugh No. 4 over losing her bloviating, pill-popping meal ticket.

It’s poetic justice that Limbaugh’s own lungs finally turned on him. To have them take him out seems like fitting retaliation for the decades he forced them to spew his bile and hate.

I only wish Rush had died before Trump decided to strip the Medal of Freedom of all significance by hanging one around Rush’s odious neck.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

We can probably thank Rush for turning Trump into a Republican. Trump was once a Democrat, but as he mulled running for office, he undoubtedly noted how Rush built a cult of celebrity by preying on his right-ring listeners’ ignorance, gullibility and racism and adopted the same techniques to con the rubes himself.

The media is saying there will never be another Rush Limbaugh. I hope that’s true. Much as he would hate the thought, Rush just did his bit to curb global warming by ceasing to emit noxious gases from his nonstop dumpster fire of misinformation and malice. The morons who listened to and believed him will now have to get their minds poisoned somewhere else.

BONUS: Anthony Bourdain’s co-author, Laurie Woolever, just published an article in Food and Wine that’s well worth reading about what it was like to travel with Bourdain. She also has finished a book he’d started called World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, to be published April 20.


Chapter 122: COVID Chronicles

August 31, 2020

By Karen

Day 173

Roc’s New Thing for Dryer Balls & Lisbeth Salander is REAL

After I finished laundry Saturday, Roc suddenly fell in love with my Woolite® dryer balls. Maybe they smell like lamb? He played with them most of the morning and refused to share them with Tony…

KITCHEN NEWS: My built-in Kenmore electric range is 37 years old, but I love that its knobs are on the front so I don’t have to reach across hot pans. I once looked into replacing it, but stoves so designed were insanely expensive, and pulling this one out would surely lead to a new counter, sink, cabinets, floor… You know, the domino effect of updating anything in a kitchen.

But sadly, one of the burner coils died. I sweated finding a replacement on such an old stove, and a defunct-Sears Kenmore at that, but RepairClinic.com had OEM parts (actually made by Electrolux), and they fit like a charm. I replaced all four while I could, and so the three old grungy ones wouldn’t be body-shamed by the shiny new guy. Now it feels like a new stove…

I probably could have gotten generic coils on Amazon for less, but when it comes to electrical things that could burn down the house, I don’t cut corners.

TV NEWS: We have our very own Lisbeth Salander in Kansas! She’s the real-life bounty hunter in Love Fraud, which started airing on Showtime last night…

“This four-part docu-series follows the search for one man, Richard Scott Smith, who over the past 20 years used the internet and his dubious charms to prey upon unsuspecting women looking for love — conning them out of their money and dignity. The story unravels in real time as Smith’s victims band together to seek sweet revenge by turning to a bounty hunter when they feel the justice system has failed them.”

Carla Campbell the real-life bounty hunter is a wizened, gray-haired smoker whose backstory is that after her first boyfriend beat her constantly, when she finally broke free, she vowed no man would ever touch her like that again. About Smith, she says…

“If he ever came in and robbed me like these other women, I’d be in prison. I’d have slit his throat and watched him bleed to death and then admitted to doing it because I’m not going to let him do that to somebody else.”

Some of the women he’s destroyed find each other on a blog one of them started to warn others. They coalesce into a posse after the legal system gives Smith a slap on the wrist. Part of Smith’s con is that he married many of the women and became legally entitled to their assets because they didn’t realize the marriages were bigamous.

I’ll confess I’ve gotten mixed up with at least two men whom I know did illegal things to women (because it was reported in the newspaper), including the man I briefly married. But they never got any money from me and I managed to escape in one piece. Watching these woman strike a blow for all of us trusting schmucks is highly satisfying.

The first episode is available free on Showtime’s site. I hope it ends with a scene where Scott gets locked in a room alone with Carla.

BONUS: Anthony Bourdain’s co-author, Laurie Woolever, recently tweeted the cover of their last book together, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide

Laurie tweeted she’s sneakily drawn in the background. I think she’s the one on the left.

It’s being released April 20, 2021. In a happily-ever-after world, Tony and Ottavia would have celebrated their anniversary on that date.

BONUS: The day after Trump’s nomination, where he mumbled his acceptance like a reanimated zombie reciting recycled clichés sprinkled with WTF bits of historical gibberish, Trump had a rally in Londonderry, New Hampshire, which attracted only about 500 people. Going to the podium, when he reached the top of three steps and had no railing, he almost fell off the platform…

Watching Trump deteriorate is like seeing a plane crash in slow-mo. But if you tally all the shuffles, stumbles, jerks, twitches, garbled statements, nonsensical tweets and mangled words he does in public in a mere fraction of his day, his doctors will have a LOT of ‘splainin’ to do when Trump and the ground finally meet and a camera catches it.


Bourdain News: Sad and Happy

January 14, 2020

By Karen

I just learned that Anthony Bourdain’s brother Chris has announced the death of their 85-year-old mother Gladys on Friday, January 10, 2020, in hospice in the Bronx. The New York Times just reported it this afternoon.

(If you’re not an NYT subscriber, you may be able to open a free account to get to the article. That’s how I got all the NYT links in this post.)

Chris said Gladys had been in failing health for some time.

She worked at the NYT as an editor from 1984 to 2008, and wrote articles for it and other publications on the side. Back in 1978, she had a profile of Julia Child published in the NYT after visiting Child in Southern France. That was the year Tony graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, but I don’t know if he accompanied his parents on that trip to France, possibly as a graduation present?

Her obituary credits Gladys as the force behind Tony getting the career-launching article published in The New Yorker that led to his book deal for Kitchen Confidential. She happened to know the wife of The New Yorker’s new editor, who had been an NYT reporter, and Gladys vouched that Tony’s work was good enough for the woman to show to her husband.

The article was published and the rest, as they say, is history.

Gladys was born in 1934 and married Pierre Bourdain in 1954, a year after he got out of the Army. Tony was born in 1956.

Gladys’ obituary says she separated from Pierre in 1980 (Tony would have been about 24). Whether they ever divorced, I don’t know.

When Pierre died in 1987 at age 57, his obituary made no mention of Gladys.

Gladys died with Tony’s name tattooed on her wrist — her only tat.

Now for the happy news…

Minutes before I saw the sad news about Gladys, I read that that Bourdain’s co-author Laurie Woolever has finished one of the books they were working on before he died. It’s called World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, and will go on sale October 13. It’s available for preorder on Amazon.


Final Bourdain “Parts Unknown” Season to Omit One Episode

August 3, 2018

By Karen

CNN has announced they and Anthony Bourdain’s production company, Zero Point Zero, are putting together a seven-episode final season (12) of Parts Unknown, to begin airing sometime this fall. Only one episode was completed with Tony’s voiceover, and he filmed it in Kenya with W. Kamau Bell, who hosts United Shades of America, also on CNN.

The other locales are Texas, New York, Indonesia, Mexico and Spain. They will include Tony’s voice caught as he was filming, with any gaps filled in by crew from the shoots.

The finale will be two hours long, with one hour a peek behind the scenes with the ZPZ crew, and the final hour a collection of past guests and fans discussing their relationships with and feelings about Bourdain and how he affected them and the world.

What’s missing from this lineup is the episode Bourdain completed filming in late May, the week before he traveled to France and died there on June 8.

That episode is Florence, Italy. Here’s the now-infamous black-and-white photo of Bourdain and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, Asia Argento, sitting on a bench at the end of filming. [Note: Cats Working no longer publishes photos of Argento.]

Argento recently posted a photo of herself in a car with Tony, holding an umbrella against the sun, the last weekend of the Florence shoot.

The following weekend, Argento would be photographed in Rome by two paparazzi in the company of a 28-year-old journalist named Hugo Clement.

This “lost” Florence episode raises yet another question related to Tony’s death…

Did CNN and ZPZ scrap Florence to keep Asia out, or for some reason related to Bourdain? (I’d understand that it might be upsetting for ZPZ to deal with that footage, now knowing what Bourdain was going to face a week later.)

We may never know. Personally, I agree with CNN-ZPZ’s decision on every level.

AND: Here’s a bit more on the upcoming Bourdain biography

USA Today reported that the bio by Laurie Woolever, Bourdain’s long-time assistant and co-author of Appetites: A Cookbook, will be titled, Bourdain: The Oral Biography and released in fall 2019 by Ecco. The book will consist of interviews, according to a quote from Woolever’s statement…

“After working with and collaborating with Tony since 2004, I’m honored to now be working with his estate, and talking to the people who knew him best, in order to share the story of a life that influenced so many people, in so many ways, all across the globe”


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