Book Review – Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview

September 9, 2019

By Karen

I read The Last Interview, a 109-page trade paperback, in two sittings over the weekend. I believe it’s the 23rd installment in a series about deceased writers, musicians and celebrities.

It begins with an introduction by food writer Helen Rosner about how she discovered Bourdain and eventually got to know him personally. They were in touch right up to his death, and she never got to respond to his last note.

It’s unclear if she selected the seven interviews in the book, arranged chronologically from 2003, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, January 2018, and finally June 3, 2018, the last Sunday he was alive.

Quick digression on production quality. This book isn’t going to age well in your Bourdain collection. It’s printed on that coarse, cheap paper that yellows. And I wonder about the editing. Some chapters are transcripts of live appearances, and I was surprised to find typos like “Namimbia” and “Columbia” (the latter misspelled four times).

During a 2011 appearance in Sydney, Tony said about his daughter Ariane, “I don’t want her reading terrible shit about me on the internet, behaving badly toward women, for instance. I’m not going to do that.”

I just shook my head, thinking, “No, Tony, you did something much, much worse.”

As a Bourdain watcher since 2007, I didn’t really learn anything new about him here. The most notable bit for me was when Tony mentioned in his 2013 interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson the Roman condiment garam. He described it as “essentially rotten fish guts and rotten fish sauce,” and said it was as ubiquitous a seasoning in Europe as salt is to us. If he’s ever mentioned garam on TV, I missed it, and it was another example of his encyclopedic mind.

January 2018 is a transcript of Bourdain on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. That might have been the last time I saw Tony alive in real time. He seemed in good spirits, saying, “I’m an enthusiastic son of a bitch.”

In hindsight, we know he was then embroiled in trying to extricate his girlfriend Asia Argento from charges of allegedly raping a 17-year-old boy. You may refresh on the timeline of that in this archived post.

The last chapter is an interview with IndieWire, which was published on June 3, a Sunday. Parts Unknown Hong Kong first aired on CNN that night. It was also the weekend Argento cavorted around Rome for the paparazzi with Hugo Clement.

Obviously unaware he was being betrayed as he spoke, Tony raved about working with Argento on Hong Kong, which she supposedly directed. “My god, I’d love nothing more than to repeat the experience. She made it incredible.”

In other interviews, he’d called that shoot some of his best work. It’s become one of CNN’s “lost” episodes because they no longer rerun any Parts Unknown Argento was involved with.

Bourdain went on about Argento: “She listens to my advice and frequently if not most of the time, rejects it. That is something Asia cannot help but do. She is brutally honest about herself and anything, and it’s a great quality.”

I just about gagged on that paragraph. And when I turned the page and realized that was the last line in the book, my jaw dropped. It felt like the editor deliberately left readers to wonder, was Bourdain really that deluded or just lying? We still don’t know.

You can read that particular interview at IndieWire.

On Tuesday, June 5, Bourdain, while filming in France, would see the photos of Argento with Hugo. We’ve heard only unverified stories about arguments, and Eric Ripert told Tony’s mother Tony had been in a “dark mood,”

On Friday, June 8, Ripert found Tony dead in his hotel room of apparent suicide.

Personally, for the foreseeable future I’ll buy any book about or by Bourdain. Fingers crossed he left something more to publish. But I’d say go ahead if you want to give The Last Interview a miss. Reams of more illuminating interviews are available online.

For example, I was surprised that “Bourdain Confidential” in Popula from February 2018 with Maria Bustillos wasn’t included.

Or even better, you can just reread the books Bourdain wrote before his life took that last fatal turn.


It’s June 25. How are You Celebrating #BourdainDay?

June 25, 2019

By Karen

I’m inviting everyone to let us know how you may be remembering Anthony Bourdain on #BourdainDay, what should have been his 63rd birthday.

[People.com]

Eric Ripert and José Andres, who initially announced this celebration, were in Singapore (12 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast) and posted their toast and feast on Twitter yesterday.

Restaurants across the country too numerous to list here are planning various events and special menus to honor Tony.

Later today I hope to trek to Popeye’s Chicken, a few miles off my usual rounds, to try some spicy chicken, biscuits and gravy, and mac and cheese, which were Tony’s guilty favorites.

[Weirdly, when Bourdain died last year, I was in such a state of shock that I patronized a nearby Bojangles Louisiana Chicken by mistake and couldn’t figure out why they didn’t serve his mac and cheese.]

A few notes on some new developments…

The book, Anthony Bourdain Remembered, seems to have dropped off the Publishers Weekly bestseller list already, after standing at No. 10 a week or so ago.

His last graphic novel, Hungry Ghosts, is being made by Sony into a four-part animated series. They say each episode will have a different look and include the accompanying Bourdain recipe. Not sure how that will work. Also, no word yet on where or how the series will be available.

New Jersey officially opened the Bourdain Food Trail on June 13 with a ceremony that Tony’s brother Chris attended. It includes 10 stops they made for an episode during season 5 of Parts Unknown.

Tony’s alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, in partnership with Eric Ripert and José Andres who are helping with fundraising, has established a scholarship to enable students to study abroad. Donations are also being accepted online.

On June 10, Bourdain was named one of 10 winners of EatingWell’s 3rd Annual American Food Hero Award.


One Year: Anthony Bourdain Remembered

June 8, 2019

By Karen

Eric Ripert and José Andrés declared on Twitter that June 25 — Anthony Bourdain’s 63rd birthday — is #BourdainDay. They encourage us to pay tribute to Tony in any way we see fit.

But today, June 8, marks one year since Tony ended his life while filming in France, shocking a world unaware of the internal and external demons he was battling.

On May 28, CNN and Ecco published Anthony Bourdain Remembered, a gorgeous book of photos and tributes to Tony originally compiled as a keepsake for his daughter, Ariane. I’m so thankful she agreed to share it with us.

Brace yourself upon first read because many pages turn and you suddenly have Tony’s brown eyes close up and staring through you. It’s a joy to see him, but also heart-breaking.

Cats Working wasn’t a contributor in spite of the reams you and I have written about Tony here. Neither was Nigella Lawson.

Rewatching Parts Unknown, and poring over this book, I find myself searching for his silver wedding ring. To me it signifies when he was relatively content and grounded. In hindsight I’ve bisected his life into two very lopsided halves: pre- and post-fatal attraction.

Speaking of Parts Unknown, I’ll confess my interest waned near the end, and unwatched episodes piled up on the DVR. Tony seemed to be retracing his steps, but lacking joie de vivre. I don’t think he filmed his last season without a friend or acquaintance with him. It was as if he’d grown sick of his own company.

I rationalized that Bourdain once described himself as a bus that made many stops, and he didn’t expect everyone to stay on for the entire ride.

In his “spare” time, he was everywhere: producing documentaries; trying to launch the never-to-be Bourdain Market; Roads & Kingdoms; editing books for his Ecco imprint; writing and recording voiceovers for other ZPZ shows; doing personal appearances and interviews; supporting charities; filming Raw Craft videos for The Balvenie Scotch Distillery; writing a novel he’d been working on for years.

I’m sure I’ve left a lot out.

Now I wish I’d stayed on that bus and hung on, like I did for the years after I first stumbled upon him in 2007 on Travel Channel and began sharing my fascination with him on Cats Working.

The archive still has the most complete account of Bourdain’s career and life in those days that you’ll find anywhere on the internet. He was on the cusp of transcending cable TV obscurity to become what the world came to adore — the antithesis of the Ugly American.

We all thought we had many years ahead to hop on and off the Bourdain bus. Until we woke up one Friday morning to learn he’d hopped off it himself.

I don’t know yet what I’ll do on June 25. It’s a Tuesday. But food and drink will definitely be involved. Maybe you can give me some ideas.

UPDATES…

I haven’t seen anything about CNN’s documentary on Bourdain’s life. Ditto on the two books Tony’s co-author Laurie Woolever said she was working on.

Tony’s Russian sidekick Zamir Gotta was enlisting companions for a five-day tribute cruise to Cuba on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas October 14. But Trump just fucked that up by suddenly, for no reason, banning port calls in Cuba by cruise ships sailing from the U.S.

I’ve lost track of Ottavia and Ariane. They moved from the home where they and Tony staged some of the photos in his last cookbook, Appetites. The place sold in May.

One day I arranged all of Tony’s books in order of publication (from right to left) so I could see his evolution. I once hoped to fill the entire shelf with his books, but the only new additions now will be written about him. I’m sure there will be many.

Parts Unknown has continued to win awards, including…

The six-part Explore Parts Unknown web series on Little Los Angeles won a James Beard Media Award in May, as well as an award for Visual and Technical Excellence.

In February, Parts Unknown: Bhutan won a 2019 Cinema Audio Society Award for Re-Recording Mixer.

Also in February, Parts Unknown: West Virginia won an American Cinema Editors (ACE) Award for Best Edited Nonscripted Series.

In January, Parts Unknown Seasons 11 and 12 won a 2019 Producers Guild Award for Non-Fiction TV.

BONUS…

Actor Michael Moriarty has been writing a series about Bourdain on his blog, Enter Stage Right. They’re strange, to put it mildly. See for yourself. The blog is needle-in-a-haystack on searches, so here are the links I found…

#1 Introduction (3/11/19)

#2 Detroit (3/18/19)

#3 Mexico (4/8/19)

#4 Russia (4/15/19)

#5 Chiang Mai, Thailand (4/22/19)

#6 Shanghai (4/29/19)

#7 Tanzania (5/6/19)

#8 Iran (5/13/19)


Anthony Bourdain’s Final Graphic Novel Available Oct. 2

September 13, 2018

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain left behind a stash of polished writing for fans to discover and savor after his death on June 8. Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts represents his final foray into the graphic novel genre with food-centric horror stories. The 128-page full-color hardcover is being released under the Berger Books imprint of Dark Horse Comics in Portland, Oregon, on October 2, retailing for $13.49.

The book is a compilation of the four-story miniseries by the same name that Bourdain had published previously (which I haven’t read), as well as five new stories.

The posthumous publication, illustrated by various artists, will include a tribute written by his collaborator Joel Rose, a full-page portrait of Tony, and five new recipes.

Comic books were Bourdain’s first love, so it will be bittersweet to add this volume to the shelf beside his two Get Jiro! graphic novels.

Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts is available for pre-order from Amazon.com. And don’t forget, CNN begins airing the 12th and final season of Parts Unknown on Sunday, September 23.


Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Wins Six Emmys

September 10, 2018

By Karen

FINALLY, after eight previous nominations (as tallied by Variety), Anthony Bourdain posthumously won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing. Ironically, it was for the Southern Italy episode of Parts Unknown, which CNN has pulled from streaming and reruns because it features Tony hanging out with his former girlfriend, Asia Argento.

Tony’s longtime Zero Point Zero producer Lydia Tenaglia accepted the award on his behalf.

If Tony hadn’t killed himself on June 8, several days after seeing photos of Argento spending the weekend in Rome with French journalist Hugo Clement, Tony and Argento might have appeared on the red carpet again together. Tony might have even pulled her up on stage with him to accept the award for the episode they shared.

In Argento’s fondest fantasies, Tony would have turned over the mic to her so she could launch into what we now know would be a totally hypocritical diatribe against Harvey Weinstein the sexual predator, as she did at Cannes, with the man bankrolling her own statutory rape coverup standing behind her.

In reality, Argento’s unemployed and trying to dodge accusations that she has sex with underage boys.

Back to the awards, here’s the run-down of all the Emmys the Parts Unknown crew took home last night, and who they beat…

Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Southern Italy • CNN
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 1 • HBO
  • Icarus • Netflix
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like • PBS
  • The Vietnam War • Episode 8: The History Of The World (April 1969-May 1970) • PBS

Outstanding Informational Series or Special

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • CNN
  • Leah Remini: Scientology And The Aftermath • A&E
  • My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman • Netflix
  • StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson • National Geographic
  • Vice • HBO

Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Lagos • CNN
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 3 • HBO
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • Wild Wild Country • Part 3 • Netflix
  • The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling • HBO

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera)

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Seattle
  • Blue Planet II • Coral Reefs • BBC America
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 1 • HBO
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • The Vietnam War • Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968) • PBS
  • Wild Wild Country • Part 1 • Netflix

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera)

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown • Lagos
  • The Defiant Ones • Episode 1 • HBO
  • Jane • National Geographic
  • The Vietnam War • Episode 6: Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968) • PBS
  • Wild Wild Country • Part 1 • Netflix

Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series

  • Anthony Bourdain: Explore Parts Unknown • CNN (cnn.com)
  • The Americans: The Final Season • FX Networks
  • The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story: America’s Obsessions • FX Networks
  • Jay Leno’s Garage • NBC (nbc.com)
  • Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen • Bravo (bravotv.com)

The only category they didn’t win was Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program for the Lagos episode.

Variety spoke backstage to Explore Parts Unknown executive producer Nathan Thornburgh and reported him saying that public support has meant a lot to those who worked with Bourdain…

“‘The one thing about this loss is it’s not ours alone, like everybody knew that guy,’ Thornburgh said. ‘Everybody had a selfie with him, but more importantly I think everyone felt like he had spoken to them over the years and that’s helped a lot, to feel like we’re not alone.’”

The 12th and final season of Parts Unknown begins September 23. Here’s the trailer…


Open Letter to CNN: Cashing In On Bourdain?

August 17, 2018

By Karen

Dear CNN,

Anthony Bourdain fans mark today as exactly 10 weeks since we lost him to suicide while filming Parts Unknown in France.

I was pleased this month when you announced that you and Zero Point Zero are putting together a final seven-hour Season 12 using remaining episodes Tony had filmed.

You created a mystery by omitting Florence, which Tony completed with his then-girlfriend, Asia Argento, the week before he traveled to France.

Yesterday, Vanity Fair broke the news that you’re planning a feature-length big-screen “definitive documentary” about Bourdain’s life and work.

Your EVP for talent and content, Amy Entelis, told Vanity Fair, “Because he did reveal himself in the series, there was still a hunger to know more about him.”

I’m quite familiar with this “hunger.” I wrote some blogs about Bourdain in 2007 and Cats Working suddenly became “Bourdain Central.” It remained so for several years until Tony took the plunge into social media himself.

Cats Working has seen a resurgence since his death because readers knew I was covering him when few did, and I’ve promised now to tell his story until there’s nothing left to tell.

In describing your documentary, Entelis said, “We just want to make it perfect. We want to make it exquisite for Tony. We want to do him justice.”

The word “exquisite” has fluffed my tail. Because of your almost-nonexistent reporting on Bourdain’s passing, I expect the most disingenuous puff piece in the history of film.

You cite fan interest as a factor in all your Bourdain-related decisions. What fans want to know is what really happened during Bourdain’s last week of life and why.

The French authorities’ announcement on June 8 was so sketchy, yet 100% conclusive, it didn’t pass the smell test. Aside from a belated admission that Bourdain had alcohol in his system (How much? Who knows!) all we know is that he was cremated five days later (presumably without an autopsy), and his brother Chris received the ashes on June 15.

Since then, there’s been nothing except unconfirmed stories on social media from unverifiable posters who claim to know something.

CNN calls itself “The Most Trusted Name in News.” I used to believe that. But on this story about one of your own, instead of doing your job, you’ve filled the void with personal tributes to pass as news.

Meanwhile, you’ve re-run Parts Unknown omitting episodes that included Argento, like Rome and Southern Italy. Most noticeably missing was the one she supposedly directed in Hong Kong early this year, about which Bourdain said on camera to Anderson Cooper, “Of everything I’ve ever done in my life, this was probably the professional highlight.”

So, CNN, why are you apparently boycotting Asia Argento? What’s your beef with her?

Since Bourdain was your employee, can you shed any light on why his appearance and demeanor seemed to decline beginning in 2016? Or didn’t you notice, even though the progression was painfully evident the last few seasons of Parts Unknown? When he died a few weeks before his 62nd birthday, he looked 80.

You must realize that Tony’s faithful fans have seen hundreds of hours of his globe-trotting. We’ve read reams of interviews discussing his personal and professional life. We’ve read his multiple books describing his travels and personal demons.

What’s your documentary going to add to that? The only missing pieces I can think of are the true and full circumstances surrounding his unexpected and unexplained death.

I can understand your desire to protect the family, particularly his daughter, but Bourdain didn’t die in a vacuum. Many people know something, even if your crackerjack reporters totally missed the story.

Eventually the truth will come out. It would be nice if it came from “The Most Trusted Name in News.” But I fear your documentary is just a cynical ploy to cash in one last time on your biggest globally recognized talent. If so, shame on you.


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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