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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.