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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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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