News recently broke of Anthony Bourdain passing away, apparently taking his own life. Bourdain was just 61-years-old and award-winning celebrity chef, writer, and CNN TV host who took viewers around the world with his show “Parts Unknown” when his life tragically ended in Paris.
CNN announced in a statement regarding Bourdain’s d***h – “It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the d***h of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain. His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”
“Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
On a hot night in 2005, after a long day of spelunking through the septic tanks of Wisconsin, I retired to my suite at the Motel 6, to wallow in the perks of my chosen profession.
First, there was the tepid shower, followed by another. Then, there was the tepid beer, followed by another. Then, I logged into the Dirty Jobs Mudroom, where I planned to chat with fans of my show while watching myself on television, (a narcissistic but mostly harmless habit that eventually got out of control and turned into this Facebook page.) But that’s another story.
Full disclosure – I don’t know Tony well enough to eulogize him. We met a few times, here and there, shared a few drinks, and complemented each other on our respective careers. We disagreed on plenty, but we approached non-fiction television the same way. We both looked askance at rehearsals, scripts, executive oversight, and most of all, second takes. And we both tried to use our platforms to do more than entertain.
A few years ago, at an event in New York, we traded war stories over some better than average bourbon. I asked Tony about the warthog anus he ate in Namibia, and whether or not the subsequent antibiotics did the trick.
“Hard to know,” he said. “By then, I’d developed a kind of natural immunity. What about you? Still keeping the Hep-A at bay?”
“So far so good,” I said. “My problems these days are mostly with PETA.”
Tony laughed. “Don’t get me started. They’ve got a file on me the size of a phone book.”
We talked about the importance of showing people where their food comes from. He told me about the petition against CNN that arose when he removed the beating heart from a snake. I told him about the boycott against Discovery when I shot a cow and butchered it on camera. We talked about the difficulty of producing a truly authentic show with sponsors and advertisers and millions of viewers with competing agendas, and how grateful he was for the chance to deliver the show he wanted to deliver. I told him about the night I saw him choking down the fermented shark in Iceland, back in 2005, and asked him if he ever imagined a scene like that would lead to a Peabody Award. He told me that awards were nice, but never part of the plan.
“I was mostly trying to amuse myself,” he said. “I just wanted to do a show that I could be proud of.”
Yesterday, when I heard he’d hung himself, I thought about the first time I saw “No Reservations,” while I was stretched out on that suspicious comforter in a Motel 6 outside Madison. I just found the clip on You Tube, and watched it again – this time from the comfort of a leather sofa, where the only DNA present was my own. I couldn’t help but notice the title of the episode – “Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.”
Old friends, it seems, have a way of reuniting.
Tragically, in this case.
My sympathies to his loved ones, and to his millions of fans trying to make sense of the inexplicable. His was a truly unique voice, and I’ll be among those who miss it.
Read more RWN