I Knew It Was Doomed Anthony Bourdain
The death of Anthony Bourdain prompted a cascade of articles, tweets and reminiscences. His show, Parts Unknown, drew in millions of viewers; his book, A Cook’s Tour, was a bestseller. Throughout his career, he was a cultural chameleon, an expert in a diverse array of cuisines. He was a writer’s writer, a social media gadfly, and a witty cultural commentator.
But as this ostensibly scholarly book, i knew it was doomed anthony bourdain, demonstrates, he wasn’t always as he appeared on the screen or as his friends and family described him. In fact, he was a deeply flawed man.
In the book, Leerhsen takes a stab at explaining how Bourdain came to kill himself. He begins by quoting his ex-wife, Ottavia Busia, who said that Bourdain had started therapy just before his death. He also cites texts that Bourdain sent to Argento, his girlfriend at the time.
As the book unfolds, we get to know Bourdain’s inner life and personality through interviews with his loved ones, friends, and his production crew. He was a natural storyteller, a control freak, and hard on his people, but also charming, intelligent and articulate, eager to make satisfying TV.
He was a doting father to his daughter, Ariane, and would sneak out to Papaya King with her or watch Ratatouille together. He had a knack for making even the most mundane events appear extraordinary, as he often did with his show.
His friends and colleagues share their recollections, including some that are surprising and heartbreaking. And they are surprisingly candid about his behavior, his relationships and his emotional immaturity, which is sometimes shocking in this context.
For example, one of the most interesting parts of the book is the story of Bourdain’s trip to Lebanon in 2011 to film his series Parts Unknown, which ended with his crew stuck on a hilltop in Beirut while the city was bombed by Israel. The episode aired on the Travel Channel.
It’s a very poignant story. But it’s also a reminder that when the lights are on, fame can be an extremely draining experience.
The documentary also highlights a lot of the emotional problems Bourdain had in his life, as well as highlighting some of the people who were closest to him. Those included his wife, Ottavia Busia; daughter, Ariane; mother, Gladys Bourdain; and brother, Gary Bourdain.
While the documentary does a great job of showing us how much Bourdain was loved, it’s also very painful to see. It’s very easy to feel like he was a lost, misguided man who was struggling with his own insecurities. And it’s very easy to think that his suicide may have been due to those things.
It’s not a film that’s going to change the way you feel about Bourdain or his work, but it is a well-made and empathetic look at the life and death of a beloved celebrity. It’s a sad and moving tribute to a man who had a lot to offer but was tragically cut down too soon.