The death certificate ... listed his profession as chef
December 5, 2018 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Drew Magary, writing for GQ’s Men of the Year brings us The Last Curious Man, an oral history take on the life and death Anthony Bourdain as told by friends, family, and colleagues.
posted by Ghidorah (18 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
I still find it hard to believe he is dead. This was a really moving read. Thanks.
posted by knapah at 8:29 PM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Not usually a huge fan of this format, but this was powerful. Thank you.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:44 PM on December 5, 2018

"We were going to CBS. We were walking down the block to go to the studio, and on the other side of the street were some 15 or 20 really loud, professional strikers. Tough guys from New Jersey, screaming and yelling. They saw Tony, and they turned around and went, "Hey, Tony, Tony, Tony!" And he went over and said, "Hey, guys, you know, I'm doing a show, could you just tone it down for about 15 minutes?" "Yeah, Tony, of course, anything for you." Now, who in the world could get a bunch of New York picketers to shut up, other than Tony? They just turned into little, quiet mice instantly. For about an hour."
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:09 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Aw, I read this at my desk yesterday, which was a mistake. I wonder often what he himself thought of becoming someone everyone loved.
posted by wellred at 5:35 AM on December 6, 2018

I still haven't come to terms with his death. He was the first celebrity since, probably Douglas Adams, to shape my life profoundly and then disappear. I want to spend time with this man I miss, but watching his shows just makes me think about it and it sucks. At least I know it's all there to come back to when I'm ready, but... I have no idea when that will be.
At least this outpouring of stories from his friends helps and may be the sort of acknowledgement of his importance that helps get me there.
posted by opsin at 5:52 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I read this a couple of days ago and enjoyed it a lot. I never really watched any of his shows until after he died, but worked my way through almost all of the Parts Unknown episodes on Netflix over the summer. The darkness in his soul peeks out so many times, but it's easier to see in retrospect than perhaps it was in the moment. The awkwardness and shyness that his friends remarked on in the article are better hidden in the construction of the episodes, but it's not hard to imagine him as a very self-conscious man. I'm not one to fawn over dead celebrities, but his passing has meant something to me.
posted by briank at 5:59 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wow... This so beautifully sums up a life both hard- and well-lived. I still cannot bring myself to watch any of the old shows -- it just makes it harder to accept that this phenomenal human being is gone. I did pick up a copy of Medium Raw at a used book store a couple of months ago, and heard his voice with every word. I would love to have met him -- to have shared a meal with him.
Godspeed, Tony.
posted by PaperArtist at 6:36 AM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

“I just think it’s lonelier without him in the world.”—Paula Froelich

posted by xammerboy at 6:59 AM on December 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

I’ll be honest the part that really got to me was that Ripert seemed so happy to talk about everything... except Bourdain’s last few days. I only know Ripert from his TV appearances but I can’t imagine what that experience and subsequent life has been like for a man like him.
posted by supercres at 7:00 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

This is a really nice tribute and told me quite a few things I didn't know. It really says a lot, to me, that everyone has been so loving and protective of him, down to the last person. I have come to think of this as maybe one of those situations where it's a surprise, yes, but also it's impressive that he stayed around as long as he did.
posted by BibiRose at 7:18 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I said this before, in the obituary thread, but I was fortunate to meet Anthony Bourdain years ago on a book tour. He was so, so quiet when he was one-on-one with people. So very shy and clearly uncomfortable with himself. That just endeared him to me even more. I gave him my book and told him I was a chef, too. His eyes lit up and we started talking knives and shoes and food. He drew a chef's knife on the title page in my copy of Kitchen Confidential, signed it, and shook my hand. His knife callouses were far more evident than mine.

His love of food, people, places in the world...those things shone in his TV shows, more with Parts Unknown than with No Reservations. I loved watching those programs. I can't any more because all I see now is the pain he was trying so hard to hide. I wish he had been able to conquer those fucking demons.

I can't read this yet. He meant so damned much to me and with various other things going on in my life and in the world, I don't have the fortitude to read it right now.
posted by cooker girl at 7:20 AM on December 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

David Remnick (editor in chief, 'The New Yorker'): My wife came home one day, and she said, "Look. There's a really nice woman at the newspaper. Her son is a writer. She wanted you to take a look at his work," which seemed...adorable, right? A mother's ambition for a son. I took this manuscript out of its yellow envelope, not expecting much. I started to read.
Huh. That reminds me of Walker Percy's account of discovering John Kennedy Toole.

Huh again. I had no idea that Josh Homme composed the Parts Unknown opening theme.
The one common thing you hear from everyone is "Why does this hurt so much? I didn't know the guy." Yes, you did know the guy. You shared 100 meals with him, if not more. He shared 1,000 meals with the world.
Big mood.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:32 AM on December 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Great piece and it really makes me want to go and rewatch a stack of his shows on Netflix.

I had the privilege of interviewing Bourdain once, many years back. He was over in the UK because in the wake of the success of Kitchen Confidential, Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate had bought the UK rights to his crime novels. (You should read Bone In The Throat, it's a sharp bit of kitchen noir.)

So myself, someone from Canongate, who I knew reasonably well and who set up the interview, and Bourdain, went for lunch in an upscale Glasgow restaurant. Lunch was pretty good, especially given that I wasn't paying for it (I was 24 and a broke hack, so free lunch was always good). Initially, the feature I was writing was pretty much a standard "let's go for lunch with an author/chef and discuss shit over some nice food".

Bourdain thought - and he was right - that a better feature would be let's have lunch, let's hang out in the kitchen with the chef once he's done with the lunchtime rush so that the two of them could talk shop and have a drink, and then let's see where the afternoon takes us.

Where the afternoon took us was Bourdain and our lunchtime chef talking fascinating cook shop over a couple of whiskies after lunch - two total professionals geeking out and bonding over common experiences - and then a bit of a wander from one pub to another. We went to the Arlington - then a spit-and-sawdust local pub for local people that was nevertheless friendly and collegiate - and then on to the Uisge Beatha. The shell of the Uisge is still there, in the sense that it's still a pub, but it's not what it was; in 2001 it was a four-room warren of wood-panelled booths which all felt like the ideal location for clandestine meetings.

It was summer and therefore light even late into the evening, so following a walk through Kelvingrove Park we ended up in The Grove, a one-room old man's pub in Finnieston which even now - when Finnnieston has been gentrified almost beyond belief - is still The Grove of old.

By this time it was around 9pm. Lunch was ages ago. So we all get a fish supper from The Grove chip shop on Argyle Street. The four of us sit on a bench just inside the entrance to Kelvingrove Park to eat it.

Bourdain and the man from Canongate get a taxi back to Queen Street Station, because they're both heading back to Edinburgh on the last train. Before they do so, we four all smoke a post-dinner cigarette, and agree that it's been a good night.

The entire time I'd been with Bourdain, he constantly and enthusiastically grilled me about Glasgow history, about local food traditions, about the weird specialities of Scottish food (he was particularly into the idea of the Buttery). He just seemed like someone who always wanted to learn - about food, obviously, but about local culture and what that meant for food. By the time he headed off, I was a wreck, having essentially been in the pub for 10 hours.

I had a fucking rotten hangover the next morning. But I opened up the copy of Kitchen Confidential that I'd brought along with me the day before hoping that he'd sign it. On the title page he'd drawn a skull - complete with chef's hat - biting down on a knife. "COOKS RULE" was written just below.

A couple of weeks later I got an email. "Wasn't that way more fun than a basic interview over lunch?"
posted by Len at 10:07 AM on December 6, 2018 [90 favorites]

Fantastic story, Len.
posted by knapah at 10:12 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a hard time reading this. I'd been waffling over whether to do this big food-related project I embark on every year (this year I have less help, less time, I'm sick, etc) and after I read it, I felt this enormous NEED to commit to it.

This quote got me: "Hamilton: That's the thing about friendship with Tony. Tony lavishes you with love and friendship and generosity and kindness, and then he disappears in the night and you don't get to reciprocate. It wasn't mutual. But it was breathtaking to be loved by him."

I do this baking project every year because it's one of the biggest ways I show my love to friends and family. I asked myself, are you doing this because you feel you should? Because they want you to? No- I do it because it makes me happy, to bring joy to others.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:43 AM on December 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

I didn't follow his career that much so I can't pretend his death was a huge moment for me but I keep running into his ghost in weird places. After watching the Bois/Biederman MMA doc I spent some time reading about the history and culture of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, of which Bourdain was an enthusiast in his last few years. And in the process I found out that he had a pseudonymous Reddit account that he used pretty much exclusively to comment on the BJJ sub - talking about his experiences starting a combat sport in his late 50s and occasionally correcting people on the finer points of "Mr. Bourdain's" biography or opinions.
posted by atoxyl at 1:02 PM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

I can read about him. But I can't yet watch any of his shows. I have them all bookmarked and see them when browsing around. Maybe, I say to myself, I can watch one today. No, not today. Not just yet.
posted by MovableBookLady at 2:19 PM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you can track down the sitcom made out of Kitchen Confidential, it's worth it. An amazing amount of talent: Bradley Cooper as Bourdain, Nicholas Brendon, John Cho, and Frank Langella supporting.

But, in some ways, it's like Primary Colors. Just as Travolta didn't quite have enough charisma to be Bill Clinton, Bradley Cooper - Bradley Cooper! - isn't quite there to be Tony.

Still a good show, though.
posted by aurelian at 4:04 PM on December 6, 2018

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