Loss and grief bring people together. It’s one of the many things we all share at some point in our lives. The need to nourish ourselves also brings us together, to the same table. We have to eat and drink and we often delight in sharing the experience. This is something Anthony Bourdain brought to light in books and articles and on television over the many years of his fantastic career. Tragically, the grief of losing this unique spirit now brings many of us together too.
I worked on the road and in the studio with Tony for many years. I didn’t think he liked me at first. Once in Sicily, he yelled at me for saying something to a Travel Channel executive that I shouldn’t have. I was young and dumb, and he was fiercely loyal to Zero Point Zero, the production company that has put out all of his television and film work. Then, things changed, and he did like me. That turnaround had a little something to do with two sisters in Peru, a lot of pisco sours and a nearly missed flight back home. The rest of the details aside, he decided he wanted me around on the road, and we went to many countries together – close to 20 on five continents.
It was a crazy time in my life. Looking back, I worked incredibly hard and should have had a lot more fun. But I wanted to do A GOOD JOB and Tony was insistent, without being complimentary to my face, that I do a good job. (NOTE: He did send complimentary emails to Chris Collins and Lydia Tenaglia, my previous bosses and owners of the company, which helped) I did my best and saw more than I had ever seen before. And I learned. And I began a career – one that I still have today, and that I can be very thankful to Anthony Bourdain, and Zero Point Zero, for seeding.
In addition to launching my career and giving me more experiences in five years than I could have dreamed of getting on my own, Tony gave me something else for which I will always be profoundly grateful. It was after my brother died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2011, and I set up a fund for my sister-in-law and their not-quite-one-year-old daughter. To that fund, Anthony Bourdain gave…and he gave generously. And I was incredibly and deeply touched. I believe he must have been thinking about his own young daughter, who I’m sure, at the time, he couldn’t imagine growing up without a father.
In 2018, Bourdain was at the top of his game. His show and its content just kept getting better. Recently, an episode of “Parts Unknown,” shot in Hong Kong, aired on CNN. The cinematographer was Christopher Doyle of Wong Kar-Wai fame and the director was Asia Argento, his girlfriend and the daughter of famous Italian director/producer, Dario Argento. This had to have been a high point of Bourdain’s career. I mean would it, could it have gotten any better? We will never know.
It’s hard to admit, but Anthony Bourdain and I had a conflicted relationship. He recently wrote a blog on CNN saying he was tough on directors and, well, he was. (Here’s what he wrote: https://explorepartsunknown.com/…/bourdains-field-notes-ho…/) That’s probably why I stopped working on the show…or, at least, that’s how I saw it. But while there are times when I wished I would never have to see him again, and while those feelings made complete sense at the time, they don’t make much sense today.
I am so deeply sorry for this loss, for everyone involved, for his crew, for his fans…but especially for his daughter. I now have a beautiful young son myself and I understand what prompted Tony to give so generously to my family when he didn’t have to. The thought of a child losing a parent is heartbreaking to anyone who has children. I wish Tony could have remembered that yesterday in France. The pain he was feeling must have been too much to bear…and now it is ours, and especially his family’s, to bear.
RIP Anthony Bourdain.