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Bourdain Confidential

Maria Bustillos’s interview back in February with Bourdain before his sudden death. Ill be honest, Im still shocked by it. Im glad it opened a discussion about mental health and it’s implications, depression and alcoholism which were not in the mainstream media. I hope it will be in the forefront for the next decades. With the current state of affair, I really do hope alcoholism will be more researched and talked about. Its a nasty poison.

Anthony Bourdain had started smoking again, was the first thing I noticed as he sat down with me last February. He was a bit hung over from a recent working trip to south Louisiana for Cajun Mardi Gras; “Harder partying than I’m used to, I gotta say,” he said, laughing. Despite his great height his leonine head seemed just huge, and a little fleshier than I’d imagined; there was this slight dissipation to him.

But no—who could be troubled about the wellbeing of Anthony Bourdain? Just look at him, so debonair, so completely at ease. A veritable prince of savoir vivre. Sixty-one, and still very elegant in his looks; the word sexy came to mind. Almost an old-fashioned word now. The sort of person who seems to think with his hips, his hands. He was in love, he would later admit; he and his new girlfriend, Asia Argento, had started smoking again together. He was a little rueful about the smoking, had the air of someone who meant to quit soon.

As he started to talk, everything about him became familiar at once; he slipped so effortlessly into the sleek carapace of his fame. The very air of vulnerability he projected, along with the rough candor, was part of this persona. But in fact he was a very private person, as his assistant, Laurie Woolever, reminded me after his death. Something I’d already known, from reading his books; he’d liked the piece I’d written about him and sent me an unbelievably kind note about it, which was what had emboldened me to ask for an interview. That, and he was famously generous to writers in general.

I loved this passage about him redefining of what luxury means and it begs the question, do you really need alcohol to be happy? Im on the spectrum that it shouldn’t. I do understand the feeling of eeriness, just pushed through the day and now letting go of all the care in the world.

My happiest moments on the road are always off-camera, generally with my crew, coming back from shooting a scene and finding ourselves in this sort of absurdly beautiful moment, you know, laying on a flatbed on those things that go on the railroad track, with a putt-putt motor, goin’ across like, the rice paddies in Cambodia with headphones on… this is luxury, because I could never have imagined having the freedom or the ability to find myself in such a place, looking at such things.

To sit alone or with a few friends, half-drunk under a full moon, you just understand how lucky you are; it’s a story you can’t tell. It’s a story you almost by definition, can’t share. I’ve learned in real time to look at those things and realize: I just had a really good moment.

He was quite special and I wish he was still around.