“…and when no hope was left in sight, on that starry, starry night
you took your life, as lovers often do…”
~ Vincent by Don MacLean
So, yes . . . in the heartbreaking wake of Anthony Bordain’s suicide, like so many, I find myself at sea, a myriad of thoughts and feelings washing over and through me, as I am now presently in the midst of binge-watching all 8 seasons of “Parts Unknown.”
I was first smitten by him when he was a judge on “Top Chef.” Oh, that one-in-a-billion personality, the elegance, the earthiness, the tall, dark, handsome yumminess, the gold earring, the silver hair, the wicked wit and the effortless panache as he’d say something to a contestant like, “The meat was perfectly prepared, though the presentation was somewhat Flinestone-ian.” Well, my mind was instantly and permanently blown.
Now it must be noted that I’m someone who is generally allergic to cooking. It basically annoys me, and I use my oven exclusively to bake sculptures. To further illustrate, a man I once dated, upon first beholding the contents of my kitchen cabinets, said, “Jesus Christ. It’s like a galley on a slave ship.”
So, yes, Monsieur Bourdain would’ve dubbed me the worst kind of Phillistine, for sure. In fact, I once fantasized about doing a crazy cooking show with him, in which I would be the quintessential village idiot of the kitchen, and he, poor guy, would be contractually obligated to culinarily enlighten me.
But back to the dull, sad thud of reality… I’ve been reading a lot of comments about how everybody’s feeling, and in the midst of the grief and the shock and the tributes, I’ve seen quite a few remarks like, “Well, if somebody that famous with that kind of life doesn’t think it’s worth hanging around, what does that say about my boring life?” And in response to that very complex question, the one small thought I’d like to offer up in this moment is that it seems to me — in my experience of it, anyhow — fame isn’t exactly chicken soup for the soul.
In my intermittent travels through show business I’ve had a few ringside seats, now and again, to observe the strange effects fame has on people — very much including myself, of course. By its nature, or rather its unnatural nature (there’s nothing natural about it), I’ve found that fame can be a force of distortion in some particularly insidious ways. Limelight does not have the soothing properties of moonlight or sunlight, and it sure ain’t gonna comfort anybody on a cold, dark, tormented night. And mega-fame… well, for one thing, it is infamous for being ironically isolating. And I’d wager a lot of money that it can give anybody’s demons sharper teeth. Yes, sometimes it has seemed to me as if fame is that voracious monster from the ancient folktales, demanding blood sacrifice now and again in exchange for supernatural riches.
And I’d just like to add — a vegetable to throw into the stew, if you will — having once worked the late night shift on a suicide hotline, having had the privilege of speaking so intimately to some of my fellow humans in those bleakest of bleak moments, and having experienced a few of those bleak moments myself, I’m guessing it’s quite possible that this marvelous man may have been hanging on emotionally by his fingernails for a very long time. We don’t know, nor will we ever know the reasons for the way he left this world.
Anyhow, before I stop writing and start making dinner — remedially, of course, over-steaming the spinach, as usual — and before I turn on the next episodes of “Parts Unknown” to learn so much more about the world than I would have ever thought possible on a TV series, I’d like to raise my glass of surely sub-standard, too-sweet champagne to Anthony Bourdain, master chef, writer, traveler, truth-teller, cross-cultural harmonizer, brilliant, badass, beautiful human being.
What a piece of work is man, indeed.