MEDIA REDEF is a company that curates stories that make you think. The chief curator is Jason Hirschhorn, founder and former executive of MySpace. Jason recently wrote his own piece about Anthony Bourdain. I wanted to share it with you because it expresses how many of us feel.
“On Friday, June 8th, I was visiting my friends John and Anna Mason at their summer home in Easton, Maryland. That’s Wedding Crashers country. I was there to relax, play with my goddaughter, eat seafood and yes, see the house and hotel in the movie. I went to bed early that night. I can’t remember exactly how I found out. I think my friend Kevin Krim texted me. It was early Saturday morning. Anthony Bourdain was gone. He took his own life.
Unfathomable to me. I was stunned. Searching news sites to confirm it was true. I started to choke up. Tears. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted that way about someone I didn’t know. Sadness, yes. But tears, no. I walked downstairs to the kitchen in a daze. But then goddaughter Isabelle was up and I didn’t want her to see that. The rest of the day was a blur. I don’t think I’ve written about anyone else more in this space than Bourdain. He had a massive impact on me.
Years ago, when I was at MTV NETWORKS my friend Tom Freston, upon my promotion to a global role, said to me: “Take advantage of this job. The audience is beyond your own shores.” What did Tom mean? We were in more than 100 countries. My role was global. I was going to travel and see the world’s people and cultures. And I did. Around the same time, I discovered Bourdain. I love food. But I am a creature of habit and rarely challenged myself with new cuisine and restaurants. Hey, there is pizza, Caesar salad, and club sandwiches in every country in the world.
His first show NO RESERVATIONS opened my mind. He traveled the world. Seeing new places. Meeting new people. Trying every food imaginable. And I loved every minute of it. As my curiosity grew, I developed an affinity for being uncomfortable. I like new things. New places. New people. I do curious for a living. And what he brought to the world was very simple, subversive, and needed. The common love of food. The common love of gab. The common habit of the table as a staging area to learn. All of this combined showed us the differences, but more important, the commonalities of us through sharing a meal.
Gradually, and into his next show Parts Unknown, the food took a backseat to discussing societal, cultural, historical, and personal issues. But the food was always there. My friend Patti Kim and I went to Beirut. because he did. We ate at Tawlet. One of the best farm to table meals I’ve ever had in my life. My dream is still to have Pot-Au-Feu at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant. Just like he did with Daniel Boulud. Maybe the best food episode was his Pintxos Crawl, through the streets of San Sebastián. That’s on my bucket list.
After his death, there were stories of his long-term battle with addiction (he had no alcohol or drugs in his body at the time of his death) and his sadnesses. He was a passionate man. And sometimes those with that kind of passion, hurt and feel more.
Sadly, we saw the outside of his life. The travel. The food. The fame. And we ask, “He had a great life. Why would he do this?” That’s no way to judge. Sadness can crawl deep inside and be masked. But it doesn’t go away without treatment, work, and support. And when you’re “the man” sometimes you don’t ask for help. And it just takes a momentary lapse of faith, reason, and one bad thought to be gone.
In many ways, I think the current state of the world tormented Bourdain. In a very tender moment with President Obama in Hanoi, he asked, “Is everything going to be okay?” Asking as a man, a father, and a human being. He had such a positive effect on me. His shows satiated and grew my curiosity. Every Sunday night was like a treat I had earned from a hard week. I couldn’t wait to watch. Where was I going to go next?
I haven’t been able to watch the remaining episodes yet. Just makes me sad. But I will. And the curiosity that drove him is what drives me and I will continue to explore these topics at REDEF. I never got to meet him. I wish I had. Soon it will be time to rewatch his stuff on services like Netflix. I hope CNN continues to air his catalog in perpetuity. I wonder if he knew, in those last moments, how much he meant to so many? I miss him every day. But miss him most on Sunday nights. He had a POV that we need now more than ever.”