Anthony Bourdain, travel host and author, is dead at the age of 61. The cause? An apparent suicide. This news came as a complete shock to me.
I met Anthony, ‘Tony’, along with a group of travel journalists during a recent press trip. We were staying at the same hotel in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was filming for his show and we were there covering the area, specifically Mardi Gras, for our own outlets we contribute to. I remember every night we would see him sitting at the bar alone having dinner and a couple of beers. We chuckled at the fact he was just eating bar food. It proved to me he was just a ‘normal’ person. It didn’t always have to be the extraordinary meals around the world for him. Bar food from the Doubletree worked just fine.
We mostly admired him from afar. I mean he had reached this ‘gold status’ in our eyes in terms of a career. He was on this level that many of us could only dream of. We all travel the world to tell stories of people, places, food, and wine. He was what we are working so hard to become. My dear friend and travel journalist, Meryl Pearlstein, had just written an article about Tony which you can read HERE. She spent months researching every part of his life. It was a huge moment for her to have the opportunity to chat with him in person. She couldn’t stop smiling the entire time we were there. I am glad that I was there to witness this.
I look back and remember how worn he seemed. Tired. I wonder now what was going through his mind.
The outside can seem perfect. Someone can seem like they have it all together. Social media helps give that image. I am just as guilty as the next for only sharing the good. It’s not that I am afraid of the bad or ashamed necessarily. We all experience it. Tony’s struggles with past addiction were even widely known. I guess I’ve just always felt my readers and followers prefer the positivity. Maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we should focus more on sharing the good, the bad, AND the ugly. Maybe that’s when we can truly connect with one another. It’s important for us to realize that no matter their status or even the way things seem on the outside, no one’s life is perfect. Not mine, yours, or your hero on the television or field.
Other than introducing ourselves and having a photo op with Mr. Bourdain, we chose to leave him alone during his moments alone at the bar. I’ve worked in the Entertainment business for a long time and have always chosen to just let those of ‘celebrity status’ be. They need to be able to sit at a bar and have a drink without someone constantly approaching them. But then again, if you have celebrity status and want to be left alone, wouldn’t you order room service? Maybe we should have approached him. Maybe he could have used an ear from a stranger. Maybe he would have just declined the company. Who knows.
He once said “you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” So, I encourage you to reach out to someone near you. Reach out to those who seem to have it all together. Sit down for a meal. You may learn a great deal about them and yourself. You may just save a life.
May you rest in peace Mr. Bourdain. Thank you for being an incredible storyteller and for inspiring people around the world. I wish you could have known your own worth and the difference you made in so many lives.