The first unauthorized biography of Anthony Bourdain includes text messages that allegedly pull down the curtain on the celebrity chef’s final days. In Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain, journalist Charles Leerhsen includes a text message Bourdain wrote to his estranged wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, that he was “lonely and living in constant uncertainty.” Leerhsen’s book, published by Simon & Schuster on Oct. 11, is already controversial among those who knew Bourdain, including his brother, Christopher Bourdain.
“I hate my fans, too. I hate being famous. I hate my job,” Bourdain wrote to Busia-Bourdain in one text message quoted in the book, reports The New York Times. “I am lonely and living in constant uncertainty.”
Leerhsen also included the last alleged text message exchange Bourdain had with actress Asia Argento, with whom Bourdain was in a relationship in the last two years of his life. “Is there anything I can do?” Bourdain wrote to Argento just hours before he took his own life in a French hotel. “Stop busting my balls,” she wrote back. “OK,” Bourdain wrote in his final text to her. Leerhsen included the exchange early on in his book.
Down and Out in Paradise tracks Bourdain’s childhood, from growing up in suburban New Jersey, to becoming a chef who found more fame as a writer and television host. Leershen’s research included over 80 interviews, and files, texts, and emails from Bourdain’s phone and laptop. He told the Times he sought to show the final dark days of the No Reservations host’s life when he was isolated and estranged from his daughter. “We never had that big story, that long piece that said what happened, how the guy with the best job in the world took his own life,” Leershen said.
Bourdain’s family is not happy with the book. His younger brother Christopher sent Simon & Schuster emails in August, calling the book hurtful and defamatory. He wanted the book delayed until Leerhsen’s errors were fixed. “Every single thing he writes about relationships and interactions within our family as kids and as adults he fabricated or got totally wrong,” Christopher told the Times. Simon & Schuster stood by the book, which will be published in October.
The book also does not include new interviews with Bourdain’s inner circle members and those who worked with him. Leerhsen claims Bourdain’s agent, Kim Witherspoon, told them not to speak with him. Witherspoon and Bourdain’s assistant, Laurie Woolever, declined to respond to the Times.
However, others did speak with the author. “A lot of people were willing to talk to me because they were left behind by Tony and by the Tony train,” Leerhsen said. Busia-Bourdain, who controls Bourdain’s estate, has also not tried to stop the book’s publication. Leerhsen also said he got the text messages and emails from a confidential source.
Bourdain was found dead on June 8, 2018, at 61. Chef Eric Ripert discovered Bourdain in his Alsatian hotel room, the day after they filmed an episode of Parts Unknown. At the time of his death, Bourdain was in a relationship with Argento, and Leershen reports that Bourdain did whatever he could to preserve it. He reportedly provided her with financial support and insisted she appear on his show. Five days before he died, Argento was seen dancing with a French reporter, which led to arguments between Argento and Bourdain, Leerhsen reported. The journalist also claims Bourdain paid Jimmy Bennett a $380,000 settlement after Bennett said he had sex with Argento when he was a minor.0comments
Leerhsen only exchanged emails with Argento, who once sent him an Oscar Wilde quote reading, “It is always Judas who writes the biography,” he said. Argento told the Times she hasn’t read the book. “I wrote clearly to this man that he could not publish anything I said to him,” she added.
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