Anthony Bourdain’s death — Uncovering the reasons behind his sudden suicide

Anthony Bourdain

The untimely demise of chef and writer, Anthony Bourdain, by his own hands within mere days of designer Kate Spade’s suicide reminded the public that not even acclaimed celebrities are spared by mental health issues. It ignited a discussion around the rising rate of suicide in the United States and why people struggled to get help.

In retrospect, Bourdain’s death does not seem as unexpected as it did. He had been open about his nihilistic views in interviews and suffered from depression for most of his life. The only thing was that he was very good at hiding it from the rest of the world behind his thriving career.

Key Takeaways

  • The cause of Anthony Bourdain’s death was determined as suicide by hanging.
  • The police authorities found no foul play and confirmed that he had taken his own life.
  • Anthony had a history of drug addiction and depression in his early days.
  • He did not fully disclose or seek help for his struggles with mental health and anxiety.
  • Anthony’s girlfriend, Asia Argento, said that “cheating wasn’t a problem for us” when faced with rumors about her infidelity causing his suicide.

Anthony Bourdain’s deceased body was found in the bathroom of his hotel room in Kayserberg, France

Anthony Bourdain died on June 8, 2018, at 61 years old. He was found unresponsive in the bathroom of his room at the Le Chambard luxury hotel in the village of Kaysersberg located in France’s Alsace region. The cause of death was determined as suicide by hanging.

A statement released by CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death. It further read:

“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink, and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Bourdain spent the last days of his life in France filming an upcoming episode of the 11th season of his food and travel CNN series ‘Parts Unknown’ near Strasbourg, France. He was accompanied by his best friend and fellow chef, Eric Ripert, who was one of the first persons who found his body.

On the evening of his death, Bourdain had forgone dinner and retreated early to his room. After he failed to arrive at breakfast the next morning, Ripert alerted the receptionist and they eventually discovered his body in the bathroom.

“Anthony was my best friend. An exceptional human being, so inspiring & generous. One of the great storytellers who connected with so many. I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love & prayers are also with his family, friends, and loved ones,” Eric tweeted.

The police authorities did not find any evidence of foul play in the death of Bourdain

The police authorities of the Alsace region ruled out any foul play in Bourdain’s death. The prosecutor of Colmar, Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, told The Associated Press that there was “no element [to suspect] that someone came into the room at any moment”.

Additionally, no sign of violence and struggle was detected on Bourdain’s body as per post-mortem medical reports. The toxicology reports, that arrived two weeks later, indicated no trace of narcotics in his system except for a therapeutic dose of non-narcotic medicine residue, The New York Times reported.

“At this stage, we have no reason to suspect foul play,” confirmed Fayel.

Anthony Bourdain was cremated in France and his remains and belongings were delivered to the United States, where they were handed over to his younger brother, Christopher. His family preferred to hold a small and private ceremony in his memory as his mother, Gladys Bourdain, believed that Anthony “would want as little fuss as possible”.

Although Bourdain’s death came as a surprise to his family, friends, and fans, Ripert noted that he had “been in a dark mood” in the days leading up to his suicide. Gladys, who worked as a longtime copyeditor for The New York Times, expressed her shock at the news, saying:

“He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this. He had everything. Success beyond his wildest dreams. Money beyond his wildest dreams.”

anthony bourdain
Chef Anthony Bourdain in downtown Toronto -2016 | Photo By Natalie Castellino/Maclean’s

Anthony had a history of drug addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts during the early days of his career

In an interview with PEOPLE published just a few months before his suicide, Anthony had said that he was “reasonably happy” and was shouldering the responsibility of looking after his daughter, Ariane:

“I also do feel I have things to live for. There have been times, honestly, in my life that I figured, ‘I’ve had a good run – why not just do this stupid thing, this selfish thing… jump off a cliff into water of indeterminate depth, I was, frankly, asking for trouble. It was a daredevil move. I don’t know that I would do that today, now that I’m a dad or reasonably happy.”

However, he has had a history of drug addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts throughout his early life. For instance, in his book ‘Medium Raw’, Bourdain revealed that he was “aimlessly and regularly suicidal” and excessively indulged in drugs and alcohol after his first marriage with Nancy Putkoski ended in divorce in 2005.

Similarly, in a 2016 episode of ‘Parts Unknown’, Bourdain described his depression as:

“Things have been happening. I will find myself in an airport for instance and I’ll order an airport hamburger. It’s an insignificant thing, it’s a small thing, it’s a hamburger, but it’s not a good one. Suddenly I look at the hamburger and I find myself in a spiral of depression that can last for days.”

Bourdain never fully addressed or sought help for his drinking and mental health issues

According to Morgan Neville’s documentary titled ‘Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain’, Bourdain descended into darkness after his second marriage with Ottavia Bussa broke in 2016. He had never been to rehab despite being a heroin addict in the past and continued to drink till his last days.

It was further disclosed that Bourdain suffered from agoraphobia, shyness, and anxiety while also dealing with “OCD, depression, bipolar episodes, and addictive qualities” Neville told Vanity Fair:

“I think what drove [Anthony’s] unhappiness was that he was somebody who had been running away from his deeper problems for a long time. How many heroin addicts just stop using without going to rehab, and continue drinking? It’s like you’re papering over the real problems.”

Anthony had “papered over his problems through his sense of forward momentum” by immersing himself in his work and was a known workaholic.

Girlfriend Asia Argento spoke up against speculations that Anthony had taken his life because of her infidelity

Asia Argento and Anthony Bourdain | asiaargento/Instagram

Although Anthony had begun therapy in March 2018, two months before his death, his close friends implied in the documentary that the volatile relationship with his girlfriend Asia Argento, an Italian actress, ultimately drove him to suicide.

In an interview with DailyMailTV, Argento spoke up against claims that her infidelity was the catalyst for Bourdain’s suicide, saying:

“People say I murdered him. [Do] people need to think that he killed himself for [being cheated on]? He had cheated on me too. It wasn’t a problem for us… We had lives, wives and husbands, we had children. I cannot think of Anthony as somebody who would do an extreme gesture like this for something like that.”

Argento said that they had celebrated their second anniversary just recently and was out of the loop about his dark thoughts and “felt terrible” about Anthony not sharing his pain with her.

“I understand that the world needs to find a reason. I would like to find a reason too. I don’t have it. Maybe I would feel some solace in thinking there was something that happened…He had so much pain inside of him and he didn’t share it. I did not see it. And for that I will feel guilty for the rest of my life,” she added.

Anthony gained posthumous recognition for the final season of his CNN show Parts Unknown

In the following months after his death, CNN announced that they had enough material to release the last and posthumous season of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Thus, the seven-episode 12th season of the show aired in September 2018.

Amy Entelis, the Executive Vice President of Talent and Content at CNN, who launched the show in 2013 said:

“Each one will feel slightly different depending on what’s gathered in the field. They will have the full presence of Tony because you’ll see him, you’ll hear him, you’ll watch him. That layer of his narration will be missing, but it will be replaced by other voices of people who are in the episodes,”

Notes, photographs and flowers are left in memory of Anthony Bourdain at the closed location of Brasserie Les Halles | Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

According to Los Angeles Times, only the first episode was completed with Bourdain’s full involvement. The episode showed Bourdain touring Kenya with W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN’S United Shades of America.

The following four episodes (featuring Bourdain’s travel to Manhattan, West Texas, Indonesia, and Spain) were pieced together with Bourdain’s on-location audio recording and interviews of the guests who appeared on the show.

While the penultimate episode contained the behind-the-scenes footage and experience of the cast and crew in the making of the series, the final episode was made in tribute to “how Anthony affected the world” and highlighted the reactions of fans, friends, and guests of the show.

Moreover, at the 70th Creative Arts Emmy Awards on September 8, 2018, the show earned six nominations where Bourdain posthumously won two Emmy awards for Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program and Outstanding Informational Series or Special.

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