A new unauthorized biography of Anthony Bourdain, which includes for the first time the celebrity chef’s text messages from the days leading up to his death by suicide in 2018, reveals Bourdain’s anguish over his career, his estranged marriage and his troubled romantic relationship with actor Asia Argento.
Selections from the book Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain, written by journalist Charles Leerhsen, were published in today’s The New York Times. The Simon & Schuster book will be released on Oct. 11.
“I hate my fans, too. I hate being famous. I hate my job,” Bourdain wrote to his estranged wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, with whom he remained a close confidant even after their separation in 2016. “I am lonely and living in constant uncertainty.”
Although the article doesn’t specifically say that Busia-Bourdain provided the texts, Bourdain’s widow controls his estate, which includes the messages.
Perhaps most indicative of Bourdain’s troubled state of mind when he took his life at a French hotel were the exchanges with Argento. Leerhsen’s book chronicles the couple’s turbulent relationship, with both sides expressing displeasure at social media photos that depicted each with another partner: Bourdain spending time with his estranged wife and daughter, and Argento dancing with a French reporter in the lobby of Rome’s Hotel de Russie.
“I am okay,” Bourdain texted Argento after seeing the photo. “I am not spiteful. I am not jealous that you have been with another man. I do not own you. You are free. As I said. As I promised. As I truly meant. But you were careless. You were reckless with my heart. My life.”
According to the Times‘ description of the book’s content, Bourdain then wrote that he was hurt that “the tryst” took place in a hotel they had previously enjoyed together. Argento responded, “I can’t take this,” and said she could no longer stay in the relationship due to his possessiveness.
In his final exchange with Argento, Bourdain wrote, “Is there anything I can do?,” to which the actor replied, “Stop busting my balls.” The celebrity food writer responded with a simple, “OK,” and hanged himself later that day.
As the Times writes, the book has “already drawn fire from Mr. Bourdain’s family, former co-workers and closest friends,” with brother Christopher Bourdain sending Simon & Schuster two emails in August calling the book “hurtful and defamatory fiction.” The publisher responded, “With all due respect, we disagree that the material in the Book contains defamatory information, and we stand by our forthcoming publication.”
In an email to the Times, Argento wrote that she had not read the book, adding “I wrote clearly to [Leerhsen] that he could not publish anything I said to him.”
The book also reports that Bourdain paid $380,000 to musician-actor Jimmy Bennett, who claimed that he’d had a sexual relationship with Argento when she was 37 and he was still a minor at 17. Bennett, according to the book, had sought $3.5 million.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.