David Simon vividly remembers the moment he realized that he was transfixed by Anthony Bourdain. “I was still on the sofa at four in the afternoon, still half-dressed, when I decided that my life could not be complete if I did not somehow become friends with Anthony Bourdain,” he recalled. He had been watching a No Reservations marathon with his son, Ethan. “’This guy is so f—ing real,’ I remember telling my son. ‘This guy,’ Ethan replied, correcting me, ‘might be the absolute coolest person on the entire planet.'”
A few days after the chef and TV personality died at the age of 61 by suicide, Simon, the prolific TV writer behind The Wire and The Deuce, shared a touching tribute to Bourdain.
In the post on Simon’s website, he remembers cold-calling Bourdain not long after that magical 10 hours on the couch, using his recently ordered HBO series Treme as an excuse to ask the Bourdain to dinner to pick his brain on a story line revolving around Kim Dickens’ character, a chef struggling to reopen her restaurant in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “I hadn’t focused much on that arc or on what Bourdain could do with it,” admitted Simon. “No, I just wanted a bromance.”
Simon continued of their meeting: “A lot of people will tell you that on meeting Tony — despite how extraordinary a being he was — they somehow felt as if they’d known him for years. In part, this was the natural result of having so much of his wit and intellect bleed across our television screens. But just as elemental, I believe, was the man’s almost unlimited capacity for empathy, for feeling the lives and loves and hopes of others. He listened as few listen. And when he spoke, it was often to deliver some precise personal recollection that was an echo or simile on what was still in his ear. He abhorred a non sequitur; for him, human communication — much like his core ideas about food and travel and being — was about finding the sacred middle between people.”
Once Treme became a reality, Bourdain came aboard as a consultant and writer with Simon praising the chef’s “perfectly” written scenes. “We had no fear for the arc — neither in its direction, nor its execution,” Simon wrote. “For four seasons, in the writers’ room and on the page, Tony guided and wrote us all the way home.”
Simon then spoke of “The Church of Bourdain,” the belief that Americans would all be better served by traveling the world and sharing a meal with people who are different than them. “He remains, for many of us, the American that we wish ourselves to be in the world’s sight,” posited Simon. “To have him widely displayed as our countryman, open to and caring about the rest of the world, and being so amid our current political degradation — this was ever more important and heroic. To lose him now, amid so many fear-mongering, xenophobic tantrums by those engaged in our misrule, is hideous and grievous.”
Read the full tribute here.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).