Bourdain at 50

(by Michael Ruhlman, guest blogger)

So attention must be paid. Thursday night a group of about 50 friends and sinister types surprised Tony Bourdain in honor of his half-century on earth. Lured to Siberia on the pretext of an interview with Rolling Stone, Tony had little inkling of the party, judging from the unseemly blubbering that followed the revelation. The heroic drunkenness for which he is highly esteemed, however, was not long in waiting. He’d been out with Mario the night before until dawn; presumably Mario was sleeping it off, but Bourdain himself was as ever in fine form.

Laurent Gras showed and I learned the hopeful news that he’s close to signing on a Manhattan space where he can hang his own shingle. Those who ate at Fifth Floor in S.F. or at Peacock Alley in Manhattan know why this is good news. Gabrielle Hamilton appeared, babe attached like a lamprey the whole time and unfazed by the deafening jukebox. I’d been eager to meet her because she’s that rare creature, a genuine cook and chef who can really write. I love her restaurant Prune and am eager for her memoir. However, she was deeply skeptical of me when I introduced myself, and clearly could not be swayed even by enormous amounts of charm, so I cut my losses moved on to…Bigfoot. Bigfoot, the restaurant guy described in Kitchen Confidential, and Tony’s trauma scars remain raw and sizzling. “To this day I wake at 6 am because of this guy, no matter what country I’m in,” he repeated in front of the man. And Tony’s mom! His mom was there! Gladys. She’s a copy editor on the Metro desk at the Times, clearly suffers no fools, and was unabashedly proud of her son (and surely thrilled that he was here on his 50th rather than in jail, which is what she would have predicted twenty years ago). A delight, actually to speak with her, very elegant lady.

Lots of media folks, his publisher and publicists, his show’s production crew, zeropointzero, finer folks there never were, I worked with them on Tony’s Vegas show, they’re pros and bring some genuine originality to TV food and travel.

And a man named Bulldog had come up from Maryland. Bulldog has a talk radio show there from 6 to 10 am and was due back at what was now this morning. Before catching his limo south, Bourdain insisted on being on his show the following morning. Now Bourdain is a well-known media magnet and resists no opportunity to flog his books (he considers being on book tour to be like running for public office). So it surprised me little that he was angling, drunkenly, for more media even at his own party. And it is exactly at such a moment when I am most eager to loathe the scoundrel—our relationship has been schizophrenic from the beginning owing to the lies he has spread about me in public (people along my street here in Cleveland have actually whispered to my neighbor Betsy, “I didn’t know Michael had a drinking and gambling problem”; I’m totally serious, this is what I put up with)—he turns around and undoes me with an act of unabashed generosity. It wasn’t himself he wanted on the radio, he wanted both of us on and he wanted to extol the virtues of my book. As I learned later from Bulldog, Tony had privately insisted, insisted, that not a single mention of his book be made on the air. The call from Bulldog came at 9:45 the next morning, and so it was to be.

And I didn’t even bring the guy a present. It was very late when I had the good sense to zigzag toward Ninth Avenue and raise my arm for a taxi, leaving Tony, the formidable Grillbitch who’d organized the night’s festivities, and Tony’s Noam-Chomsky-quoting fascist Milan consort, in a giddy haze of cigarette smoke and garbage fumes…. Ah, to be Bourdain at 50…seems he’s having quite a time of it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

13 thoughts on “Bourdain at 50

  1. Well, he has said that as he gets older, he gets nicer. Or maybe he’s feeling guilty for besmirching your character. But isn’t Bulldog a sports radio character?
    I notice you got your digs in the new book though. Nice. 🙂

  2. Wasn’t he supposed to have moved to Vietnam by now? I work for a hospitality charity in Hanoi that trains streetkids as chefs so they can find jobs within the industry. I was hoping to give him a call.
    Looks like he bottled it.

  3. It’s morning in Korea, but I think I’ll spike my coffee in Tony’ honor.

  4. When I finish school close to 30, I’ll think back to this day and smile.
    How small this world is and how close technology makes these milestones.
    How busy our lives get to miss these moments.
    And how awesome life is/was/will be.
    Keep Eatin’

    Dear Signor Ruhlman,
    I regret to inform you that due to your breast grabbing and culo fondling behaviour at Beloved Camerata Bourdain’s glorious 50th b-day, your membership in the Italian Fascist Party has been revoked.
    You would do well in future to not mess with Chomsky quoting fascist consorts. Much love. Baci e abbracci, ti ricordero’ per sempre.

  6. Michael in NYC and moi in LA…sad. Looks like you made some new friends. Glad to hear you are burning the candle at both ends. Bourdain is an influence, not sure if of what ilk. Me thinks he brings out the bad boy in you. Great post!

  7. is tony boredum a chef? is he a personality? does anyone see him in grace?

  8. “Tony’s Noam Chomsky-quoting fascist Milan consort”? Now there’s a stunning visual! Do TELL, MR!
    By the way, you’re right – Tony’s mom is a lovely, low-key and elegant woman. Met her at the Kitchen Secrets chef-rat-pack-meets-Dan-Rather road show with Batali, Buford and Bourdain on 6/21. And spotted Batali’s mom, too. There was no mistaking her (!!)
    BTW, I think you bring out the worst and best in Tony – simultaneously. It’s just hard to tell which is which sometimes (!)
    Thanks very much for giving me nightmares, by the way. When I first started reading The Making of A Chef and your foray into stock-making, I woke up in a cold sweat every morning at 6:15 for the next 4 days, dreaming the “raft” had broken and ruined the stock. Every morning. No matter what time, in dreamworld, I had made it into the kitchen (!) But that’s how good and vivid and detail your books are. Keep up the good work – and do another NR or something with Tony. You two and Mario are the most hellacious culinary Rat Pack on six legs (!!)

  9. This is my first chance to see this site and to read this entertaining story about Tony. My browser brought me here when it the question: “Is Anthony Bordain still stranded in Beirut today?” Obviously, I didn’t get my answer, but I stumbled into a good site, anyway.
    I had nearly given up thinking that anyone in Cleveland (my former home town) could spell, let alone write this well! The story of Tony’s party was a delight from start to finish. I only wish it had been longer.
    Thank you to Meg for the old-fashioned soda fountain recipes. My first job, at the age of 16, was soda jerk in a drugstore. I can only add to the recipes that people thought our sodas we the best in town because we always started them (AND ended them)with a big dollop
    of whipped cream.

    My browser brought me here when I asked it the question: “Is Anthony Bordain still stuck in Beirut today?”

  11. As of 6:48 this morning, 7/18/06, Tony was still stuck in Beirut, but he and the crew are safe. You might want to check the No Resevations fan site for the latest word on Tony. He is posting to a few other sites of which he is a member, but the Travel Channel one is the only one open to non-members. U.S. and oter citizens are being (and lots have already been evacuated) by cruise liner under U.S. destroyer escort, although I have read mention of helicopters possibly being deployed, No mention of Tony and ZeroPOintZero (his production crew) being on any of them, though . . .

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