Anthony Bourdain unauthorized biography includes his intimate final texts: Everything we know so far

Anthony Bourdain arrives at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Anthony Bourdain is the subject of a new, unauthorized biography. Here's who participated in the book, who didn't and where the information comes from, including his texts and emails. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Anthony Bourdain is the subject of a new, unauthorized biography and it's generating headlines — and a crass response from his former girlfriend, Asia Argento.

Four years after the Parts Unknown star died by suicide at age 61, the book, Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain, is set to be released Oct. 11 with new insight into the chef and storyteller's final days. The author — journalist Charles Leerhsen, who's served as a writer/editor at outlets including Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People and Us Weekly — had access to Bourdain's laptop and phone, piecing together a timeline unlike what we've seen before.

Bourdain's girlfriend at the time of his death, Italian actress Argento, was not interviewed for the project and is not a fan, as the couple's fiery final text exchanges are part of the narrative.

Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain by Charles Leerhsen comes out October 11.
Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain by Charles Leerhsen comes out Oct. 11.

Why is this a big deal?

Not much has been known about why the popular food world star — who never held back about struggles, detailing drug use in his 2000 Kitchen Confidential tome — took his life. This book surfaces text exchanges Bourdain had with Argento in his final hours, in which he told her she had been "reckless with my heart." In the days before, the actress — a fixture in the #MeToo movement and a Harvey Weinstein accuser, who later made a deal with her own accuser — had been photographed holding hands with journalist Hugo Clément. Bourdain's computer data revealed he searched Argento's name hundreds of times in the days leading up to his death as those photos were splashed across celebrity websites. The new information — also including many new interviews — speaks to Bourdain's mindset at the time.

Asia Argento, left, and Anthony Bourdain arrive at night one of the Television Academy's 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Phil McCarten/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)
Asia Argento and Anthony Bourdain at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards. The Italian actress said after his death that they had a "free relationship," one "without borders," but Bourdain texts show he was upset by paparazzi photos of her with another man published days before his death. (Photo: Phil McCarten/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Where did this new information come from?

The New York Times reports that Leerhsen conducted over 80 interviews for the book as well as reviewed files, texts and emails pulled from Bourdain’s devices, which are part of the late star's estate. Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, his wife of 11 years from whom he was separated at the time (they remained confidantes, sharing his only child), oversees the estate. Leerhsen said he obtained the materials from a confidential source, but "the estate has not objected, and I don’t anticipate any objections." Busia-Bourdain is quoted in the book, suggesting some cooperation. She declined comment to the outlet.

(R) Chef Anthony Bourdain and wife Ottavia Busia attend the 2011 Can-Do Awards Dinner at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on April 7, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
Anthony Bourdain and wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain at 2011 Can-Do Awards Dinner. The pair, who had a daughter, separated in 2016, but remained confidantes. He would frequently text her and those texts were used in the book as well. (Photo: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)

What do we learn?

Argento said after Bourdain's death that they had an open relationship. However, a book excerpt in People detailed how upset he became when, five days before his death, Argento was snapped by paparazzi with Clément in Rome, including at the Hotel de Russie, where Argento and Bourdain had a history of spending time together.

The couple, who started dating in 2016 after they met filming a Season 8 episode of Parts Unknown in her hometown of Rome, argued on the phone for several days ahead of his death, the excerpt said. People on the production talked about how he'd halt filming to take calls from her and they had screaming exchanges. He was described as "incredibly distraught" at the time.

Bourdain's friend Eric Ripert was with him in Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France for the shoot, and they enjoyed a fun night out one day before Bourdain died. According to the book, Ripert, who was staying in the hotel room next door, put his ear against the wall that night and was relieved to hear Bourdain snoring because he was that concerned about him. The next day — Bourdain's last — the fighting with Argento reportedly resumed. That night, Bourdain declined a group dinner and ate solo, eating and drinking a lot. Ripert put his ear to the wall again that night, but heard nothing.

General view of the Le Chambard Hotel in Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France, June 8, 2018. U.S. celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN's food-and-travel-focused
Anthony Bourdain died at Le Chambard Hotel in Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France on June 8, 2018. He had been there filming Parts Unknown. (Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

Additionally, the book claims that Bourdain was isolated at end of his life and had essentially vanished from his 11-year-old daughter’s life. The book also claims he was injecting steroids, human growth hormone and Viagra so that his age gap with Argento, 19 years his junior, was less apparent. It is also alleged he would drink to the point of blackout and visit prostitutes.

The text messages

In the last three days of his life, Bourdain's browsing history showed that he Googled "Asia Argento" several hundred times. The night before he died, he reportedly texted her:

"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. [Hotel] de Russie ... It's only that that hurts', my A. Perhaps it's in both our characters. But you are always honest with me. I want to be honest with you. I do not begrudge you this part of you. As I hope you will not begrudge me. But it's that that stings. I meant and mean everything I have ever said to you. But I hope you will have mercy on me for these feelings."

According to the book, the Italian actress — whom Bourdain bailed out of her #MeToo bind, paying her accuser, Jimmy Bennett, $380,000 for rights to a photo of him in bed with Argento when he was 17 — wrote, "I can't take this," criticizing him for his "idiot possessiveness."

He replied, "It would have been so easy to have helped me out here. I required so little. But 'f*** you' is your answer."

When she continued to be unsympathetic (telling him to "call the f***ing doctor" and saying she is "the victim here"), he replied, "My A. I can't believe you have so little affection or respect for me that you would be without empathy for this."

After filming the next day, Leerhsen reported, Bourdain texted with Argento again — and it was their last text exchange. He asked, "Is there anything I can do?" to which she replied, "Stop busting my balls." He replied, "OK." He hanged himself that night.

Additionally, texts from Bourdain to Busia-Bourdain are included in the narrative. One reflected his struggle with fame. It said, "I hate my fans, too. I hate being famous. I hate my job. I am lonely and living in constant uncertainty."

He also confided about Argento, writing, "I find myself being hopelessly in love with this woman."

But he told his ex that Argento scrutinized his social media pages as well as Busia-Bourdain's, confiding that Argento would get upset when she saw photos of him with Busia-Bourdain and their daughter online. Bourdain asked Busia-Bourdain not to post one on an upcoming Father’s Day.

"You didn’t want me to put a pic that had you in it because Asia would freak out and I have the feeling that will not change anytime soon," Busia-Bourdain replied. "I’m tired of pretending I don’t know you. Or that we are never in the same place." Bourdain responded, "I feel you. But I was being honest. The pap [arazzi] situation is horrendous. Since I left you guys, though, she’s freaking out."

Response to the book from Bourdain's family and Argento

While Busia-Bourdain appears to be cooperating in some form, Bourdain's brother, Christopher Bourdain, sent publisher Simon & Schuster letters calling the book hurtful as well as defamatory fiction and demanded that it not be released until many errors were corrected. Christopher told the NYT, "Every single thing he writes about relationships and interactions within our family as kids and as adults he fabricated or got totally wrong." A Simon & Schuster spokesperson responded to Bourdain's brother, saying, "With all due respect, we disagree that the material in the Book contains defamatory information, and we stand by our forthcoming publication."

Ripert, who found Bourdain dead, told the NYT he did not provide information for the book, though he did read it. His assessment was that he found many inaccuracies, but was surprised that it contained intimate details from the days in France that he had only revealed to a few people.

Leerhsen exchanged some emails with Argento, who, he said, quoted Oscar Wilde to him: "It is always Judas who writes the biography." Argento told the NYT she didn't read the book and added, "I wrote clearly to this man that he could not publish anything I said to him."

On Thursday, Argento made quite a statement on social media seemingly responding to the negative headlines. She posted a photo of herself in a sweatshirt with former professional bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman along with the words "Stop Busting My Balls." Those words, according to the book, were her final words to Bourdain.

(Photo: Asia Argento via Instagram)
(Photo: Asia Argento via Instagram)