When Anthony Bourdain’s longtime assistant Laurie Woolever started interviewing his friends and family months after his death, she made many surprising discoveries along the way.
One of them was the late star’s seemingly strange obsession with tanning, which started in his early days.
The beloved chef and Emmy-winning host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” tragically took his life in 2018 at age 61.
Most recently, Woolever wrote a book titled “Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography,” which was released on Sept. 28. The bestseller features nearly 100 interviews with Bourdain’s loved ones who reflected on his life and final years.
One surprising fact that kept coming up in conversation was Bourdain’s desire to tan.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN’S ‘INDELIBLE’ IMAGE FROM 2007 AND WHAT HE THOUGHT ABOUT IT REMEMBERED BY PHOTOGRAPHER
“I remember his joking that he would be competing in the George Hamilton Tanning Olympics,” brother Christopher Bourdain told her, as quoted by the New York Post on Tuesday.
“He would tan, I think largely to hide the pallor of heroin,” chimed James Graham, who worked with Bourdain in various kitchens. “He would play hooky… and tan aggressively. He looked like a Versace bag.”
Even his ex-wives took note.
“I didn’t like the way he looked in the last couple of years,” admitted Nancy Bourdain, his high school sweetheart and first wife. “He looked like he was being ridden hard and put away wet… he seemed to not care about being tan anymore.”
“He was much darker in the last year or so of his life,” shared his second wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain. “I stopped watching the shows towards the end because I could not really recognize him.”
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Bourdain didn’t have narcotics in his system at the time of his death, The New York Times previously reported. But his past battles with addiction were no secret among his friends.
“His addiction was always odd to me,” said former kitchen colleague Robert Vuolo. “It often felt part of the person that he wanted to portray of himself.”
According to the outlet, childhood friend Jeff Formosa also recalled Bourdain and Nancy getting high in their apartment during the early years.
“When Tony’s dad died, they got some money, and it just went into their veins,” he claimed.
Bourdain would go on to achieve worldwide stardom as longtime producer Lydia Tenaglia described as a “great cultural anthropologist whom everyone so loved.” But in his later years, the outlet reported that Bourdain contemplated quitting as he struggled with fame and an intense traveling schedule that kept him away from his family. While longtime producers insisted to Bourdain that it was OK to stop, he continued.
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Bourdain’s marriage to Ottavia ended amicably in 2016 and he started to get healthy again with the help of jiu-jitsu – but when someone new came into his life, director Michael Steed said that all changed.
“There was this peak period where he seemed happy,” he explained. “And then f—–g what’s-her-name enters his life, and he starts smoking again, and it just sort of got back into that negative energy that fit this weird fantasy character that he felt he was.”
The outlet noted that the individual in question was Bourdain’s girlfriend, actress/director Asia Argento. Some believed that their “volatile relationship” alienated him from close friends and contributed to his depression. The 46-year-old wasn’t interviewed for the book and has denied that problems in their relationship contributed to his death.
Bourdain’s daughter Ariane revealed that she cherishes the happier memories of her doting father – and what he still means to those who love him.
“He would always try and show me the world around me, by [helping] me experience new foods and new things,” said the 14-year-old. “I want people to remember my dad as a person who would just open people up to a world outside their apartments.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.