Ode to Tony...
I've had a hard time focusing today. Ever since I heard that Anthony Bourdain had died, my brain has just been all over the place. I didn't know the man personally, but somewhere inside, I have a familiarity with Tony that I don't usually get from celebrities. He was real. And today, he showed just how real.
We started watching his shows several years ago, and were immediately hooked. His way of communicating with his audience, his habit of shocking you by eating something that obviously wasn't meant to be eaten and his honesty were irresistible. Again, he was real.
When he and his crew were stuck in Beirut in the middle of a war or when he ate on plastic furniture with President Obama in Vietnam, he was real. And when he dined at the finest restaurants in the world, his personality always came through. He was real.
I think the reason why I'm seeing such an outpouring on social media today over his suicide is that he was such a refreshing change from what we've come to expect from entertainment - plastic people molded to sell stuff and manipulate the public. Tony just wanted to tell stories of real people in real life enjoying real food and family.
Unlike so many of those in the public eye, he wasn't afraid to admit to a mistake or air his dirty laundry. He had nothing to hide - until he did. He was obviously hiding his struggles with mental illness. Maybe depression? Maybe the stress of success? Or maybe feeling he was undeserving of the happiness he had recently found?
It's so ironic that the one time he truly needed to be real and seek help was the time he chose not to. We may never know why he decided to say goodbye in the way he did, but hopefully someone else who is thinking about it will have second thoughts and seek help. I would hope that his loss will not be in vain.
Melissa and I made a fun list one day of the people who we would like to hang out with and have a beer. Anthony was at the top of my list. He just seemed like someone who you could spend hours bullshitting with over some beers and burgers. We welcomed him into our home and he became family.
It seems like every advertising campaign or television show tries to portray its characters as being genuine or authentic - somebody who you can identify with. Maybe losing Tony will be a wake-up call for all of us to open ourselves to adventures, food, cultures and people the way he did. Maybe losing Tony will push us all to be a little more real.
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help, take advantage of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline!