In 2018, the world was shocked to discover that beloved award-winning writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain had taken his own life. He was 61. What happened and why? The events leading up to his death are pieced together in Autopsy: The Last Hours of Anthony Bourdain, airing on Sunday, April 25, on REELZ.
"In the weeks prior to his death, Anthony appeared to be reveling in his busy schedule," says Dr. Michael Hunter, forensic pathologist and series expert, in the new documentary. "I can see from photographs that he is physically fit and that he appears to be taking good care of himself. However, in 2012, when he was asked about his workload he stated, quote, 'I know that free time is bad for me. If I have a lot of time to stare at the ceiling and think about the mysteries of the universe, it can be self-destructive.'
"This implies that beneath the surface, Anthony had issues that he was trying to keep under control. One thing that he had always been open about was his struggle with drug addiction."
Bourdain was a hip chef who found fame as the new face of food and travel television. After 25 years of making a name in the restaurant business and battling drug addiction, his career took off in his early 40s when his memoir, Kitchen Confidential, revealed the hidden world of New York restaurant kitchens. The book was immediately a best-seller, and Bourdain's eclectic nature and creativity made him a perfect television personality.
In the documentary, Jason Merder, Bourdain's road manager, speaks of his intense work ethic and the assumed reason behind it. "I think because of the demons in his past, his drug abuse and addiction, he kept busy non-stop."
Bourdain spent the best part of 20 years filming his global travels as he would seek out food, culture and conversation. His shows included No Reservations, The Layover and Parts Unknown (the latter of which won him seven Emmy Awards). Despite the accolades and continued success, his addictions consumed his life.
"Tony did say to me several times, 'My goal in life is to have enough money to sit on the beach and have two beautiful nurses come and just shoot me up with heroin, morning, noon and night,'" reveals Steven Tempel, a sous chef and friend of Bourdain's, in one of many shocking moments in Autopsy.
While on location in France filming Parts Unknown, Bourdain lost his battle with his inner demons and went back to his hotel room to hang himself. Hunter considers that people with substance abuse problems are six times more times more likely to attempt suicide than those without. "I wonder whether Anthony's drug problems had resurfaced in the months prior to his death."
Autopsy: The Last Hours of Anthony Bourdain premieres Sunday, April 25, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on REELZ.
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