For close to 20 years, Anthony Bourdain and Marky Ramone would meet at restaurants to discuss food and music. Bourdain was a dyed-in-the-wool punk rocker and had seen the drummer play in the late Seventies with various bands at CBGB.
After they became friends, Bourdain invited Ramone on his television show, No Reservations, twice – once for an episode based in Cleveland where they visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and another time on a Christmas episode where they talked about desert-island discs – and Bourdain would always show his appreciation for the Ramones when he could. He appeared in Joey Ramone’s “New York City” video, he dedicated his book, The Nasty Bits, to the Ramones, and he provided a press quote to Marky’s book, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg.
So when Marky learned today that Bourdain had died by suicide, it shook him up. “He’s one person I didn’t expect that from,” he says. “But who knows what lurks inside the brain. He had a lot of demons.” (Bourdain had been open about using drugs like heroin in the past and overcoming his addiction to them.)
Here, Marky pays his respects to the friend he called “Tony.” “I still can’t get over what happened,” he says. “I’m still a little dazed.”
I first met Tony at his restaurant uptown [Brasserie Les Halles] around 2000 or 2001. I went there with my wife, and he came over to the table, because he was the executive chef there. And he recognized me as being one of the Ramones. We started talking about music, especially about the guitarist from the Voidoids, Robert Quine – he knew I was in that band, too – and he offered to make a special meal for me and my wife. I told him I was into meat, and he cooked a really nice steak.
When we talked about music, he’d tell me about how he used to hang around CBGBs. And he loved the whole atmosphere of the place and the political connotations of the whole movement. We talked about how we liked the same music – Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, the Dolls, the Ramones, Blondie, the Pistols – and he despised right-wing, conservative fanaticism. A lot of his development in his personality stemmed from the punk-rock scene in New York at CBGBs, and he took that and incorporated it into cooking, being a chef and traveling. Immediately, we had a bond, a camaraderie that lasted.
I was on his show twice. We were in Cleveland for one episode. We went to the Hall of Fame and there was a chef there he knew there. We went to his restaurant, and the chef cooked us piglets. Tony goes, “Marky, you’re gonna like this.” “Tony, listen, I never tried it but I trust you.” So I took his word for it, and it tasted like great bacon.
Another time, I was on his show in Chinatown, and the chef brought out these crabs. They were so hot. They were hotter than eating chicken vindaloo in an Indian restaurant. We walked out of there sweating, and it must have been 90 degrees out. But the dish was great. He liked exploring. He liked experimenting. And that was his thing.
He would eat anything, and that was quite admirable. It’s funny, we would eat and the cameras would be there, and he wouldn’t eat the whole dish. He’d munch on some of it, then he’d wait for the break, and then move on to other things. He called me a real, like, gavone – a heavy eater, a slob or pig – because I could eat anything. I would slurp it – and he would, too – at Daniel Boulud’s restaurant, DBGB, where we’d meet sometimes to eat.
And another thing that I could relate to him about was that my grandfather was a chef at the Copacabana and the 21 Club in the Forties and Fifties. So we would discuss cooking, ingredients, what makes a better pasta sauce. So it wasn’t just about music. It was about things that he liked also, which was food.
But he was a true punk. I mean, look, he did what he did. He tried to maintain a lifestyle without all that garbage in his system, but it was very hard. I always knew there was some kind of edginess in him. But then again, when you do things like [drugs] for part of your life, a lot of times it stays with you. It’s hard to get rid of. I mean, I can relate to it because I had my demons. I conquered them, but I knew what he felt. So I knew there was some mental telepathy together between us.
Most of all, he was a regular guy, like, “Hey, Tony, I’ll meet you at the restaurant.” “Hey, what’s going on? Blah, blah, blah.” He was a guy like that. He was the same off camera as he was on camera. People should remember him as a talented, punk-rock chef who was an integral part of starting the chef/rock-star scene.
As told to Kory Grow