Anthony Bourdain Was 'Giddy' Just a Week Before His Death, Says Longtime CNN Coworker
“It’s such a shock we don’t know where this is coming from, how this could possibly happen. When I was working with him last week he was giddy,” Karen Reynolds, director of CNN PR and Bourdain’s longtime publicist for Parts Unknown, tells PEOPLE on Friday.
“He was effusive and happy about the Hong Kong episode that was all he could talk about weeks leading up to it, how it was like a high water mark for him,” Reynolds says of the June 3 episode directed by Bourdain’s girlfriend Asia Argento that featured Australian-Hong Kong cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
“He was so happy. I didn’t talk to him this week but all I know was he was so happy last week. I mean giddy,” she recalls. “He was texting me and emailing me which he doesn’t normally do about publicity for episodes but he was like, ‘This is a high water mark, this is the best thing I’ve ever done.’ He was so excited to be working with Christopher Doyle. I saw nothing that would indicate what happened like why this would happen. We’re just floored. A complete shock.”
On Friday, longtime friend and renowned chef Eric Ripert found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room in France. Ripert was in France with him to film an upcoming episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
“I never get into the personal stuff with him but the last I heard was he was excited and thrilled that Asia was part of the Hong Kong episode,” Reynolds says of Bourdain and Argento’s relationship which first blossomed when they collaborated on the Rome episode of Parts Unknown in 2016. They began dating a year later.
“He was so proud of her work and the fact that [Argento and Doyle] collaborated on that episode. That’s the last I heard from him and he was so happy. It’s such a loss for all of us,” Reynolds shares.
A police spokesperson in Strasbourg confirmed Bourdain’s death to PEOPLE, but would not confirm the cause of death. The manner of death has been classified as a suicide.
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Amid the shock and sadness of Bourdain’s passing, Reynolds remembers her friend as a “good person” in addition to a great collaborator.
“He wasn’t typical. This is such a mystery. Everything was on the record and he was upfront he didn’t shy away from any issue that’s why this is so shocking,” she says.
On whether she had any indication that Bourdain, who was open about his struggle with drug addiction in the past, was using again, Reynolds explains, “No not at all. He was just so happy with the work. He was so proud. You could see in the show itself how happy he is in the whole episode.”
On Sunday, just two days after Bourdain’s death, CNN will air the new episode of Parts Unknown set in Berlin.
“When Berlin airs Anderson Cooper is going to give an introduction before the episode airs. They were good friends,” Reynolds says, adding that Bourdain’s CNN colleagues are also understandably shocked.
“No one can understand it. When a 61-year-old dies and somebody as vibrant as Tony, it’s so shocking and devastating which is what everybody says but it’s the truth,” Reynolds says.
Colmar, France, public prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel told PEOPLE that Bourdain died by hanging at a luxury hotel in Kaysersberg called Le Chambard, and said, “at this stage, nothing suggests the intervention of a third party.”
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, the U.S. Embassy in Paris said, “We can confirm the death of Anthony Bourdain in the Haut-Rhin department of France. We extend our sincere condolences to friends and family. We stand ready to provide appropriate consular service. Out of respect for the family at this difficult time we have no further comment.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.