Anthony Bourdain’s last meal on the final original episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown was as simple as could be: Hard-boiled eggs served up by his old friend, the musician and artist John Lurie, capping an episode devoted to their old stomping ground, Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
“I came for heroin and I came for music,” said Bourdain about the punk & drugs era of pre-gentrified 1970s-early ’80s Lower East Side. Among the guests on this finale: Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of the band Blondie, rapper and artist Fab Five Freddy, Harley Flanagan of the band Cro-Mags, director Jim Jarmusch and post-punk avant “no wave” icon Lydia Lunch.
To mark the episode, the Explore Parts Unknown website – a collaboration between CNN and media company Roads & Kingdoms – has put together a 10-song “Lower East Side” playlist (see it below).
Known for traveling to, and sampling the cuisine of, the furthest reaches of the globe, Bourdain seemed to have a special emotional connection to the Lower East Side and the East Village neighborhood known as Alphabet City (because of its avenues A, B, C and D), the epicenter of the chef’s wilder years, where his passions for food, music, nightlife culture and, back then, drugs came together.
In last night’s posthumous episode, Bourdain tells Lurie how “grateful and honored” he was for the simple “perfect food” meal of two hard-boiled eggs. In a funny and telling post-credits outtake, Lurie teases Bourdain for failing to mention how delicious the eggs were. “But I ate two of them,” Bourdain says. “Silence is the highest compliment…”
Indeed, the series paid just such a compliment to Bourdain, who took his own life last June. In a moving departure from the series’ usual narrated endings, last night’s finale ended with a montage set to Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory,” before cutting to a silent black screen empty of everything but credits.
Thunders, for anyone not up on their Lower East Side rock & roll history, was the guitarist for the pre-punk New York Dolls (fronted by a pre-Buster Poindexter David Johansen). After the Dolls broke up, Thunders founded The Heartbreakers (not to be confused with the Tom Petty band) and performed solo. He recorded “You Can’t Put Your Arms…” in 1978. Thunders struggled with heroin addiction for years, and died at age 38 in 1991.
In keeping with the final episode’s Lower East Side theme, the Explore Parts Unknown website put together a 10-song playlist associated with the neighborhood’s CBGB-era heyday. Making the list: The Dolls’ “Subway Train,” Television’s “Marquee Moon,” Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ “Blank Generation,” the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” Patti Smith’s “High on Rebellion,” Blondie’s “Atomic,” Talking Heads’ “Born Under Punches,” Fab 5 Freddy’s “Change the Beat,” Cro-Mags’ “Life of My Own,” and Bad Brains’ “Supertouch/S***fit.”