Anthony Bourdain was a renowned chef and world traveler. He was also well known for speaking his mind and calling things as he saw them. In his 2001 travelogue/memoir A Cook’s Tour, Bourdain visited Cambodia. After viewing — first-hand — the long-term devastation the country suffered as a result of illegal military directives orchestrated by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Bourdain said:
“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with (former television host) Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking.”
“Witness what Henry Kissinger did in Cambodia — the fruits of his genius for statesmanship — and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to (former Yugoslav and Serbian president Slobodan) Milošević. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls and remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.”
In a 2018, shortly before his shocking suicide, the always-outspoken Bourdain said:
“Frequently, I’ve come to regret things I’ve said. This, from 2001, is not one of those times.”
In the same interview, when asked about his animosity towards — and later reconciliation with — fellow chef Emeril Lagasse, Bourdain said:
“Emeril didn’t bomb Cambodia.”
Henry Kissinger died on November 29, 2023 at the age of 100.
Frederick Pruetzel realized he had a knack for making his classmates laugh while a student at LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. He ditched his career aspirations of becoming a ballet dancer in favor of stand-up comedy. He started performing at small clubs alongside future stars David Brenner and Jimmie Walker. Freddie chose the stage name “Prinze” as both homage to comedic idols like Alan King and a nod to his Puerto Rican heritage. He told audiences that he was “HungaRican” — part Hungarian, part Puerto Rican — although he had no Hungarian ancestry.
In 1973, Freddie appeared on The Jack Paar Show and later on the Tonight Show, where he was asked by Johnny Carson to take a seat on the couch following his well-received stand-up routine. This was a rarity — and a honor — for young comedians. He made more television appearances including several stints on the late-night music series The Midnight Special.
Hoping to capitalize on Freddie’s whirlwind popularity, NBC tagged the young comic to costar with veteran actor Jack Albertson in the sitcom Chico and the Man. The series was an instant hit and led to Freddie’s appearances on a few Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts and the release of a comedy album. He also appeared on his friend Tony Orlando’s variety show. Freddie even sang back-up on a few of Tony Orlando’s recordings. By the end of 1976, Freddie had signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract with NBC.
But the fame affected Freddie’s personal life. He was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. His wife of just over a year filed for divorce. His life-long battle with depression deepened. He purchased a gun and would often play Russian Roulette in front of his friends for his own amusement. On January 28, 1977, Freddie was visiting with his business manager. As the evening progressed, Freddie produced his handgun and shot himself in the head. He was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support following surgery. His family made the difficult decision to remove Freddie from life support and he passed away on the afternoon of January 29. He was just 22 years old.
Freddie had made several “farewell” phone calls and left a note explaining his plans of suicide. However, the results of a 1983 civil case brought against the Crown Life Insurance Company determined Freddie’s death to have been accidental. His mother, estranged wife and his son, Freddie Prinze Jr., collected $200,000 in life insurance payments. They also received a one million dollar settlement in a malpractice suit against Freddie’s psychiatrist for allowing the comedian access to a gun and over-prescribing Quaaludes.
Brenda Stone was a high school cheerleader and homecoming queen. She even had a few dates with Elvis Presley. She longed to be a model but didn’t want to embarrass her father, a well-known and respected deacon at a Memphis Baptist church. So, she used the name “Gail Stanton” when she posed nude for a Playboy pictorial in April 1977 entitled “Girls of the New South.” Gail’s photo caught the eye of the Playboy staff and she was featured as “Playmate of the Month” in the June 1978 issue.
Her appearance in Playboy was a springboard for her career. She did promotional work for Anheuser-Busch in the early 80s, making public appearances as “Miss Michelob.” She did public relations work at the Knoxville World’s Fair in 1982. Gail even landed a role in the comedy film Making the Grade with Judd Nelson.
When the work in the spotlight dried up, Gail became active in charity work and as an animal rights advocate. She passed away in 1996 from an undetected colon blockage, just two days after her 42nd birthday.
Future disco queen Vicki Sue Robinson kicked off her career in rather unusual fashion. At six years of age, she accompanied her mother, folksinger Marianne, on stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Later, at 18, Vicki joined the Broadway cast of Hair, alongside then-unknown Barry Bostwick, Richard Gere and Nell Carter. On off days, she performed in small New York clubs, singing and playing guitar and dulcimer.
In 1972, she was recruited to sing backup on Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything album. The next year, she toured Japan with singer/songwriter Itsuro Shimoda
On a chance recommendation, producer Warren Schatz expressed an interest in Vicki’s singing. He produced her debut album that spawned the Top Ten single (and signature song) “Turn The Beat Around.” At the top of the disco movement, Vicki toured the world to wide acclaim. Unfortunately, attempted follow-ups never achieved the fame of her biggest hit.
Unfettered, Vicki soldiered on, recording albums and providing background vocals for the likes of Cyndi Lauper as well as the unlikely The Wrestling Album in 1985, harmonizing with wrestler The Junkyard Dog. She also provided the voices for “Rapture” and “Minx” in the animated TV series Jem.
In the 90s, Vicki teamed with other disco singers for a worldwide revival tour. She received a boost of popularity when singer Gloria Estefan recorded a cover of “Turn The Beat Around” twenty years after its initial release.
In 1999, Vicki recorded a song for the soundtrack of a popular Pokémon video game. She also shot a cameo in an independent film called Red Lipstick, a new take on the “Cinderella” story. Declining health, however. prevented her from taking other roles. Vicki passed away in April 2000 at the age of 45, just a week after the premiere of Red Lipstick.
In 1945, Tara Browne was born into British royalty. His father was the 4th Baron Oranmore and his mother was an heiress to the Guinness Brewery fortune. Upon his 25th birthday, Tara was set to inherit 1 million pounds. In the meantime, Tara ran with an elite crowd. He attended — and often hosted — parties boasting a veritable “who’s who” of the swinging London counterculture. For his 21st birthday, he flew guests on private jets to one of his family estates in Ireland. The guest list included John Paul Getty, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Jones’ then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg (who would later give birth to three children by Keith Richards). Tara also numbered Paul McCartney and John Lennon among his close friends. Tara was responsible for introducing the Beatles’ bassist to his first LSD trip.
In mid-December 1966, Tara was driving through South Kensington with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier. His car, a luxury Lotus Elan, exceeded a hundred miles per hour and Tara was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He blew through a traffic signal and collided with a parked truck. Potier managed to leave the accident unscathed, but Tara died from his injuries the next day.
John Lennon immortalized his friend in the first two verses of the Beatles song “A Day in the Life.” McCartney, at first countered the reference, but confirmed it in his 2021 book Lyrics.