Editor’s Note: Watch the series finale of ‘Parts Unknown’ Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT on CNN.
Musician and writer Lydia Lunch got her name from the free food she would steal from downtown Manhattan hotspots to feed her friends.
But in the final episode of “Parts Unknown,” she joined Anthony Bourdain for – what else? – lunch.
The restaurant Bourdain chose to take his friend to, Public Kitchen at the glam Public Hotel, was about as far away as you can get from the starving-artist eateries on the Lower East Side she frequented in her youth.
The property is connected to big names – the hotel is helmed by Ian Schrager and the restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten – but Lunch remains, as always, totally unimpressed by fame.
“I always knew about Tony, but I met him through a piece of my writing that he read,” Lunch tells CNN Travel. “I sent him one of my cookbooks, and he wrote a foreword for my next one.”
The cookbook she had just published, “The Need to Feed” was inspired by the huge impromptu meals she created for friends in the downtown music community, from Sonic Youth to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and is an irreverent take on the “how to throw a dinner party” trope.
Her next book, “So Real It Hurts,” is a collection of Lunch’s trademark rants. Lunch, who The New York Times once called “the angriest punk of ’70s New York,” has not mellowed as she edges toward her 60s.
A veteran of the no wave (essentially a movement that rejected commercial new wave music) scene in downtown New York City, she’s known for being caustic, taking no prisoners and still standing by the punk ethos of making art without thinking about money or commerce. The essay collection touches on everything from politics (she bailed on the US for a period after the 2004 election and still considers herself peripatetic) to sex (short answer: Yep, older women still have it and enjoy it).
The book will be released in summer 2019 by Seven Stories Press, and Bourdain’s foreword to the tome may be one of the last pieces of writing he ever submitted.
Despite only meeting in person a few times, the two formed a fast friendship by bonding over their shared appreciation for the gritty version of downtown New York City, reputations for never holding back their words and a respect for edgy art.
“Do I need to talk about how much the neighborhood has changed?” Lunch asks about the taping of the episode. “My first rent was $75 a month, now you couldn’t rent a Port a Potty [for that]. We only went to one place, which I would never have gone to because it didn’t exist back in the ’70s and ‘80s. Most of the places I used to go to aren’t there anymore. We did a lot of dining and dashing those days.”
After leaving Manhattan behind, she threw herself into touring and spent several years based in Barcelona before moving to Brooklyn.
Although she’s not one for sentimentality, it’s clear that Lunch clicked with her late friend and collaborator, going back and forth between past and present tense as she talked about him.
“He has a similar outlook on life as I do. Have some f***ing fun, goddammit! Enjoy yourself. Enjoy other people. Have sex. Create your own family. Create your own utopia. That’s what he did. He could make friends instantly. It takes a special kind of openness not to lose your mind when so many people come at you from different angles, and yet he still had something to give.”
She adds: “Now, it’s your turn to step up. It’s your turn to experience life, to be open. That’s what you have to take from him. You should be more of yourself than ever.”