“we are currently shooting an episode of NR in Lebanon–and it should be video gold. Those kookie-krazy kids from Hezbollah were popping off their weapons today(shooting in the air, I gather)–and Israel has been bombing and mobilizing a division in the South with reported land and sea strikes… (See today’s news–and quotes from Israeli PM). While the party continues in Beirut–there’s a lot of concern that the Israelis will follow up with strikes on infrastructure (like the power grid). And we were due to head to the Bekka Valley tomorrow. BTW..this town is Party Central!”
A day later…
“Our network, our friends and our families just want us out of here as soon as possible,” Bourdain told Page Six yesterday afternoon, as Israeli shells exploded in the distance. “We’re not getting a show out of this . . . I just wanna hang out and drink at the bar. The mojitos here are great.”
7/14/06 – Updates, from the Discovery Travel Channel website:
“Thanks for the good thoughts and well wishes. We are all of us (Diane, Jerry, Toddles, Tracey and me) in good health, good spirits and working ferociously on our tans and sipping blender drinks while watching the fireworks from a secure location. Our masters at Travel Channel have made sure we are being well looked after. Though I’m not sure the “gold-plated, monkey-navigated rocket-sled” I requested as an exfiltration vehicle will be laid on imminently…we have nothing to complain about. Particularly compared to the locals who are having an atrocious time of it. This is a great city–filled with many lovely, proud and generous people and it’s heartbreaking missing so much of it. Worse seeing all that pride and hope and tolerance turn overnight to grim resignation. Hope to return to shoot here someday and finish what we started.”
7-18-06: Update from Bourdain on eG Forums:
I’m very aware of how flip my response to the Post was (made last Wednesday, very early in the crisis) as I sought to reassure family and friends that we were safe and okayand in good cheer… It was — at the time — very representative of the (outward) attitude of Beirutis themselves, who pride themselves on their resilience and their determination to “keep the party going.” Initially, many Beirutis were still going strong at nightclubs as jets flew low and menacingly overhead. Even that proud, famously world-weary attitude quickly changed, however, as circumstances here became even more appalling. I can certainly understand how offensive it might be to those on the ground here — or those with family and friends here — to read some of what’s been posted on the other NR thread — and understand why it’s been closed for now.
It is indeed heartbreaking and horrifying what has happened to this lovely country — to spanking new, lovingly restored,resurgent Beirut in particular, in only a few days of sustained and seemingly senseless destruction. A few days ago, this was a place where people were bursting with pride for the relative tolerance, progressive attitudes, and lack of conflict between groups. I was standing with a group: a Sunni, a Christian, and a Shiite — by the Hariri memorial when the gunfire started and the Hezbollah people appeared driving through city center and honking their horns in “celebration” for the capture/kidnappings. The look of dismay and embarrasment on all three faces… and the grim look of resignation as they all– instantly– recognized what would inevitably come next… it’s something I will never forget. Of the three, our Shiite security guy, a tall, taciturn man, was the last to leave us, insisiting on staying by our side though he and his family lived in the much more perilous Southern part of Beirut. After witnessing many quick telephone exchanges between him and his family, and as more bombs and shells began to fall, seeing him nervously fingering his prayer beads, we finally convinced him to leave. His house was later flattened… We were soon relocated to a safer part of town.The sense of regret and… shame we feel at being relatively safe yet witness to the carnage… and that we never got to show the world how beautiful this country and its people are — how much “like us” (yet uniquely and wonderfully not) how international, muti-lingual, multi-faith… how fantastic the food and hospitality is… will gnaw at us forever. WE will make it home. WE — unlike most Lebanese, have been (relatively) safe and secure during this. Trapped, yes — but trapped by a freaking swimming pool, not under the rubble of our homes. We may be only a few thousand yards or a few miles from the falling bombs, but we have an eventual way out. What hasn’t been talked about much in the press, is how many young returnees there are/were here: young, educated Lebanese who’d emigrated abroad or been born aboad and only recenly returned… how filled with hope they were, how much they loved their country, how hopeful and enthusiastic they were that they could make a difference (and they WERE making a difference). That is all ashes now…
We (the NR crew) are indeed well — and well looked after. It’s indeed frightening here, it’s enraging, it’s horrifying,and its frustrating..the classic “long hours of boredom interspersed with moments of terror” phenom they always use when talking about life during wartime. But we are relatively safe. And sooner or later we will no doubt be heading home.
We will never forget the Beirut that could have been-and will hopefully be again. Or what we saw here.
7-20-06: Updates from the Travel Channel website:
Friends and fans,
We’re delighted to inform you that Tony and the entire crew left Beirut this morning on the USS Nashville en route to Larnaca, Cyprus. We have arranged special air travel to have them back in the USA as soon as possible. On behalf of Tony, the crew, Travel Channel, and Discovery Communications, we’d like to thank you for your concern and support during this difficult time. We look forward to sharing Tony’s experience from Beirut with you soon, stay tuned for more information on a possible special episode of “No Reservations.”
More news from Reuters:
ON BOARD THE USS NASHVILLE, July 20 (Reuters) – Lying on a green army cot as a U.S. navy ship spirits him away from violence-stricken Lebanon, American television food show host Anthony Bourdain says his heart is broken.
Bourdain, whose show “Anthony Bourdain — No Reservations” takes him around the world to experience new culture and cuisine, was shooting an episode in Beirut before the outbreak of violence that is threatening to spiral out of control. “We’d been hearing great things about Beirut and arrived and quickly fell in love with the country,” he told Reuters. “It was paradise, sort of the western dream of the way we’d all like the Middle East to be — enlightened, progressive, multi-cultural, and multi-religious.” But after two days of eating and drinking, the experience went sour on July 12 when he and his new Lebanese friends heard gunfire from Hizbollah militants celebrating the abduction of two Israeli soldiers.
But Bourdain said his efforts to leave Lebanon had not been easy, frustrated by unanswered telephone calls to the embassy and a “horror show” at a beach outside Beirut where they had gathered before U.S. Navy and marines whisked 1,052 Americans to the ship by landing craft and then on to nearby Cyprus.
“At the checkpoints, it was like a Metallica concert gone horribly wrong,” he said. “It was a mob scene.” Bourdain said the rapidly escalating violence had destroyed a blossoming city that had finally begun to emerge as a vibrant, democratic cultural hotspot after a civil war and the subsequent political influence of neighbouring Syria. “I feel this awful sense of regret that we were never able to show Beirut as it was,” he said. “To see everyone’s hopes die and watch the country dismantled piece by piece was very painful. I’m very angry and very frustrated.”
7-22-06: Updates from eG Forums
Me, Jerry, Todd, Tracey and Diane are all safely home .. I should tell you that expressions of concern here at eGullet were a comfort to us while we hunkered down in Beirut..and that we’re enormously grateful to the Travel Channel, who took extreme measures to see we were as safe as possible while in Beirut–and then went to extraordinary lengths to get us safely and quickly back. Main Man at Travel, Patrick Younge, even met us at the airport with a pack of my very-hard-to-find cigarette of choice in hand. I can’t say enough nice things about the Beirut (and the Beirutis) we saw and met in the short time before everything went to hell. And I can’t begin to describe how regretful we are that we won’t be able to show the world how beautiful a place, how good the food, how nice the people we experienced in the two short days we had of unrestrained filming . Freshly back–and ahead of so many others– it would seem ungrateful to share my dim view of how the US embassy and State dept. appeared to be going about their business. BUT: My admiration for the sailors and marines of the Nashville and the way in which they–at short notice, last minute, steamed from Jordan to perform an incredible difficult job (for which they had had little if any experience) is boundless. The minute we became charges of the navy and marines, we (and everyone else aboard–from beachhead to Cyprus) were treated with breathtaking kindness,generosity and sensitivity. The minute we passed into their care, every aspect of exfiltration was performed with incredible efficiency and care. I will never forget the impromptu refugee camp set up on the Nashville’s flight deck: EVERY group of huddled evacuees, families, children, old people–had at least one or two marines sitting with them, talking to them, seeing to their needs. Most of these young men and women knew nothing of Beirut. Many who I spent time with on the smoking deck (Yes! a smoking deck!), had never even been to New York–much less been trained to handle (in many cases) psychologically shattered refugees. They treated everyone, EVERYONE with patience, courtesy and kindness. The logistical challenges alone were enormous–that they managed to perform them so flawlessly AND keep the kids amused, feed any and all tuna noodle casserole, macaroni and cheese, corn dogs and key lime pie…give up their own blankets and sheets…give tours and every other imaginable measure of hospitality was..well..awesome. To my mind, they put every other branch of govt involved in this horror show to shame. It is always a joy and a relief to find oneself in the hands of professionals.
You have all likely seen the photo of the young marine, Sanchez, holding two infants, kissing one of the cheek as he carried them across the water onto the landing craft. It was quite another thing to meet him and talk with him (him still holding a freshly printed copy of tomorrow’s wire service cover photo)…an ordinary young man, getting ribbed by his buddies for being thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Bashful, proud, emotional and inspiringly..human.
We are very aware–painfully aware–that we are among the fortunate. Our hearts and best wishes go out to all those we left behind. We will never forget what we saw.
Tony also appeared on Larry King live on Sunday (click for transcript)