The crowd stood on its feet, applauding enthusiastically, a hero’s welcome. Matthew Perry stood orchestra left, beaming, soaking it in. It was November 2, 2022, and Matthew Perry’s memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing” had made the New York Times Best Seller’s List, debuting at number one, dethroning the wildly successful memoir of former child star Jennette McCurdy’s “I’m Glad My Mom Died” with forty-three consecutive weeks atop of the list. At New York City’s Town Hall, we all clapped and cheered. He would go on to regale us with tales of some of his highest highs and lowest of lows, where he suffered cardiac arrest in recent years and was saved by a persistent doctor who Matthew Perry believed must have been a FRIENDS fan to put in all that effort.
The evening was full of cheers and laughter but, most importantly, love. He repeatedly expressed how fortunate he was to be alive and had so many close calls. During the Q&A portion of the evening, fans sang his praises for being so open about his struggles with addiction and sobriety, and an audience member gave him a profound thank you for assisting them with their sobriety journey. Matthew Perry meant it when he said he wanted his story to help others; before leaving the stage, he reconnected with that audience member, and they exchanged information; he wanted to follow up and ensure they were okay.
He waved in my vicinity, and I waved back. I felt so happy for him. I kept thinking, “How lovely that he’s still here to see this, to experience and feel this love.” Before that night, I had a couple of run-ins with him in the streets of New York. The first time, I was waiting outside some store in Chelsea, annoyed that my mother was taking far too long to get whatever she needed to get desperately; it was 2002, and FRIENDS was still the number one sitcom. I turned suddenly from facing the store and accidentally collided with Matthew Perry. I gasped, and he widened his eyes in surprise. I exclaimed, “Matthew!” He smiled politely and apologized before walking away. I stood there in amazement, wondering if I had just seen Chandler Bing in the streets. A woman who was walking towards me asked, “Isn’t that guy on TV?” and I smiled and said, “Yeah, FRIENDS!”
A few years after FRIENDS had ended, while attending Grad school at The New School, I unexpectedly reencountered Mathew Perry. I was walking towards Urban Outfitters when I noticed a large group of people heading my way, and to my surprise, it turned out to be Matthew Perry and his father, John Bennett Perry. Although Matthew was present, he seemed to be overshadowed by his father, who was receiving all the attention. As they approached, I greeted Matthew with a smile and wave, “Hi, Matthew!”. He mouthed “Hi” and smiled back at me.
As I stood in the audience of The Town Hall, watching him being illuminated by white lights, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be there, witnessing this moment and knowing that he was able to see it too. However, my world came crashing down when I received a text on October 28, 2023, informing me that Matthew Perry was dead. My heart began to race as I rose to my feet and screamed, “WHAT?!” As I heard the news of Matthew Perry’s passing, memories of his iconic role as Chandler Bing in FRIENDS started flashing through my mind. I remembered Chandler trapped in a box, falling in love with Monica surrounded by candles, and him on one knee asking her to marry him. The final episode where they walked out of Monica and Chandler’s apartment for the last time also came to mind. I wept and wept for hours, seeking comfort in watching FRIENDS and mentally delivering each line from the episode. But I couldn’t go to FRIENDS; he was the friend that made it all better. After what felt like hours, I said, “I need you more than ever now,” and turned on FRIENDS. It was sad but comforting at the same time. Goodbye Matthew Perry; you will be missed. As for you, Chandler Bing, could this post BE more melodramatic?