Fans flock to remember Friends star Matthew Perry in New York
NEW YORK – Matthew Perry was always their friend, too.
That was the feeling among fans of the American actor, known for his iconic role as Chandler Bing on the hit sitcom Friends, as they gathered Sunday outside the New York apartment building used in the show’s filming.
“I grew up watching him,” said Taylor Lanthier, 26, who was among those making the pilgrimage, where many left flowers and handwritten letters in Perry’s memory.
The 54-year-old was found dead Saturday – too soon for many fans, in a testament to the staying power of Friends, which aired from 1994 to 2004 and continues to live on for viewers across generations in reruns and on streaming services.
First responders found Perry unconscious in a hot tub at his house Saturday and were unable to revive him, law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother,” Perry’s family said in a statement to People magazine. “Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend.”
Perry had battled addiction and serious health problems for years, but the sudden death of a man who delivered laughter into millions of homes was a gut-punch for those who knew him – or who felt like they did.
The light rain wasn’t enough to keep visitors from paying their respects on the instantly recognisable street corner in the trendy West Village neighbourhood where the six-story building sits, adorned in classic New York style with a brick facade and metal fire escapes.
“I’m sure you could find stories of people who move to New York because of the show Friends,” said Chris Triebel, 39, who leads tours focusing on TV shows and movies filmed in the city.
And part of that would be due to Perry’s Chandler, himself a sarcastic 20-something who long resisted growing up.
“He’s had a very impactful role in my life and always has given me tons of laughs, and it’s sad to hear about his passing,” said Lanthier, who recently graduated law school in Vancouver.
“Chandler is a funny guy. He’s a loving guy. He’s someone who’s very dedicated to his friends,” she added. “And that’s what I think Matthew was as well.”
“I just wanted to pay my respects,” she said, having come with a yellow rose that she placed next to a note left by another passer-by.
It read: “Thank you for all the laughs.”
Like much of American pop culture, the show had been re-evaluated by some in recent years, criticised for its lack of diversity or the simple, sanitised reality it presented.
It was also filmed in California, with the building at 90 Bedford Street used for establishing shots.
Yet none of that stopped the West Village neighbourhood from becoming a place of interest for fans across generations, who have been making the trek to the building for years – even if Central Perk, the New York coffee shop where the friends spent so much time, was also a figment of the screenwriters’ imagination.
“It’s just a light-hearted show,” said Eva, a 16-year-old high school student who lives nearby.
“It was something that I watched when I was sad or just if I wanted a nice laugh.”
Triebel, the tour guide, had already planned a stop outside the building before Perry’s death, though the news had given the visit a sombre air.
“He’s one who’s definitely gone too soon,” he said. “I think there was a lot more that he could have done.” - AFP