So much of life passes one by. It’s the little things, the everyday things one takes for granted and then, all of a sudden, they’re gone and one realises how important they really were …
I have been in Naples this week. Sipped cocktails on the terrace overlooking the sunlit bay, Vesuvius towering in the distance; sampled the most delicious pizza in one of the most famous pizzerias, following in the footsteps of Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love AND spent the day in Pompeii, truly humbling. Why, then, do I feel the need to write about Matthew Perry who died suddenly, last Saturday, aged only fifty-four?
I can still hear the panic/shock in Becca’s voice as the news flashed up on her phone in the early hours of last Sunday morning. It scared me. Clearly some awful news – and it was but no family member had died, no close friend. It was Chandler from Friends, an actor familiar only on television. Never knew him; never met him. Why, then, did it hurt so much? So sudden, so young? Of course, but that wasn’t it. He was Chandler, still in his thirties, the joker, the sarcastic one; the one who invented a whole new comic language courtesy of his clever use of emphasis; a genius. He was one of six iconic friends with whom we identified, with whom we shared the highs and the lows. From 1994-2004 – and forever and beyond – they became our friends, the ones who would always be ‘there for you, when the rain starts to fall …’. They still are, on our screens at least. Friends is everywhere, a constant in every country throughout the world. Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Ross and Chandler, twenty years on, are frozen in time. They remain in their thirties, laughing together, having fun together, supporting each other – always there for each other. The idyll of youth. A bubble in time. Bubbles are nothing if not fragile, though …
‘Who sees with equal eye, as God of all
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl‘d,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.’
Alexander Pope, Essay on Man.
‘… and now a world.’ As Chandler, Matthew Perry touched the world. He was funny, he was sarcastic, he was always happy. Now, he’s gone. The bubble that was Friends has burst and in its place? Reality. Cold, harsh reality. We, all, grow up. Nothing stays the same forever and we, each, have our problems behind the mask we choose to show to the world. Money? Fame? No cure for loneliness or low self-esteem. Money can’t buy happiness and the idyll of youth cannot be tethered. Forever elusive, it proves no foe for the reality that is life. Depressing or what?
I didn’t watch Friends in the beginning. It became cult viewing almost instantly and I’ve never been one for the crowd! Somehow though, over the years, it’s always been there in the background; just always there. I don’t think I have ever made a conscious decision to watch it but, ironically, I know every episode. I know the script! How is that? I come downstairs on a dreary Sunday and flick through the channels on TV, there it is. I leave it on, knowing that it will make me laugh; knowing that it will cheer me up. Not anymore. Now, it will just make me sad … and, then, there were five. You see, that’s the thing, I never knew how important that programme was to me; how much it meant.
The outpouring of grief, particularly on social media, has spoken. Beloved by all as Chandler, the sudden death of Matthew Perry at fifty-four is a bitter pill to swallow. Perhaps, even more so, in view of the circumstances. Chandler couldn’t die alone in a hot tub! Worse, there is the inevitable coverage of his lifelong battle with his demons. Naively, he thought fame and fortune would prove the golden goose, the key to happiness, but, sadly, he could not have been more wrong. Instead, becoming addicted to alcohol and pills, his health spiralled along with his self-esteem. There it is: self-esteem. Matthew Perry was low on that … The story goes that his parents split up when he was only one and he would grow up with his mother, living between Ottawa and Toronto, while she worked as Press Secretary for the, then, Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, before going on to become the national anchor for Global News. Not home a lot, then, I think one could safely assume! I read somewhere that, as a child, he felt abandoned. Age-old. Broken home. Only child, starved of attention and security, grows up to become an adult devoid of self-worth who craves solace in drugs and alcohol. Tragic. So, so sad an unnecessary … and one of so many. Immediately, David Cassidy comes to mind – and Amy Winehouse. Judy Garland, going back in time. All, so sad.
Sometimes, I have been known to mock the Princess of Wales/ Kate’s focus on the importance of the Early Years, as though she has chosen to write a thesis on The Bleeding Obvious! It is – bleeding obvious, that is – that a child deserves to feel loved and secure always but, particularly, when little. Why, then, is that fact so often – and so easily – dismissed? The damage is, both, far-reaching and unforgivable. Sadly, however, we now live in a world in which the traditional family is a thing of the past; in a world which strives not to celebrate the differences between men and women but to eradicate them! Short-sighted in the extreme for, in denying the traditional mother, one, in turn, is denying the happy, secure child. Nothing is worth that. Look around.
Matthew Perry has been on my mind almost constantly since the announcement of his untimely death. He, himself, said his death would come as a surprise to no-one in view of his well-recorded battles but nobody was prepared to contemplate the, perhaps, inevitable. As Chandler, he wore the mask so well. Happy, and always funny on screen, he was the antithesis of the troubled Matthew Perry. One of the famous six, as Friends, they were eternal; would always be there. No more. Take one away and the remaining five do not work; can never be the same. How must they be feeling? I have been glued to my reels on Instagram and the constant old footage of Chandler, Joey, Ross, Phoebe, Monica and Rachel. Forever young. Forever laughing. Forever happy. That’s how we will remember them. For now, though, the sadness is still raw. Matthew Perry was – and will always be – Chandler Bing, the master of sarcasm, who scattered the clouds. His legacy will be that of a comic genius who brought us endless laughter. He did but the actor, himself, said that he would rather be remembered for being a nice guy who helped people … Ironically, Chandler was both.
Friends will live on forever – on screen and in our hearts – but Matthew Perry’s death has stolen the idyll. Nothing stays the same. Forced to face our own mortality, the magic has gone. I learnt a long time ago that the magic only exists if one believes. R.I.P. Matthew Perry. ‘Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning …’
‘I think you actually have to have all of your dreams come true to realise that they are the wrong dreams.’
This is Trish, signing off.