A rainy day in Manhattan didn’t stop hundreds of “Friends” fans from braving the downpour to honor Matthew Perry, who died on Saturday at age 54.
People of all ages and backgrounds gathered on Sunday by the “Friends” building in New York’s West Village to pay their respects to Perry and pose for pictures outside of the show’s iconic apartment. Despite the dreary weather, dozens of flower bouquets and handmade signs with phrases like “the one where we all lost a friend” were piled on the southwest corner of Bedford and Grove near the cozy neighborhood restaurant The Little Owl. (“Friends” was filmed on the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles, but exterior shots of Monica and Rachel’s rent-controlled apartment were filmed at 90 Bedford Street.)
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“It feels strange to feel sad about it, but it really has been a sad morning,” said 29-year-old Catherine Schmitt, who brought flowers. “It’s been my comfort show since I can remember. I can’t imagine watching it now without feeling deep sadness.”
Though he appeared in other shows and movies like “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Whole Nine Yards,” Perry was synonymous with the lovably sarcastic Chandler Bing, playing the character for a decade on “Friends.” The beloved sitcom, which remains nearly as popular today as it was in the ’90s and early aughts, catapulted Perry and his co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer onto the A-list.
Like many longtime “Friends” fans, Hope Pace felt Perry’s loss deeply. “He was all of our friends,” she said. “He was the silly friend; he was the happy friend. That’s why we say, ‘Check on your happy friends.'”
She canceled her Sunday plans to visit the recognizable Village landmark and brought a sign that read, “Thank you for everything, Mr. Bing.”
“He deserves to be honored,” she said. “I know he suffered a lot.”
Perry was found dead in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home, according to law enforcement officials, who say there were no signs of foul play or drugs on the scene. A cause of death has not been revealed. But in his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry spoke openly about his sobriety battles, as well as his longtime struggles with alcohol and opioids.
Plenty of tears were flowing on Sunday afternoon as the crowd, many of whom were trickling in and out of the area, came together to process Perry’s death. Emabel Gund describes feeling “total shock” as she stopped by the shrine with her husband, Erol.
“I’m 58, and Matthew Perry was 54. It’s hard to lose people who are your peers. You think you’re going to grow old with them,” she said through tears. “I wish he beat the demons.”
Erol chimed in, “He had so much life left.”
Samantha Cheung, 27, and her friend Sabrina Wong, 26, were visiting from California and already had plans to stop by the building even before news broke about Perry’s death.
“I wanted to visit because the show gave me a lot of comfort growing up,” Cheung said. Wong added, “We’ve been watching episodes since we got to New York.”
Cheung was raised watching the sitcom with her family. Now that she’s in her 20s, she finds the show, about six New Yorkers navigating work, romance and the joys and frustrations of being out on your own, more relatable than ever.
“It captures what young adulthood is like and how important your friends are during that time of your life,” she said. Perry’s portrayal of Chandler didn’t just provide comedic relief, it also taught her important life lessons like, “Don’t take life too seriously. You can make light out of bad things. it’s OK to joke around.”
Dave Gardner, 59, says he’s been thinking about the lyrics to the sitcom’s memorable theme song since learning about Perry.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “This is the show that brought us the song that said, ‘I’ll be there for you,’ and now we have to live in a world where not all the ‘friends’ are there for you.”
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