When I woke up yesterday to the news, I couldn’t believe it. Chandler, Matthew Perry, dead at 54. I knew he’d had his struggles with drugs and alcohol, but still. What a tragedy.
My 20-year-old daughter messaged. She was as upset as me. The extraordinary thing about Friends is that it straddles the generations. We used to watch it together, laughing at the same goofy jokes.
‘This is the first time someone really big from my cultural framework has died,’ she said. ‘It’s like losing Kim Kardashian, or Lana Del Rey.’
Chandler was always our favourite man on the show. The other two male characters had the fireworks, but Chandler was our guy.
Always smiling, very sweet; part lost boy, part gentleman. Never quite believing in himself, self-deprecating to a fault.
He had that kind of masculinity that makes women feel safe and comfortable. In a way, he provided the sane middle ground between the other two: Joey, the cocky Italian stallion, Ross the eternal neurotic.
Chandler was the best of both, the kind of man you would want your daughter to end up with.
There is something so sad about the fact that the actor who played the perfect guy in the perfect sitcom was, in real life, so deeply troubled.
When he was publicising his memoir last year, the world was shocked to see how much Perry had left behind his on-screen persona.
Those boyish good looks ravaged by drugs and alcohol, that Tiggerish, athletic physique (he was always so bouncy on-screen), heavy and bloated.
You could see that he wasn’t a well man. But I don’t think anyone had any real idea of the extent of his problem.
Xanax, OxyContin, Dilaudid, methadone, cocaine, alcohol – he abused them all. But the one that started it all was Vicodin, an opioid-based prescription painkiller he started taking in 1997 to deal with the painful aftermath of a jet-ski accident.
The maximum daily dose is eight – he ended up on 55. His body was so ravaged that at one point his front teeth just fell out of his diseased gums, after he bit into a peanut butter sandwich.
He spent eight months with a colostomy bag after his bowel burst. No wonder his poor body just gave out.
There is a certain bitter irony in the fact that America’s boy-next-door, beloved by mums and daughters alike, should ultimately have succumbed to the plague that has swept that nation: the opioid crisis.
Over the past two decades, nearly 600,000 people have died from an opioid overdose in Canada and the U.S., mostly young and middle-aged adults like Perry. According to medical journal The Lancet, it is estimated it could claim a further 1.2million lives by 2029.
How many Chandlers have suffered the fate of Perry – talented, sporty guys who’ve ended up broken, hopeless addicts?
Far too many, is the answer. He spent $9 million (£7.4 million) trying to wean himself off these drugs. What hope for the ordinary guy on the street?
Ultimately, Perry’s tragedy is America’s tragedy. He wanted to be remembered for his work helping other addicts.
But the world will always remember him as the goofy guy with the big heart whom everyone loved – but who, sadly, never quite loved himself enough.