CALLAHAN: I was repelled by Matthew Perry turning addiction into showbiz. Then I read his book

0

Matthew Perry is America’s most complicated “friend”.

No wonder the promotional tour for her new memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” has come and gone.

His book doesn’t lend itself to soundbites, or Q&As about morning or late-night shows, or the careful conclusions drawn at the end of lengthy celebrity profiles accompanied by glossy photos of Perry in a Tom Ford shirt. at $600 and $218 jeans (see GQ).

Perry’s book stripped down in part, all ‘shocking revelations’ compiled into lists: colonoscopy bags, drugs, loss of all his teeth, fling with Julia Roberts, beatings on others celebrities (Keanu Reeves, Eddie Van Halen), the moment Jennifer Aniston tried to intervene.

I suspect I’m not the only one who felt discouraged at first.

Even for a celeb reveal, Perry’s revelations can seem pornographic, designed to shock, and his press tour a kind of perverted peacock. Not to mention the hint of naughtiness here — especially the digs at Reeves, one of the nicest and most beloved stars on the planet. These have rightly been mobbed as free. Little.

And most of us have a history of addiction, whether it’s our own or that of a loved one. The commodification of these life-and-death struggles can often seem cheap.

Then I read Perry’s book. And guess what? Not your typical celebrity-slash-addiction memoir. It doesn’t follow the predictable story arc, with our hero going from obscurity to world fame and unimaginable wealth to drug and alcohol addiction to bottomless addiction to everything better.

Matthew Perry is America’s most complicated “friend”. No wonder the promotional tour for her new memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” has come and gone.

There is no neat arc to sum up Perry’s story. There is no happy ending here. That’s what makes it an interesting read, and therefore worth resisting the binary reactions of fans online – sympathy for Perry at first, then revulsion when his mean comments about Reeves leaked.

Matthew Perry is the first to admit it: it’s a mess, a ball of contradictions, congenitally unhappy, a mystery even to himself. It goes deeper than you’d expect – and as anyone who’s known a real drug addict can attest, that’s no small feat.

So can we all be adults and hold back instant judgments for a hot minute?

“Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing” is a richer and more nuanced book than expected. Perry begins by introducing himself as “Matty” and clearly tells us, “I should be dead.”

Perry has clearly been through a ton of psychotherapy: he searches for the hurt of childhood, writes about his father’s abandonment as a baby, his parents’ separation and their subsequent remarriages, the feeling of being a strange child like his mother and father building new families, his subsequent attachment troubles with women and alcohol-fueled sexual impotence.

But more catastrophic, in my opinion, is a doctor’s decision to prescribe a two-month colicky Perry phenobarbital to stop her crying.

You read this and think: this guy never had a chance.

Perry took this incredibly powerful drug for a month, he writes, when he was between 30 and 60 days old.

“This is an important time in a baby’s development,” Perry writes, “especially when it comes to sleep.” (Fifty years later, I still don’t sleep well.) Once the barbiturate was on board, I was collapsing. . . and that would make my father burst out laughing. He wasn’t cruel; stoned babies are funny. There are baby photos of me where you can tell I’m completely zoned out, nodding like a drug addict at seven weeks old.

Is it any wonder that Perry has become such an inveterate drug addict? That having pancreatitis at age 30 wasn’t enough to make him stop drinking? Or that losing a part in “Don’t Look Up”, his three scenes with Meryl Streep being abandoned, the ruin of his probable last chance to work with Oscar winners because of his life “on fire”, does not was not enough?

Perry said he ditched a romance with Julia Roberts because it was

Perry’s book stripped down in part, all ‘shocking revelations’ compiled into lists: colonoscopy bags, drugs, loss of all his teeth, fling with Julia Roberts, beatings on others celebrities (Keanu Reeves, Eddie Van Halen), the moment Jennifer Aniston tried to intervene.

If you have any doubts that addiction is a disease, the story of Matthew Perry will disabuse you.

When he first got drunk at 14, Perry wrote that he felt something he had never felt before: normal. It’s Perry who tells us that he’s wired differently, that his emotional and genetic make-up puts him at the highest risk for drug addiction.

“I realized,” Perry writes, “that for the first time in my life, nothing bothered me. . . I was complete, at peace. I had never been so happy as at that moment.

Later, as a struggling young actor, Perry gets down on his knees and begs God to be famous. “I yearned for it more than any other person on the face of the planet,” he wrote. ‘I needed it. It was the only thing that could fix me.

He would later call this his Faustian bargain. Fame, and the wealth and privileges that come with it (chain smoking in your hospital bed; crashing your Porsche in a neighbor’s living room without consequence; sleeping with every consenting woman in Los Angeles; buying a new mansion each time he completed rehab) only made his illness worse.

You’ve no doubt heard the book’s key findings elsewhere: the 55 Vicodin a day, the 65+ rehabs, the $9 million spent on rehabs, the weight fluctuations from 128 to 225 pounds, the astonishment that he is still alive. And not to be cynical, but Perry is a creature of show business: he knows what will sell. He has his talking points down. He knew what to include to generate headlines and clicks, controversies and likes.

But none of this takes away from the brutal honesty of the book. At one point, Perry wrote of his affinity for Robert Downey Jr., who was also given drugs as a child and who once said of his own addiction: “It’s like I had a gun gun in my mouth and had my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of metal.

Later, as a struggling young actor, Perry gets down on his knees and begs God to be famous.

Later, as a struggling young actor, Perry gets down on his knees and begs God to be famous. “I yearned for it more than any other person on the face of the planet,” he wrote. ‘I needed it. It was the only thing that could fix me.

But the story of Robert Downey Jr. has a happy ending: the comic book hero franchise, the stable family life, the bum. RDJ is, as we know him anyway, The Guy Who Figured It Out.

Matthew Perry, the man himself says, is not that guy. He wants to be but does not understand why not. He wonders why some of his peers can party and quit, like he says Bruce Willis did, but why he himself doesn’t have an “off” switch.

“Addiction has ruined my life so much it’s not funny,” he wrote. He’s had fourteen surgeries, cried after each one, and will need many more.

“I will never be done,” he wrote. “I will always have the insides of a nonagenarian. . . the scars . . . my belly looks like a topographical map of China. And they hurt.

Perry ends his book on a hopeful note, but not before telling us the truth: his story probably doesn’t have a happy ending. But maybe saying so will help others struggling with addiction — the people he dedicates his book to.

“I’m about to die every day,” he wrote. “I have no other sobriety in me. If I went out, I could never come back . . . It’s going to kill me.

Matthew Perry could have kept half of these revelations to himself and still had a bestseller. He didn’t need to expose himself like this, and whether his motives were purely altruistic or not, he’s done a real service here. His book is a worthy addition to a genre that can too often seem rote, narcissistic and predictable.

Hopefully for Perry that will be enough.

Share.

Comments are closed.