My Date With Matthew Perry
From Capitol Hill to CVS: Meeting my celebrity crush from "Friends" and finding a humble, insecure and kind man who tragically died at only 54 years old
Matthew Perry hit on me in the hallway of the U.S. Capitol. The “Friends” actor had always been my top celebrity crush, so I was really excited to go on a date with him. Twelve years and one day later, he tragically died at just 54 years old.
By sharing this story publicly for the first time, I hope to give you insights into a complex man I cared about after he openly shared his life story and struggles with addiction and mental health.
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The One With the Celebrity
I was with a bunch of reporters waiting outside the House chamber to get into a so-called backgrounder on tax policy when Matthew Perry walked nearby. He looked older and was unshaven but still familiar from his role as Chandler Bing on “Friends.”
I was on the phone with a CNN producer and quickly cradled the phone on my left shoulder and held out my hand.
”Matthew Perry, I just wanted to meet you,” I said.
He shook my hand. “Nice to meet you too,” he said in the distinctive voice from TV. He smiled and kept walking with four other men.
I was shaking with excitement. “I just met Matthew Perry,” I told the producer on the phone.
“Really? From ‘Friends’?” She asked. “What’s he doing there?”
The One with the Meet Cute at the Capitol
A few minutes later, I saw Matthew Perry looking at me from around the corner. I made eye contact. He started walking toward me, so I headed to meet him to get out of earshot of the other reporters.
“I'm in town for a few days. I don't know if you're married, but if not, would you like to go to dinner?” he asked, shyly.
“Yes, I mean, no, I’m not married, and I’d like that,” I said, smiling big.
“Great! Can I have your number?” he asked.
I dug into my bag for a business card so fast that I spilled a bunch of stuff on the floor. “Here!” I said.
“Can’t give that to me fast enough, huh?”he teased. I was embarrassed that I was acting like such a fangirl. He took my card, thanked me and left.
I walked back and a female reporter asked, “Did you just talk to Matthew Perry?”
“Yeah, I just wanted to meet him,” I replied. I didn’t tell her that he asked me on a date because I assumed I’d never hear from him again.
Also, I didn’t want to have more gossip about my love life back then. I’d been through that in a very public way because of my ex-fiance who I also met in the Capitol. (Read that story here.)
The One with The Dating Rules
About an hour later, I was writing on deadline in the press gallery and got a call from a 310 area code.
“This is Emily,” I said carefully and quietly because I was sitting shoulder to shoulder with other print reporters.
“Hi Emily, It’s Matthew Perry,” he said.
“Oh, hi, hi!” (He told me later that his friends called him “Matty” but I never thought of him as anything other than MatthewPerry.)
“You sound surprised,” he said. “We just met in the hall. You gave me your card.”
“Yes I know, I just didn't expect you to call,” I said. I was too stunned to act nonchalant.
“Do you not want me to call?” he asked.
I said I did and was just focused on writing.
“I wanted to see if there’s any chance you’re free for dinner tonight?”
Back then, I read and followed “The Rules” book that said never go on a date with a man within three days of his asking. I quickly decided to break the rules for the one-in-a-million chance that my number one celebrity crush suddenly appeared in the Capitol and asked me out on a date.
“I just may have to do a hit on CNN after work, so it would be after that,” I said.
“Are you a CNN anchor?” he asked.
“Oh no, I write for The Washington Times, I just do CNN and some TV about my stories. Can I tell you the timing in a couple hours?”
“Sure! But I’d like to see you on CNN. That would be really cool” he said.
“It’s really not. TV Emily is the same as regular Emily,” I said.
“I’m very different on TV,” he said seriously.
The One With the Collar
The CNN producer called and said my segment got bumped for breaking news. I was relieved because that meant I had time to change before dinner.
I drove home fast and started to redo my makeup when he called again.
“Hey, I just need a few minutes to put on comfortable clothes,” I told him. I was planning on jeans and a black top.
“Comfortable?” he asked.
“What…is that wrong?”
“Well, that's all?” I was suddenly nervous about going on a date with such a big celebrity. I didn’t have the wardrobe or lifestyle.
“Oh, I can dress up then,” I said.
“Let's figure out what I'm going to wear,” he said. I thought he was kidding. I asked what he had on already.
“I've got on a t-shirt and sweater and jeans,” he said
“Oh, no collar?” I asked
“What do you mean a collar?”
“Well, I think a man should always go out in a collar.”
“I think I have a polo shirt, I could wear that with the khakis.”
I realized this wasn’t banter. He was insecure and indecisive and needed my guidance. I also ask for advice on everything, so this was going to be hard.
“That sounds fine,” I told him.
“No it won’t work because it doesn't go with the one jacket I have,” he said.
I was starting to think we would never actually go on a date because it was getting late and he was clearly slow walking it. I told him to just stay in what he was wearing.
“No, no, I'll wear what I had on when we met but just not the tie,” he finally said. He had been wearing a black jacket when we met. You can see in the photos in this story that he wore that same jacket for both days on the Hill.
My image of the perfect boyfriend from “Friends” was blurring.
“That sounds perfect,” I replied. I now see his delaying tactics as anxiety.
The One With the Spaghetti Strips
“So what are you going to wear?” he asked.
“What do you want me to wear?” I sounded flirtatious but was exasperated.
This time he told me to wear whatever I wanted.
“We've been through this, and we're going to be on the phone all night at this rate. What do you like?”
“Maybe a black dress,” he said.
“Fine, anything else?”
“Do you have one with those spaghetti strips?”
Strips. I laughed so hard that I had to put down the phone.
“STRAPS, spaghetti straps, not strips,” I finally said, still laughing. I loved that he didn’t know that term. That made him seem like a normal guy.
Coincidentally, I had just bought a dress that exactly fit that description from Forever 21 for like $12. It was short, and I felt like it might look slutty, so I put a longer, black trench coat over it that I kept on all night.
He called a fourth time to ask where to go to dinner, but I told him I’d meet at his hotel and decide. I drove to the DuPont Hotel, valet parked my car and walked into the bar. He was sitting by himself in the middle of a busy scene.
“Hi,” I said, sitting on the stool next to him.
“Wow, you look fantastic,” he said.
“It’s the spaghetti strips,” I said smiling and pulled down the coat collar to show my shoulder.
“You look amazing,” he said kindly. Of course, I knew he dated movie stars like Julia Roberts and Neve Campbell. I was way out of my league. But he seemed genuine, which made me feel more confident.
“I like your collar shirt,” I said, laughing. He was heavier than normal. His hair was messy, and he hadn’t shaven. But his blue eyes sparkled when he smiled, and he was still handsome. I liked his boyishness.
The One Where the Cracks Show
“What would you like to drink?” he asked. I knew he was an addict and seemed to be sober, so I wasn’t sure what to do.
“What are you having?” I asked.
“I’ve got club soda but get whatever you want,” he said. I asked for a glass of white wine.
He said he had gotten out of rehab six months earlier and that the public didn’t know about it. He explained that one of the men in the group earlier that day was a “sober coach” who traveled with him. He told me the coach had been with him at the bar until I arrived.
I asked if it bothered him if I drank wine, and he said not at all.
He wanted to talk about politics. He was liberal and interested in my more conservative views. He said that his mother (now Suzanne Morrison) had been the press secretary and very close to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The conversation quickly veered into our personal lives. In hindsight, it was too fast to share such intimate topics because he seemed familiar from TV. We talked about our difficult relationships with our mothers. He told me about how he moved to the U.S. to live with his father.
We also talked about our love lives. He said he hoped to have children before he was much older. I told him about the movie that was based on my broken engagement.
He said he had recently broken up with Lizzy Caplan, who he lived with for five years. He said she was nuts (all men say that), and they just finished couples therapy to negotiate the end.
He said he wanted to start over after the breakup, so he was selling all his houses and buying new ones. That seemed extreme, but I rented a one-bedroom apartment.
The One With Four Restaurants
As we talked, I felt people staring at us. Over the years in Wahington, I’d worked for many well-known political and media figures who got recognized in public. This was different. Everyone watched years of “Friends” episodes and felt the characters were their real friends. People stared at him like he couldn’t see back— like he was on their TV screens.
He suggested we get a table and eat. But when we saw the options, it was clear we had to go somewhere less well-lit with more private tables.
Again, he asked me to make the decision. I said we’ll walk to the Palm because it’s just across the circle. He agreed, but once we got to the restaurant, he said he didn't want to go inside. I pointed at an Italian restaurant across the street, but he also didn’t like that one. I didn’t want to cut the date short, so I kept trying to please him.
“I know— Cafe Milano will be perfect. All the celebrities go there when they are in D.C. so they will know how to handle this,” I resolved.
“No way, I’m not going anywhere with paparazzi,” he said.
I laughed at him and explained that there are no paparazzi in Washington. Still, he refused. We were standing on the street in the dark.
“Milano is the best,” I insisted. “I just saw George Clooney there.”
“Oh, well then that works. He’s a much bigger star than I am.” I was surprised by his humility.
The One at CVS Self-Checkout
We grabbed a regular cab that was nearby. As the taxi drove down M Street, MatthewPerry suddenly said, “I need something for my heartburn.”
I didn’t know what that meant.
“I’m sorry, but I need Tums. Can we stop somewhere?”
I told the cab driver to go to the nearest CVS. When we got there, MatthewPerry aimlessly walked along the brightly fluorescent-lit aisles looking for Tums. I found the bottle and followed him to the checkout. He stopped abruptly.
“What do you do here?”
“You don’t know how to use a self-checkout?” I asked.
“I’ve never seen this before,” he said
I grabbed the Tums from him, scanned it, took his credit card and paid for it. I led us outside and got another cab.
“Sorry about that. My assistant does my errands,” he said. I read that he died while his assistant was out getting him a new iPhone and glasses.
“When you have a certain amount of money, that’s how it works,” he said. I was fascinated. He explained how he had multiple assistants around the clock and could call to get the most simple errands for him. He explained all this in the most down-to-earth manner. He was like an observer on the inside of a strange world.
The One at Cafe Milano with Nancy Pelosi
As we walked into the restaurant and to the front desk, one girl looked up and started laughing. I moved in front of him. I had become protective of him. I asked for a table for two somewhere private.
The girl kept staring at MatthewPerry and laughing.
They took us past the bar to the back of the restaurant. I pointed out that Rep. Nancy Pelosi was at the next table. She didn’t notice him.
The One With the Insecurity
I can’t remember what we ordered for dinner (veal maybe?), but we talked for hours.
He told me he desperately wanted to be a successful movie actor and was upset that he wasn’t. He talked about trying to get cast in movies but he was too well known as Chandler. He also was disappointed that the TV show “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” failed because it was the quality he wanted to do.
I no longer was enamored by his fame. He was struggling with even more insecurity than I was.
He wanted to practice his speech for the next day at dinner. He spoke about the advantages of sending addicts to rehab instead of jail through the drug courts. He tried to be funny but wasn’t. I suggested some better lines. He didn’t like that.
“You're telling me how to be funny? I'm a professional comedic actor,” he said, pointedly.
“I'm usually the funny one,” I replied.
The One That Led to Putin
After several hours, we got another cab to go back to the hotel. When we got into the lobby, I said, I’d had a great time.
“You’re leaving?” he asked.
“Yes, thank you. I had a really fun night.” I replied.
“Just have one more drink. Come upstairs for one more drink,” he said. He grabbed my hand and jokingly pulled me toward the elevators.
“No way, I’m not going upstairs.”
“Look, I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. Come upstairs and help me finish this speech and leave whenever you want.”
I gave in and said okay. He used his key card to get to a secured floor. My decision to go to Matthew Perry’s hotel room helped me professionally in the most unlikely way.
Three years later, I exclusively reported that an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin died of mysterious circumstances at the Hotel DuPont. I was able to access the secure floor and get the only video of the possible crime scene because I had been there with Matthew Perry.
The One That Got Bad Press
Once inside his suite,
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