Matthew Perry thought he was impotent for several years as a young man.
The 53-year-old actor’s book, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir, is out Tuesday and there is yet another story about how his addiction affected his life.
Perry started drinking at 14. In the years after, he began experimenting sexually but only after having consumed “six beers beforehand,” due to nervousness. As a result he “couldn’t perform.” So at just 15, he thought he had “a dick that didn’t seem to want to work.”
He wrote, “I failed to make the correlation between the booze and my private parts not working. And no one could know about this. No one. So I was walking around the planet thinking sex was something for other people for a long time. Years. Sex sounded awfully fun but it was not in my arsenal. This means in my mind, and pants at least, that I was congenitally impotent.”
Perry later learned this was not the case when he started dating Tricia Leigh Fisher, the actress/singer daughter of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens and the half-sister of the late Carrie Fisher. Perry, who was 18 at the start of the romance, recalled Tricia, now 53, being beautiful and charming. She also cured him of his misdiagnosed impotence.
Perry said to keep his secret from getting out, he initially told Tricia he wanted to wait until he was married to have sex, citing his Catholic upbringing. But two months later, he claimed Tricia took matters into her own hands when they were alone at his studio apartment. He said he was full of fear, that his secret would be out, but he was also in love. So he confided in her “the whole shameful tale,” including that he “was impotent and always would be. That it was no use… But I was desperate for her not to abandon me too.”
Trisha assured him, calmly and simply, that him not being able to perform “was never going to happen again” and took him to the bedroom. “Sure enough, sheer glory for two whole minutes,” he quipped.
He said thanks to Tricia, “a beautiful woman that deserved better,” he lost his virginity. “Impotence has not been party of my vocabulary since — just as she promised it wouldn’t be. Everything about me, at least physically, works just fine.”
And how did he repay Tricia? By “sleeping with almost every woman in Southern California,” he added.
Perry’s book details many stories about relationships and romances, including kissing Valerie Bertinelli, his Sydney co-star, in 1990 when she was still married to Eddie Van Halen. (The rocker was passed out in the room.) He wrote about dating Julia Roberts during the Friends era — and then breaking up with her in fear she would dump him first. He went on a date from hell with Cameron Diaz post-Friends, and also said he made out with Gwyneth Paltrow.
And while these romance stories are dishy, Perry’s point in writing the book is detailing his decades struggling with alcohol and opioid addiction. He was taking 55 pills a day at the height of Friends. He nearly died in 2018 after his colon exploded. That didn’t stop him from using. He had another near-death experience two years later. He has been sober for the last 18 months.
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir is out now.