A continuing series on the stars who bring their causes to Washington. Monday’s visitor: Matthew Perry
Event: Opening session of the annual National Association of Drug Court Professionals conference.
Setting: Cavernous ballroom packed with 4,000 drug court officials at National Harbor’s Gaylord Convention Center.
Bona fides: Energetic proselytizer for drug courts; operator of a Malibu sober-living facility; star of a recent People cover story on his own addiction recovery; actor beloved as Chandler Bing on “Friends.”
Backup: Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske; Deputy Attorney General James Cole, fellow sitcom star (and fellow addict-turned advocate Kristen Johnston), several drug court alumni and their families.
What he wants: To promote the growth of drug courts, which route non-violent offenders into treatment rather than incarceration.
How he looked: Good dark suit, pale tie, dark-rimmed glasses, stylishly mussed hair.
How he sounded: Like Matthew Perry, darn it, with that artfully calibrated blend of crowd-pleasing sarcasm and touching sincerity. “I’m told I’ve been something of a voice for the recovery movement,” he said, before introducing a parade of drug-court alums with inspirational stories. “I think these people are. [Pause] But they’re not going to get the cover of People. I was on ‘Friends’!”
Why this cause?: No, Perry never went through drug court himself (“for some reason, I don’t know how, I never got arrested”) but after a friend who works in addiction and recovery asked him to speak to the conference four years ago, he became a devoted fan of the concept, a regular at the conferences who has since made half a dozen lobbying trips to Capitol Hill, where he’s headed again on Tuesday. “It saves lives, and it saves money. The only ones who are diehard opponents are private prison operators.”
Questions prompted by the death of Cory Monteith: Perry spoke with us in general terms about how both addiction and recovery can be complicated by fame. “If you choose to buy into [fame] you feel separate and different,” which, for an addict, engenders a dangerous sense of “terminal uniqueness,” he said. “You can believe there is a universe at play with one set of rules but that you operate under a separate set of rules.”