With Friends Like These

Madison Square Garden, New York’s famed midtown venue, has seen many era-defining moments over the years, through sport, music and politics: Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday, Mr President…” to everyone’s favourite skull-juggler here in 1962; Rocky Marcianio ended Joe Louis’ boxing career in 1951 and gave rise to the best sporting film character of all time; and Radiohead produced a bassline of such devastating frequency at the beginning of ‘The National Anthem’, that a close friend had to run in a sphincter-clinching, Charlie Chaplin-esque manner to the nearest ‘restrooms’ in order to protect his under-garments and those fellow members in the audience within nose-shot.

However, last week the ‘Garden hosted two specific events – two flipped sides of a location and venue silver dollar, if you will – that were close to this writer’s heart. Firstly, the resident NBA basketball franchise (and serial underachievers), the New York Knicks, made the post-season play-offs for the first time in seven years. Having hung my hat on a team due to the fickle world of celebrity merchandise endorsement (exhibit A is worn by Beastie Boy Mike D below – be warned a Beastie blog is coming soon), it appeared that although being a cool team, in the coolest city, they were also shit. However, through clever player trading, acquiring Amare Stoudemire last year, and the January signing of superstar Carmelo Anthony, the team has been revived beyond all recognition. It has been time to celebrate this team getting back to where it thinks it belongs. Knickerbocker glory is now potentially possible, instead of a distant dream.

The other side of the coin was the farewell gig by the wonderful soon-to-be-missed-by-those-that-love-them LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy’s collective have produced three full-length albums of energy, pith and groove, including the best use of a cowbell since ‘Hey Ladies’ by the Beastie Boys, or when that Swiss school-dodging Heidi nearly got caught with that goat herder… Anyway, through a set of over three hours in length, they said goodbye to a loyal and sweating congregation, including an encore of their endearingly self-effacing ditty ‘North American Scum’ with friends of this parish Arcade Fire, before finishing with ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Driving Me Mad’ – a song so good some twat wrote a truly terrible film script to incorporate it in the title. There is a list of gigs that over the years which this writer would dearly have loved to have been at, and this is included in that list.

If you have no knowledge of astronomy, when a star is born or dies it probably means nothing to you, though there is a chance that at some point in time the star itself was potentially beautiful. In the same way, if you have never heard, or heard of a particular band, then their demise is equally unimportant. However, to those that gaze at the musical stars, a band splitting up can be as grief-laden as a teenage break-up, or as melancholic as emigrating, knowing that there is a strong chance you will never see some of your best friends again. The track below, All Our Friends, had me in both places, missing the band, and reminiscing about friends I had lost over time through years of nomadic professional relocations. That it was at exactly the same time that an old episode of ‘Friends’ was being broadcast  simply added to the ennui and lead me indirectly to being on this rambling page.

There are times when all roads lead to a certain place, and at that point of the evening’s reflection, everything at Pause Towers pointed towards New York. Ironically, that is the same way that the relatively unknown cast of Friends all arrived at that very point, at the same time, and created an ensemble that would make the show, and it’s cast, one of the most successful in US broadcasting history. However, since that stratospheric rise, what happened to their careers? What could these six performers achieve individually, who together were an unsinkable ship of coffee-soaked, saccharine, thirty-something smugness, as they surely all had some talent for it to have been that successful, right?

Well, it hasn’t quite worked out that way for them. Matt Le Blanc (the thick one) was as one-dimensional off stage as his character was on it; Lisa Kudrow (the hippy dippy thick one) has managed to appear in some TV mini-series, but no films of note, good or bad. Courteney Cox (the fit but OCD thick one) has been seen on the big screen in the commercially successful Scream franchise, but nothing else to write home about. Matthew Perry’s (the quick witted, jobless and often thick one) list of, er, achievements are so utterly uninspiring, that there really isn’t much to mention at all. David Schwimmer (the paleontologist, thick brother of the fit and thick one) is more well-known for having a fling with the Australian actress, turned one-hit wonder Natalie Imbruglia than for his post-Friends CV. He was, however, the voice of anxiety-stricken giraffe Melman in the entertaining Madagascar series of animated films, along with Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and a film-stealing cameo by Sacha Baron-Cohen.

Aniston – descended from distant royalty

But the worst offender of the whole cast is Jennifer Aniston (the gratingly annoying, self-fancying, red-headed, thick one). This walking haircut has cut a career from a parting of blown-dry talent. But why, I hear you mumble as you try to read something else, am I singling her out for special attention? Well because, unlike those listed above, frankly she has made movies that make you question what else you could have been doing with those two, will-they-ever-fucking-end, interminable hours. Things such as singeing the hair from your nether regions with a blowtorch, or trying to use sulphuric acid as eye-wash, or how many kittens will die next time she makes a film – anything that can take away the pain of watching this ‘actress’ go to work. She has the anti-Midas touch. In fact, she be the ancient descendant of the famous King’s lesser known cousin, Prince Faecal, who also had the same talent as his more famous brethren, yet everything he touched turned to shit: if she is in the film, then that is the brown-eyed stamp of certain disappointment: ‘Along Came Polly’, ‘Marley & Me’, ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, ‘The Bounty Hunter’, ‘Just Go With It’… Jesus casting Christ, I feel dirty just listing it. Her latest effort is entitled ‘Horrible Bosses’ for avoidance purposes, though is probably the best script she has worked with.

So, as James Murphy rightly sings at the top of his imploring and admittedly over-stretched voice “where are my friends tonight?” for the last time into the New York skyline, I know that some of mine are missing his band, some are dreaming of play-off victories, some are missing the energy, people, buzz and feel of New York, but none are missing the next Aniston film, or any containing any of her fellow cast members. Who needs enemies……

Follow me on Twitter @benopause

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2 comments

  1. Brendan · April 14, 2011

    Haven’t seen any of those Anniston films. In fact the only film of hers that I can recall having seen is Office Space – & I rather liked it. But as they say, it’s the exception that proves the rule…

  2. Heath · April 14, 2011

    She has got a cracking haircut though…good blog Benjamin

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