They promised they'd be there for you. Like they've been there before -- since 1994, to be exact. That's ten years of loyalty, and while you've kept your end of the bargain ("'cuz you're there for me, too"), your Friends are abandoning you.
Joining a small cadre of sitcoms whose finales registered seismically on the cultural Zeitgeist -- M*A*S*H, Cheers, Newhart, Seinfeld -- the farewell of Friends cuts short many loyalists' love affairs with that ubiquitous sextet of twenty-then-thirty-now-pushing-fortysomethings. For a show with such a narrow worldview (everybody's white, comely, charmingly quirky and evidently addicted to caffeine), Friends sure has seduced young and old, male and female, gay and straight -- a feat as commendable as the show's lengthy run itself. While one might assume that everybody who tunes in to Friends is, say, a 24-year-old publicist's assistant with a slight eating disorder, that's not the case. Take, for example, 29-year-old Justin: a heterosexual, gay-sympathetic Republican who holds a degree from Harvard Law School and a job with the federal government -- and who does not answer the phone for a certain half-hour every Thursday night. Says the unapologetic Friends fan: "It's the M*A*S*H of my generation -- more heart than Seinfeld and more hip than Cheers."
What will this suit-wearing Atlanta native miss most about the show? "I feel like I know the characters and their idiosyncrasies. Plus, other than Scrubs, good sitcoms are hard to come by these days." (Perhaps not surprisingly, given Justin's aforementioned profile, he's a self-professed Chandler fan -- but he doesn't dress like Chandler, because "I am neither rich nor gay enough to do that.")
With its finale already much-trumpeted in magazines and on NBC itself, Friends will be duly fêted here in the St. Louis area with two bon-voyage parties. On Thursday, May 6, from 5 to 9 p.m., Parties Under the Dove kicks off its second summer season outside Westfield Shoppingtown West County (I-270 and Manchester Road, 314-288-2020) with a free, 21-and-older shebang that'll feature Friends broadcast on big-screen TVs, plus music, drinks and food (visit www.kirkwoodarea.com for more info). And yours truly, the Riverfront Times, co-sponsors a free Friends viewing from 5:30 to 10 p.m. at the UMB Bank Pavilion (I-70 and Earth City Expressway; www.riverport.com for more info) with TV-show trivia and Friends-look-alike contests. See, St. Louis? The RFT really will be there for you! -- Rose Martelli
Art Coop enters the Dada fray
Hey, didn't we just have one of these Dada balls? Well, if you didn't have the $50 for a ticket to the Contemporary's Dada blowout, the lovely folks over at Art Coop (1620 Delmar Boulevard; 314-644-7676; 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.) have Dada 12 on tap, and it's much more affordable at $12 a ticket. There's no point pitting these Dada balls against each other in terms of quality; that'd be like pitting French fries against lug nuts. However, this Dada function has the one and only Tory Z. Starbuck space-rockin' an electric sitar while his lovely wife massages a homemade theremin/noise generator as the Celestial Theater explores the fringes of art and performance. Can you afford to not be there when it all goes down? -- Paul Friswold
St. Louis Is Ready for Its Close-Up
Photographers are editors of the most ambitious sort. Out of the whole world, they are able to place what is significant into a tiny rectangle (or square). Local photographers Stefan Hester, Cary Horton and Matt Marcinkowski have chosen to focus their viewfinders on St. Louis, crop out the crap and find fresh perspectives on our decaying city. They display their works in an exhibit entitled LINK: Photography with St. Louis Connections at Soulard's glorious Mad Art Gallery (2727 South 12th Street). The exhibit and opening reception (Friday, May 7, from 7 to 11 p.m.) are both free, and the art remains on display through June 26. For more info check out www.madartgallery.com or call 314-771-8230. -- Guy Gray
Kiss Me, I'm a Gringo
Cinco de Mayo is a confusing holiday to the norteamericano, present company included. It commemorates a Mexican victory over the French, but then the Mexican/Spanish army tore up the Alamo, and Billy Bob Thornton released another album, and then things get real hazy. OK, that's mostly wrong. The point is, plenty of people who aren't Irish celebrate St. Patrick's Day, so there's nothing stopping you from celebrating El Cinco. Raise your glass toward the south, give up the "viva" and let 'em know you're feeling it. Just don't wear that sombrero, and don't think ordering the Mexican pizza at the Bell is gonna cut it, either; that's as stupid as eating spaghetti on St. Patty's. -- Paul Friswold