There was a hold-up at New York City's Grand Central Station as 25 identical women attempted to swipe through the subway turnstiles. Each one was clad in a blonde wig, brown suede fringe jacket, long floral dress, and black lace-up boots. They all struggled to get each of their respective guitars through the narrow gates.
"Hashtag Friends 25!" one of the Phoebes called out to a passerby who had paused to take her picture.
The 25th anniversary of Friends, which ran from 1994 to 2004, falls on Sunday, 22nd September. The sitcom's cult status means this milestone has prompted everything from nostalgic interviews to Ralph Lauren fashion lines to IRL reconstructions of the characters' favourite West Village haunts. But only if you happened to be in New York City on Friday could you run into Phoebe Buffay herself. Or, at least, sort of.
"I mostly identify with Monica," Madison Fuller, one of the actresses enlisted by Warner Bros and Best Friends Animal Society to play a Phoebe, told Refinery29. "I like everything colour-coordinated and super organised. But Phoebe's always super fun."
In fact, this isn't Fuller's first rodeo. She just finished playing Phoebe on the national tour of Friends: The Musical Parody, and now stands side-by-side with her assigned team of fellow Pheebs as they boarded the subway en route to their next performance destination. It was 9:30 in the morning and already the gang had traveled from The Today Show to WPIX TV to Grand Central and now Union Square, stopping at each to sing a group rendition of Phoebe's "Smelly Cat" and promote the work of Best Friends Animal Society, encouraging listeners to adopt a (not actually smelly) cat of their own.
The role of Phoebe — the original Phoebe — was played by Lisa Kudrow, who sadly did not return Refinery29's request for comment. However, she's responsible for so expertly crafting a bizarre, yet lovable, character whose eccentricities have not only endured for 25 years, but also still elicit cheers of recognition. A masseuse, a twin, a dedicated performer: Her character gave a charming face-lift to the sometimes drier, more sardonic escapades of her peers, and if she could inspiring passing New Yorkers to adopt a cat or two, then even better.
The Phoebes were stopped by fans of the show for pictures, including a group of tourists who were all wearing Friends-inspired shirts. Were the Phoebes not busy being Phoebe themselves, they likely would have done the same.
"Every Thursday me and my family would sit around and watch Friends — so much to the point that my childhood dog's name was Phoebe," fellow Phoebe Lindsey Covert explained. "She has such great energy and she is so herself, so confident."
"Everyone thinks of Phoebe as being so free-spirited and quirky, but I think she thinks of herself as normal," Fuller echoed. "And that's what's so special about her."
As the ladies moved en masse, there were the occasional scuffles with pedestrians who just wanted to get to their offices or cross the street for coffee ("Why was he mad?" Phoebe One asked. "Because it's creepy," Phoebe Two replied). But for the most part, the Phoebes chatted about their lives — at least two Phoebes were in the middle of wedding planning — as they walked through the crisp autumn day, taking just as much enjoyment out of the experience as those who stumbled upon them.
"Phoebe!" one half of the Phoebes called out as they emerged from the downtown 4 train and reunited with the second half of Phoebes that got separated on the subway.
"Phoebe!" the other half cried in response, prompting a chorus of laughter from those who witnessed it.
"She's the most fun to watch!" Phoebe Kathryn Palmer exclaimed when asked why all this was happening. "Who doesn't want to be Phoebe?"