Turns Out When Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox And The Friends Cast Took Their Fabled Vegas Trip, One Star Lost Their Cash Quickly

Chandler and Monica on Friends.
(Image credit: HBO Max)

When Friends premiered back in 1994, there’s no way its stars could have predicted the level of fame the show would bring them. While Courteney Cox was relatively well-known, thanks to her appearance in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” music video, the careers of all six actors — who also included Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer — skyrocketed only after the launch of the NBC sitcom. Ahead of the first season, the new group of friends famously went away on a bonding trip, where one of the Central Perk crew proved hilariously unlucky.

There’s a story in Friends lore that famed television director James Burrows took the six cast members to Las Vegas ahead of the show’s premiere. Unlike the Season 5 episodes that would follow, nobody got drunkenly married or found their hand twin (I’m assuming). But Burrows did recount what happened in his upcoming memoir Directed by James Burrows (via ET), recalling how he predicted the enormous success that was about to befall the group:

I made a reservation for just the seven of us at Spago. I asked for the center table in the restaurant, where everyone could see us. I knew the show had a chance to really take off and told the kids, ‘This is your last shot at anonymity. Once the show airs, you guys will never be able to go anywhere without being hounded.’ None of them believed me.

I can imagine it would be pretty hard to believe you could go from anonymity to international fame as quickly as these actors did. Courteney Cox, however, might have had some inkling of what was about to happen, as it’s said she made a pretty big purchase following her audition to play Monica Gellar. Matt LeBlanc, meanwhile, has famously said he was down to $11 before he got the role of Joey Tribbiani, and according to James Burrows, his money trouble continued when they reached Sin City: 

I laid out $1,400. If the math doesn’t seem right, it’s because [Matt] LeBlanc had no idea how to play craps and he lost his two hundred dollars in seconds, so I gave him another two hundred.

It’s amusing to think about a time when $200 would be a lot of money for any one of those actors — especially considering how many millions they make each year off of royalties — but it's really funny to imagine Matt LeBlanc losing all of his money in one fell swoop. I’m surprised that story didn’t make it into Joey’s plotline in “The One in Vegas.” The director said all six of them did pay him back after the trip.

James Burrows was certainly right that the six of them would never be able to go into public together unnoticed ever again, but he said the trip did more than provide them with one last opportunity for anonymity. It was also about bonding, and their tight off-screen relationships proved important over the years as they went through salary negotiations together.

Friends was on the air for 10 years, though, so it wasn’t foosball and coffee houses the whole time. The actors endured a number of personal obstacles over the years, including divorce, fertility struggles and substance abuse problems. Matthew Perry has his own memoir coming out this year that promises not to sugarcoat the tougher times. Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing is due for a November 1 release, and until then, all 10 seasons of Friends, including the 2021 reunion special, is available for streaming with an HBO Max subscription

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.