Joey Campanaro is tired of “Friends” fans defacing his property. It’s turned into Central Jerk. With “Friends” frenzy at a peak for the sitcom’s 25th anniversary, hordes of fans have descended upon the Greenwich Village building that was “home” to the show’s characters — blocking sidewalks as they snap selfies and even defacing walls with graffiti.
“It’s annoying,” said Joey Campanaro, chef and owner of Little Owl Restaurant, located in the same 90 Bedford Street space that housed the fictitious Central Perk coffee shop where the characters lounged. “They’re behaving as if there’s zero accountability.”
“I would say it’s hundreds [of people],” he added of the daily throngs. “Over the weekends, it’s closer to 1,000.”
Campanaro, 47, said that with all the promotion around the series’ anniversary last month, the decidedly un-friendly defacing of his building’s exterior is getting worse, as overzealous fans sign their names and scrawl their favorite lines.
Tourists can’t get enough of the fictional “Friends” location at The Little Owl restaurant. “It’s monkey see, monkey do, ” he said. “Take a picture of it and share it on social media. It’s become a bit of a cult.” In nice weather it’s not uncommon to have “10 to 15 people a day writing on the wall,” the chef added. “They’re using permanent marker and lipstick.” Among the quotes: Phoebe’s “I don’t even have a ‘pla…,’” and Ross’ infamous “We were on a break!”
They span the length of the Bedford Street facade.
The vandals sometimes have the nerve to ask restaurant staffers for Sharpies — and even try to grab markers through the open window of the bistro’s office. Phoebe’s famous quote is immortalized on the wall at the real-life location of Central Perk. “When I see it I say ‘Stop, it’s illegal!’” Campanaro said of the class-A misdemeanor.
He anticipates sandblasting the brick wall will cost “a couple thousand” dollars. He’s also ordered a sign informing fans of the illegality and that they’re under video surveillance. (The cameras belong to the landlord of 90 Bedford, the Merrimaker Corp., which did not return a request seeking comment.)
The chef said he’s going to foot the bill because, ironically, “I feel responsible.”
Back in 2011, he served dinner to a street-artist friend. The pal liked the dinner so much that, as he left, he wrote “I love Joey” — in sidewalk chalk — on the side of the building. Somehow, despite rain and snow, the message stayed put for years. “I think a tourist thought that was meant for [‘Friends’ character] Joey Tribbiani and not Joey Campanaro,” said Campanaro.
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