Luke Perry was not just a teen idol

The cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 include (above from left) Brian Austin Green, Jennie Garth, Luke Perry, Shannen Doherty, Jason Priestley, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris and Douglas Emerson.
The cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 include (above from left) Brian Austin Green, Jennie Garth, Luke Perry, Shannen Doherty, Jason Priestley, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris and Douglas Emerson.PHOTO: UPI
The cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 include (above from left) Brian Austin Green, Jennie Garth, Luke Perry, Shannen Doherty, Jason Priestley, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris and Douglas Emerson.
Luke PerryPHOTO: UPI

The star, who played Dylan McKay in the original Beverly Hills, 90210 cut his teeth in television, film and on stage

NEW YORK • Luke Perry, who burst onto the television scene and countless fan-magazine covers in 1990 as one of the core cast members of the Fox drama Beverly Hills, 90210, then went on to a busy career in television and film that included the series Riverdale, died on Monday in Los Angeles after he was hospitalised for a stroke last week.

He was 52.

After he was hospitalised, his former 90210 love interest, Shannen Doherty, gave an emotional interview to Entertainment Tonight, saying: "I can't talk about it here 'cause I will literally start crying, but I love him and he knows I love him."

"It's Luke and he's my Dylan," she said of Dylan McKay, the brooding 90210 character who propelled Perry to teen idol status.

On Beverly Hills, 90210, a series about young people in a well-off ZIP code, Perry played a bad boy who struggled with alcoholism. The show, after a sluggish first season, became a hit and a pop-culture phenomenon, and the good-looking Perry was a primary reason.

"Young women are obviously lured by the guys-to-drool-over factor," Caryn James wrote in The New York Times in 1991. "Perry and Jason Priestley, who play Dylan and Brandon respectively, are today's favourite TV heart-throbs, their kissable photographs, clean-cut family backgrounds and list of wholesome hobbies flooding magazines for teenagers."

At a time when much television fare aimed at younger audiences was fairly tame, Beverly Hills, 90210 mixed its romantic intrigues with serious themes, such as teenage pregnancy and racism.

Perry, who was 24 when the show began (though he played a teenager), stayed for the first six seasons, left during Seasons 7 and 8, then returned for the final two.

The series ended in 2000 after almost 300 episodes and spawned spin-offs, including Melrose Place and the 2008 reboot 90210.

  • 8 things about Perry 

  • 1 Humble beginnings

    Perry was born in Mansfield, Ohio and grew up in small farm towns. His mother Ann Bennett was a homemaker and his father Coy Luther Perry Junior was a steel worker. His parents divorced when he was six. Perry was estranged from his father, who he said was violent and drunk. His father died in 1980 and the two never reconciled.

    His mother remarried construction worker Steve Bennett when he was 12. Perry and his stepfather were extremely close and Perry said he was "the one who taught me the important things I needed to know about being a man". His mother and stepfather were by his bedside when he died.

    2 He might not have been McKay 

    Instead of being the cool loner, Perry might have been the brash rich kid. He had tried out for the role of Steve Sanders, but lost out to actor Ian Ziering. Perry was asked back to audition for Dylan McKay and landed the role, which propelled him to fame.

    3 He made sideburns cool

    Perry's sideburns became a cultural phenomenon. While his co-star Jason Priestley, who played Brandon Walsh, also sported sideburns, it was Perry's that fans gushed about. The early 1990s saw a resurgence of sideburns in young men and Perry was often credited for the trend.

    4 Riot-inducing popularity 

    At the height of his popularity, his appearance caused chaos. In 1991, when he appeared at a Fort Lauderdale mall for an autograph signing session, teenagers shoved towards the stage the moment he appeared and 21 people were reportedly injured. Three months before that appearance, he had to hide in a laundry hamper to escape some 4,000 fans who had descended upon him.

    5 Crazy, dramatic arcs 

    The teenage soap opera put Perry and his character Dylan through the ringer. By the time the series ended, a battle with alcoholism and drugs were the least of Dylan's dramatic storylines. He got conned of most of his money, his father was jailed and his one-time wife Toni (Rebecca Gayheart) was mistakenly killed by a hitman hired by her mobster father.

    6 Dylan's romantic history

    The show's 10 seasons detail Dylan's slew of on-again-off-again relationships. He was most famously involved in a love triangle with Shannen Doherty's Brenda and Jennie Garth's Kelly. He also had a affair with Valerie (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen), got married to Toni who died tragically, and dated Gina (Vanessa Marcil) before going back to Kelly.

    7 Real-life romances

    Perry's real-life romances were simpler. He was romantically linked to Baywatch's Yasmine Bleeth in the 1980s and reportedly dated Kelly Preston in 1990 before she married John Travolta. He then married Minnie Rachel Sharp, whose father was a screenwriter, in 1993. They had two children and stayed married for 20 years until 2003, when they separated. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Wendy Madison Bauer. Both Bauer and Sharp were present when Perry died.

    8 His son is a wrestler

    Jack, Perry's son with ex-wife Minnie Rachel Sharp, followed in his father's footsteps into the spotlight, albeit in a different arena. The 21-year-old is a professional wrestler better known as "Jungle Boy" Nate Coy. He sports long, curly mane and his features strongly resembled that of his father's. He and his sister Sophie were both by Perry's deathbed.

    Jan Lee

Another reboot is in the works.

The show's success brought Perry parts in films such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992), The Fifth Element (1997) and Redemption Road (2010).

He also made dozens of television appearances, including regular roles on prison drama Oz, crime drama Body Of Proof and Riverdale, the series based on the Archie comics, on which he played Archie's father.

Coy Luther Perry III was born on Oct 11, 1966, in Mansfield, Ohio. His parents divorced when he was six.

When his mother remarried, Perry moved with her to Fredericktown, Ohio. He credited his Midwest upbringing with helping him to cope with fame.

"Growing up in the Midwest, people don't drive Porsches, Ferraris and Maseratis," he told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland in 2006. "People drive Ford, Chevy and Dodge."

After high school, Perry went to Los Angeles, then to New York.

In New York, he worked on Another World and another soap, Loving, then tried Los Angeles again. He was earning money laying asphalt when the 90210 role came along.

Perry, whose looks were often compared with actor James Dean's, did most of his work in television and films, but occasionally tried the stage.

He made his only Broadway appearance, as a fill-in in The Rocky Horror Show, in 2001.

Perry married Minnie Rachel Sharp in 1993; the marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by two children, Jack and Sophie; his mother, Ann Bennett; a brother, Tom; and a sister, Amy Coder.

"Funny, committed and always gracious," writer and director Joss Whedon, who worked with him on Buffy, said on Twitter.

Molly Ringwald, a fellow teen idol, who played Perry's estranged wife on Riverdale, tweeted that her "heart is broken".

Doherty and Perry's 90210 co-star, Ian Ziering, tweeted: "Dearest Luke, I will forever bask in the loving memories we've shared over the last thirty years."

Fellow 90210 co-stars Jennie Garth and Gabrielle Carteris gave statements to People. "My heart is broken. He meant so much to so many," Garth, whose character dated Perry's, told the magazine.

Carteris said he was "a very sensitive soul who was kind, generous and he fought for the underdog".

Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson said Perry was her first real crush. "I wrote him fan letters. I had posters of him," she tweeted.

She was not the only one who liked the actor from afar.

"Luke Perry was my first crush," tweeted actress Olivia Munn. "Eh, more like obsession (I wore pins with his face on them to school). I used to dream of making it to L.A. just to meet him. I never got to, but I've always heard he was a really great person. Praying for his family and kids."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Luke Perry was not just a teen idol'. Print Edition | Subscribe