Luke Perry, 1966–2019
The 90210 hunk who became a teen obsession
Coy Luther Perry III was raised in Fredericktown, Ohio, which he described as being simultaneously “a redneck backwater and a rural paradise,” said TheGuardian.com. His steelworker father was a violent alcoholic, and Perry’s parents divorced when he was 6. Perry struggled in high school, said the Los Angeles Times, “an experience he mined for his 90210 character.” “I felt like I belonged on a screen,” he said. “I related to the people up on that screen much more than the people around me.” Perry moved to Los Angeles when he was 17 to pursue acting and landed brief, recurring roles on the daytime soaps Loving and Another World. He was working for an asphalt-laying business when he was cast as Dylan in 90210.
The series about life at the glamorous (and fictional) West Beverly Hills High “premiered on Fox in 1990 to dismal ratings and reviews,” said The Washington Post. But the show took off the following year, with People magazine dubbing Perry “TV’s hottest heartbreaker.” Although Perry never found another star-making vehicle, he appeared in 1992’s film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had a recurring role in the gritty HBO prison drama Oz, and in recent years played the father of another high school heartthrob—Archie Andrews—on CW’s Riverdale. Perry knew his legacy would be his 90210 character. “I’m going to be linked with him until I die,” he said. “But that’s actually just fine. I created Dylan McKay. He’s mine.” ■