Actor Luke Perry died on March 4, 2019 after being hospitalized for a massive stroke. The star of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Riverdale” was only 52 years old. For those who watched him on TV in the ’90s, he will be forever remembered as the handsome, brooding heartthrob, Dylan McKay. Perry was so much more than that one character, however, including a father of two.
Here’s a look at the life of the man who will be remembered by those who knew him for his wisdom and kindness.
Born In Ohio
Perry was born on Oct. 11, 1966, in Fredericktown, Ohio, to parents Ann Bennett, a homemaker, and Coy Luther Perry Jr., a steelworker. Perry was the second of three children and his parents divorced when he was 6.
School Mascot—And Flirt
In the limelight from a young age, Perry served as the school mascot Freddie Bird for Fredericktown High School. He was voted “Biggest Flirt” by his 1984 graduating high school class. Perry’s school days were a world apart from West Beverly Hills High, one of the settings for the TV show that later made him a household name.
Love Of Animals
Perry grew up in Ohio around all sorts of farm animals and had his own pet pig as a kid, whom he named Jerry Lee after the 1950s rock star Jerry Lee Lewis. Later in life, he was devoted to his two boxer dogs, Casey and Mac.
He Wanted To Fight Fires
Before he landed his “90210” role, Perry worked a variety of jobs, earning money as a factory worker and construction worker. However, what he really wanted to do was fight fires.
“I’ve had tons of odd jobs, but I think that I would probably be a fireman because you get to see the results of your job,” he said in a 1993 behind-the-scenes interview. “You get there and there is a house on fire. You leave and there’s not a fire anymore.”
When he decided to audition for “90210,” Perry was laying down asphalt.
Perry famously kept a tally of his 216 acting rejections before he got his first major TV role as Ned Bates on the ABC soap opera “Loving,” which ran from 1983 to 1995. Perry relocated to New York City to play Bates, a character he described as a “country bumpkin with a heart of gold.”
Daytime Soap Regular
After his 1987 stint on “Loving,” Perry moved on to another daytime soap, “Another World,” playing a character named Kenny. He once referred to working on soap operas as “the best training in the world.” Perry also appeared in commercials, including one for Levi’s 501 jeans, before landing his breakout role on “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Perry rose to fame as heartthrob Dylan McKay on the hit show “Beverly Hills, 90210,” which first aired in October 1990. He starred alongside Jason Priestley (Brandon), Shannen Doherty (Brenda), Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea), Jennie Garth (Kelly), Brian Austin Green (David), Tori Spelling (Donna) and Ian Ziering (Steve). Perry was in “90210” from 1990 to 1995, and again from 1998 to 2000.
Almost A Different Character
Perry was brilliant as the lovable rogue Dylan McKay, but he initially auditioned for the role of the entitled, spoiled Steve. This part eventually went to Ian Ziering, but Perry was called back to audition for a role that was the polar opposite, and which quickly became one of the most popular “902010” characters. In a 2005 TV Guide list of TV’s greatest teen idols, Dylan McKay ranked No. 6.
Not The New James Dean
As the rebel-with-a-heart Dylan, who rocked a leather jacket and a quiff hairstyle, comparisons to iconic actor James Dean were natural. But Perry himself couldn’t see the similarities, saying, “I’m not James Dean. And no one else is, either.”
He added, “at one point or another, everybody gets called ‘the new James Dean.'”
Perry wasn’t completely comfortable with his role as a heartthrob, saying “all of that is just fantasy.”
Not A Porsche Fan
Perry didn’t share his “90210” character’s love for his on-screen Porsche, telling People, “Porsches are glorified Volkswagens, man.” At one point, Dylan’s famous car was suspended from the ceiling of the Myrtle Beach Planet Hollywood restaurant, but the vehicle has been privately owned since the restaurant shut down. It was recently listed for sale — minus the engine, exhaust and gas tank.
Unforgettable TV Moments
As Dylan McKay, Perry gave audiences some unforgettable TV moments. Fans of the show will remember when Dylan and Brenda split up for the first — and definitely not the last — time, after kissing in Dylan’s Porsche to the tune of REM’s “Losing My Religion.” And then there was the shocking season six scene where Dylan’s new bride Toni (Rebecca Gayheart) is shot by a hit man who mistakes her for Dylan. Which is your favorite Dylan McKay moment?
In 1991, Perry started dating Rachel Sharp after meeting her in a restaurant, and they got married two years later. At the time, it was reported that Aaron Spelling, the producer of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” once called Sharp “good” for Perry because she had a non-Hollywood background.
“She’s not in show business. Her head is on really straight,” said Spelling.
The couple had a small, private wedding with only 50 guests, including some of Perry’s “Beverly Hills, 90210′” castmates.
Buffy’s Love Interest
During his time on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” Perry starred in the 1992 film “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui and written by Joss Whedon. Perry played Pike, the romantic male lead, alongside Kristy Swanson as Buffy and David Arquette as Benny.
In the 1994 biographical drama movie “8 Seconds,” directed by John G. Avildsen, Perry plays American rodeo legend Lane Frost alongside a very young Renée Zellweger. “8 Seconds” refers to the length of time a bull rider has to stay on a bull for the ride to be scored. It wasn’t a critically acclaimed film, but Perry was applauded for his performance.
Another Defining TV Role
Perry’s first significant TV role after “90210” was in the fourth season of “Oz,” a hardcore prison drama. He appeared in 10 episodes in 2000 as evangelist Jeremiah Cloutier, the son of a preacher, who was incarcerated for embezzling money from his church. Perry’s time on “Oz” ended when his character was killed by a biker gang.
Perry played the title role on Showtime’s post-apocalyptic series “Jeremiah” from 2002 to 2004. The show was created by J. Michael Straczynski, who was later known for “Babylon 5.” Perry starred alongside Malcolm-Jamal Warner in the show, which told the story of people who had been left behind as children when a disease wiped out every adult.
On-Screen Lottery Winner
In 2006, Perry starred as Peter Schaefer on NBC’s “Windfall,” about a group of friends who win $20 million each on the lottery. The show, which only ran for one season, also starred Jason Gedrick, Jon Foster, Sarah Wynter and Lana Parrilla.
Surf Talent Scout
On another NBC show, “John from Cincinnati,” which also aired for just one season in 2007, Perry played Linc Stark, a surf talent scout, manager and agent. The show followed the dysfunctional Yost family as they tried to deal with new surprise arrivals in their home of Imperial Beach, California.
Medical Drama Series
ABC show “Body of Proof,” which ran for three seasons from 2011 to 2013, starred Dana Delany as medical examiner Dr. Megan Hunt. Perry was a recurring cast member in seasons two and three, CDC Officer/Health Commissioner Charlie Stafford.
Perry also guest-starred in various sitcoms. In a 1997 episode of “Spin City,” he played Carter Heywood’s ex-boyfriend, who subsequently fell in love with a woman, and he popped up in “Will & Grace” in 2005 as a bird-watcher named Aaron who catches the eye of Jack McFarland.
Treading The Boards
In 2001, Perry made his Broadway debut as Brad in a revival of “The Rocky Horror Show.” He later starred in the 2004 stage production of “When Harry Met Sally.”
Perry had to help audience members in London’s Theatre Royal, Haymarket, when part of the ceiling collapsed during a performance. He tended to some of the injured and helped to evacuate the building.
Perry also did a significant amount of voice acting, lending his talent to cartoons like “Biker Mice from Mars,” “Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm,” “The Legend of Calamity Jane,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Pepper Ann” and “Pound Puppies.”
Perry and Sharp divorced in 2003 after 10 years of marriage. They had two children together — Jack (now a professional wrestler who goes by the name of “Jungle Boy” Nate Coy) was born on June 15, 1997, and Sophie was born on June 7, 2000. After the split, the couple shared custody of their children.
A True Homebody
Perry was believed to be happiest at home, away from the spotlight, with the people closest to him. He divided his time between Los Angeles and Vanleer, Tennessee, cooking for his children and family, driving his truck and trying new activities.
“I go four-wheeling in my truck. I also like to fish, cook, do stuff around my house,” he said. “I even studied fencing for a while.”
A New TV Hit
Most recently, Perry had a starring role as Archie’s dad, Fred Andrews, on the noir teen drama “Riverdale.” In a show packed with murderers and mobsters, Perry’s character was one of the good guys. (If there was an award for Best TV Dad, he’d definitely be in the running.)
In The Pipeline
Perry also filmed a role in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” alongside Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie, which centers on an aging star of a Western TV series and his stuntman and is set around the time of the Manson family murders, is due to be released in July 2019.
The same day Perry was hospitalized, a reboot of “90210” was announced. The majority of the original cast have signed up, but Perry was reportedly only able to commit to a few guest spots due to his “Riverdale” schedule. (Shannen Doherty has yet to confirm.) The reboot will debut in summer 2019 and consist of six new episodes, picking up where the original series left off, with the characters living as adults in California.
Rushed To The Hospital
On Feb. 27, 2019, Perry suffered a massive stroke at his Sherman Oaks, California, home. According to the emergency dispatch audio obtained by TMZ, paramedics received a call for a stroke at the property. When EMTs arrived, Perry was reportedly responsive and talking, but his condition deteriorated. He’s pictured below with his fiance.
RIP Luke Perry
On March 4, 2019, Perry died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank. He was surrounded by his children, Jack and Sophie, his fiancee Wendy Madison Bauer, his ex-wife Rachel Sharp, his mother Ann Bennett, his stepfather Steve Bennett, his brother Tom Perry, his sister Amy Coder and other close family and friends.
After Perry’s death, Ziering posted an Instagram picture of the two of them together, writing, “I will forever bask in the loving memories we’ve shared over the last thirty years.”
“Riverdale” execs said, “Luke was everything you would hope he would be: an incredibly caring, consummate professional with a giant heart, and a true friend to all.”
They continued, “A father figure and mentor to the show’s young cast, Luke was incredibly generous, and he infused the set with love and kindness. Our thoughts are with Luke’s family during this most difficult time.”
Molly Ringwood, who plays his ex-wife on the show, tweeted, “my heart is broken. I will miss you so much Luke Perry. Sending all my love to your family.”
The writer’s room for Riverdale announced that they’re dedicating season 3 to their “lovely family member and friend” Perry.