When Luke Perry died Monday after suffering a massive stroke, fans mourned the iconic teen heartthrob from “Beverly Hills, 90210” and devoted father on “Riverdale” who carved a special place in TV and movies.
Perry, 52, catapulted to stardom on the groundbreaking teen drama “Beverly Hills, 90210” during the 1990s as rebel Dylan McKay, the irresistible bad boy and loner with a tender heart. With his movie-star good looks, long sideburns and cool demeanor, Perry invoked the “Rebel Without a Cause” himself, 1950s teen idol James Dean. The actor’s easygoing smile and scar on his right eyebrow enamored many young girls, myself included.
I watched “90210” and its 10 seasons throughout elementary school and high school, growing up alongside its characters. I was thrilled when Perry returned to the show in 1998 after a three-year break. When the show ended in 2000, it was only right that Dylan McKay was there.
After appearing on TV shows including “Oz,” “Jeremiah” and “John from Cincinnati,” Perry found a new generation of fans on the Archie Comics-inspired CW drama “Riverdale.” As Fred Andrews, Perry played the father of its main character, Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), and acted as the show’s moral center.
As well known as Perry was for his TV roles, plenty of fans remember him for his film roles. In 1992, Perry starred in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the precursor to the beloved 1997 TV series. As Pike, Perry helped Valley girl and cheerleader Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson) take on the undead.
Perry got his first major lead film role in “8 Seconds,” a biopic about legendary rodeo champion Lane Frost. Perry played the bull rider throughout his life and career. Though Perry was praised for his performance, his aspiring movie career did not take off. But the film has since garnered a following among fans.
In 1997, Perry appeared in Luc Besson’s sci-fi cult classic “The Fifth Element,” which starred Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. He played Billy, a professor’s assistant who sets off a security mechanism at an Egyptian temple, launching the film’s story.
Perry’s final film performance will be in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is set during the Manson family murders in 1969. The film will hit theaters July 26.
At 52, Perry left us far too young and too soon. But the actor’s work in TV and film – as well as his warm smile – will continue to live on.
Stay cool, Dylan McKay.