We’re still in shock over the stunning news that Luke Perry died earlier this morning at the age of 52, following a massive stroke. Perry died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California surrounded by his large family and other close friends. He was rushed to the hospital last Wednesday after suffering a stroke at his home in Sherman Oaks, California and was initially responsive with the EMT crew arrived, but his condition rapidly deteriorated.
Perry became famous in the early 1990s as teen heartthrob Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills 90210, but when the show left the airwaves in 2000, he struggled to escape its shadow despite occasional roles on shows like Oz, Body of Proof and Jeremiah. His career, however, took a huge upswing in 2017 when he was cast as the father of Archie Andrews on the hit CW show Riverdale. He also was cast in Quentin Tarantino’s much-anticipated movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which will wind up being his final appearance on the big screen.
Despite his recent return to the spotlight, most people will forever remember Perry for his work on 90210. He infused the character of Dylan McKay with a brooding vulnerability that made him an icon from the minute he appeared on screen. He was as rich as many of his fellow students at West Beverly Hill School, but his father was a crooked businessman that paid him little attention. He lived in a hotel in the early seasons and thrived without any real supervision or rules. He initially dated Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty), but then left her for her best friend Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) and left teens all over the country in a state of absolute shock.
Here’s a famous scene from the 21st episode of the third season. Dylan’s father Jack has just been released from prison and they move onto a boat together and try to fix their damaged relationship. But he owes money to the mob and they blow up his car in retaliation as Dylan looks on hopelessly. The tragedy reverberates throughout the remainder of the series, though in the final season Dylan learns that Jack faked his own death and was actually in the Witness Protection Program. (You’d think the Witness Protection Program wouldn’t traumatize a teenager by forcing them to witness what they believe is their father’s fiery death — but who are we to question their methods?)
The writers from season three certainly didn’t mean to imply that Jack was still alive when they wrote that episode, but after 10 years a show gets a little desperate for new ideas and dead people suddenly start coming back to life. It’s the kind of thing they were going to mock on the upcoming 90210 quasi-reboot that will feature the original cast playing “heightened versions” of themselves as they try to bring the show back onto the airwaves. Perry was too busy with Riverdale to commit to it, though they were hoping he would make a cameo. Tragically, that’s no longer possible — though it’s likely they’ll find some other way to honor him.