Luke Perry, ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ Star, Is Dead at 52


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, most recently, the CW series “Riverdale,” died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 52.

His family announced the death. He had been hospitalized after a stroke last Wednesday.

On “Beverly Hills, 90210,” a series about young people in a well-off ZIP code, Mr. Perry played Dylan McKay, a bad-boy teenager who struggled with alcoholism. The show, after a sluggish first season, became a hit and a pop-culture phenomenon, and the good-looking Mr. 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 August 1991. “Luke Perry and Jason Priestley, the actors who play Dylan and Brandon, are today’s favorite TV heartthrobs, their kissable photographs, clean-cut family backgrounds and list of wholesome hobbies flooding magazines for teenagers.”

At a time when much TV fare aimed at younger audiences was fairly tame, “Beverly Hills, 90210” mixed its romantic intrigues with serious themes, like teenage pregnancy and racism. Mr. Perry, who was 24 when the show began (although he played a teenager), stayed for the first six seasons, left for Seasons 7 and 8, then returned for the final two.

The series ended in 2000 after almost 300 episodes and spawned several spinoffs, including “Melrose Place” and the 2008 reboot “90210.” Another reboot was recently announced.

In addition to all those teenage fans, the show’s success brought Mr. Perry parts in films like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992), “The Fifth Element” (1997) and “Redemption Road” (2010). He also made dozens of television appearances, including regular roles on the prison drama “Oz,” the post-apocalyptic series “Jeremiah,” the crime drama “Body of Proof” and “Riverdale,” the CW series based on the Archie comics, on which he played Archie’s father.

The producers of “Riverdale” said in a statement, “A father figure and mentor to the show’s young cast, Luke was incredibly generous, and he infused the set with love and kindness.”

“Looking back at it all now, it was pretty frightening,” he told Vanity Fair. “I try to reiterate to these people writing the show that these kids ain’t stupid. They see. They know. ‘Don’t be afraid to talk to them about real issues on a real level.’ ”

When his mother remarried, Mr. Perry moved with her to Fredericktown, Ohio. There, he told The Mansfield News Journal in 2010, he played Freddie Bird, the school system’s mascot, for a time.

He credited his Midwest upbringing with helping him to cope with fame. “Growing up in the Midwest, people don’t drive Porsches and Ferraris and Maseratis,” he told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland in 2006. “People drive Ford and Chevy and Dodge. A lot of times people forget what makes sense to them and what got them where they were, and they want to have all this new stuff. And I think they go a little astray there.”

After graduating from high school, Mr. Perry went first to Los Angeles and then to New York.

“It was never about escape,” he said. “It was about wanting to feel like I belonged. I felt like I belonged on a screen.”

In New York he worked on “Another World” as well as another soap, “Loving,” then tried Los Angeles again, with little result at first. He was earning money laying asphalt when the “90210” role came along.



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