The world was shocked today by the unfortunate announcement that Luke Perry, at one time one of the most notable heartthrobs on the big and small screen, passed away. Perry suffered a stroke at his home in Los Angeles on February 27, 2019 before succumbing to his condition five days later on March 4. A veteran of numerous television series as well as several films I wanted to take the time to honor Perry’s career and legacy myself. It’s been a while since I’ve done an “In Memoriam”, which isn’t a bad thing I guess when you think about it, but I figured this would be a good time to bring the feature back to acknowledge Perry’s time in the spotlight. This is In Memoriam: Luke Perry.
Coy Luther “Luke” Perry, III was born on October 11, 1966 in Mansfield, Ohio where his mother served as a homemaker and his father worked as a steelworker. He lived in Ohio throughout high school and even acted as the mascot for his high school sports teams. After graduating Perry wasted no time and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. In his own words, Perry’s career path led him to New York City where he auditioned for 215 different gigs before finally landing a spot on a commercial and a music video appearance. He began appearing on television in 1982 in “Voyagers!” and closed out the 80s with roles on the TV shows “Loving” and “Another World”. The 90s however thrust Perry into the spotlight with his most famous role debuting in 1990.
Perry’s breakout role of Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills, 90210” established him as a Hollywood heartthrob. He appeared in 199 episodes of the show from 1990 through 1995 and from 1998 through 2000. It quickly became his most iconic character and made him an in demand actor. Funny enough Perry found a niche as a voiceover artist during the 90s as well. Throughout the decade he voiced characters on “Biker Mice from Mars”, “Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm”, “The Incredible Hulk”, and “Pepper Ann”. His popularity even made him a good source of self-parody as he played himself in hit shows like “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy” and “Johnny Bravo”.
While mostly known for his television roles, Perry was also prominent on the big screen where he appeared in a handful of movies over the course of his career. He made his feature film debut in 1991’s “Scorchers” and followed that up with “Terminal Bliss” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in 1992 and the Lane Frost biopic “8 Seconds” in 1994. These roles, plus his stint on “90210” established Perry as a teen idol but the actor sought to join more mature projects in 1995. It was during this time that he took a hiatus from “90210” and appeared in “Normal Life”, “American Strays”, “The Fifth Element”, “The Heist” and numerous television films like “Riot” and “Invasion”. Following his brief return to “90210” Perry continued to act in big and small screen productions in the 2000s with some of his most notable appearances being in “The Triangle”, “Redemption Road”, “Good Intentions” and “Red Wing”. In total Perry appeared in 50 films, many of them made for television, with his final appearance in a movie being Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” which is slated to hit the big screen later this year.
While he was an accomplished actor in smaller productions, Luke Perry was mostly known for his appearances on television. After “90210” ended in 2000 Perry hopped from show to show becoming a staple of small screen entertainment. He made appearance on “Will & Grace”, “What I Like About You”, “Oz”, “ Jeremiah”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, “Criminal Minds”, “Community”, “Major Crimes”, and was most recently part of the main cast for the television adaptation of the Archie Comics “Riverdale” where he earned a new legion of fans in the current young generation. Perry also continued to do voiceover work portraying characters in “Generator Rex”, the “Pound Puppies” reboot, and “Clone High”. Perry was rumored to be among the returning cast members for a proposed reboot of “90210” before his untimely death.
As for his personal life, Perry married Rachel Minnie Sharp 1993 and while is was rumored that she connected with the actor after sending him lingerie Perry insisted they met at a restaurant two years prior to marrying in a very private ceremony. The two stayed together for ten years, separating in 2003, and had two children together. Their son Jack, born in 1997, is now professional wrestler Jungle Boy while their daughter Sophie was born in 2000. Perry was engaged to Wendy Madison Bauer at the time of his death. A stroke wasn’t the first health scare in Luke Perry’s life. Perry became an advocate for colon cancer awareness after a colonoscopy in 2015 found a pre-cancerous growths that were successfully treated.
Despite his career basically being limited to small screen roles and made-for-television movies, Luke Perry still made his mark on the big screen and earned himself a legion of fans that were devastated by the news of his passing. While his death was sudden and unexpected, Perry made a name for himself as a determined and capable actor who didn’t necessarily need the spotlight to shine and will surely be remembered for years to come as a 90’s television icon. His good looks, signature voice and unforgettable stint on “90210” helped him maintain his status as a heartthrob and idol even into his 50s and that is something to be proud of to say the least. To his fans and his family I can only share my sorrow for their loss. May Luke Perry Rest in Peace.