I just read the news that Luke Perry has died at 52.
I feel like someone needs to take a moment to explain Luke Perry to those youngsters who see the face and the age and think, “Meh—another old guy I’ve never heard of. Ho-hum.”
So, from 1990-2000, Luke Perry starred as “Dylan McKay,” the dark, brooding cool kid on the enormously popular TV show, “Beverly Hills 90210.” And while re-runs of 90210 make the program seem corny and quirky and silly, it was actually the sort of production that hooked viewers; that grabbed them; that made them feel invested in the far-away life and times of a bunch of teens attending high school in Beverly Hills.
Perry wasn’t, technically, the star of the show (that designation would probably be presented to Jason Priestley), but he was the muscle. In the heat of if all, I’m not sure he ever received the acting props that were warranted. But Perry did with McKay what, two decades earlier, the equally skilled Henry Winkler did with Arthur Fonzarelli. He made him seem … above it all. Cool, but not a dick. Detached, but not unengaged. It’s hard to explain. Nuanced is probably the best word. His portrayal—for what it was—was very nuanced.
Interestingly, and not unlike Winker-The Fonz, Perry was nothing like Dylan McKay. He just seemed to be a nice guy, looking for acting gigs and opportunities. He wasn’t particularly cool or intimidating or dark. He was an actor. A good one.
And, for so many teens back in the day, he was the personification of idol.