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Luke Perry, 'Beverly Hills, 90210' and 'Riverdale' actor, dies after stroke at 52, publicist says

Luke Perry, a cast member in the CW

Luke Perry, a cast member in the CW series "Riverdale," during the 2018 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Aug. 6, 2018. Credit: AP / Invision/ Chris Pizzello

Luke Perry, star of "Beverly Hills, 90210," more recently of The CW's "Riverdale," has died. He was 52.

Perry was hospitalized in Los Angeles on Wednesday following what various press accounts reported as a "massive" stroke. His press representative, Arnold Robinson, in a statement Monday, said Perry was surrounded by family and a few close friends.

Long before the Kardashian juggernaut, before Justin Bieber or Britney Spears, there was Perry — the biggest teen idol in the world, even though he was 25 when the third season of "90210" breached the stratosphere in 1992. His megastar status was officially ordained in July of that year when an Annie Leibovitz shot of him appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. "Sexiest Man Alive" honors followed, and breathless reports of a romantic link to Madonna were right behind those.  

And then, without social media or so much as a proto-internet to propel or exploit him any further, the forces of gravity did what they tend to do. He left the show after six seasons for a movie career and when that faltered, went back to "90210" to close out its run by 2000. Luke Perry was still Luke Perry by then, just not that Luke Perry, and over the years since — appearing on stage in New York and London, in various shows such as "Oz" and "John in Cincinnati," more recently in cameo roles and in "Riverdale," where he plays Archie's dad, Fred — Perry claimed to be relieved.

A reluctant recruit to superstardom, he said during a panel at a fan convention a few years ago that "I don't like being famous. I like to appear in a crowd and move on. But the thing that happened … happened real quick and it happened big." He and "90210" castmate Jason Priestley formed a pact "where we [decided not to] buy into any of this. Just go to work and not worry about any of it and we pretty much stuck to that."

Fans and critics looked for antecedents for his character Dylan McKay — the troubled West Beverly Hills High outsider who befriends Minnesota newcomers Brandon (Priestley) and Brenda (Shannen Doherty) — and didn't take long to find one. Dylan was the "brooding" rebel-without-a-cause, hiding his inner hurt behind that tough-guy swagger. "So woe is Dylan, the romantic rebel," a writer once gently teased. Others were not so gentle. He was typically compared to James Dean, also (typically) unfavorably. He worked hard, and unsuccessfully, to dislodge the Dean label: "I'm not James Dean," he once told a reporter, "and no one else is either. There's always someone being called the next James Dean. But there was only one. And he's dead."

Coy Luther Perry III was born in Mansfield, Ohio, and raised in Fredericktown. After high school, he shuttled between New York and Los Angeles — the life of an itinerant actor who, in between auditions, landed gigs on commercials and soaps. Before he was cast in "90210," he was part of a crew that laid asphalt.

He later had roles in a handful of films, including "The Fifth Element," "8 Seconds” and “American Strays,” appeared in HBO’s prison drama "Oz" as a televangelist convicted of fraud, and voiced cartoons.

He made his Broadway musical debut as Brad in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and starred on London’s West End in the stage adaptation of  “When Harry Met Sally.” 

The same day he was hospitalized, Fox TV announced that it would be running a six-episode return of “90210” featuring most of the original cast, but Perry was not among those announced.

With AP

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