Even Michael J. Fox got called the next James Dean. They just want him to be alive and kicking, and he isn’t. So get over it! Luke Perry, on his frequent comparison to Dean LUKE PERRY was the resident Rebel Without a Clue on Beverly Hills 90210 for so long that he started to look like James Dean’s older, more grizzled uncle. Growing up in a small farming community in Ohio, Perry could not have imagined that he would one day incite a mob of 10,000 squealing teenagers to attack him in a suburban shopping mall. A mediocre student with talents for flirting and getting into mischief, he first satisfied his urge to act by donning yellow tights, red feathers, a cape, and webbed feet as “Freddie Bird,” his school’s mascot. Following graduation, he hotfooted it to Hollywood, where he earned money for his acting classes by working in a doorknob factory, laying asphalt, and selling shoes. He tallied 216 failed auditions before landing a role as country bumpkin Ned Bates on the New York-filmed daytime drama Loving, a gig which led in turn to work in Levi’s 501 commercials and a stint on another soap, Another World.
After returning to L.A. in 1990, Perry won the role of dangerously sexy bad boy Dylan McKay on Aaron Spelling’s Beverly Hills 90210, an hour-long, prime-time drama about the trials and tribulations of well-to-do teens at West Beverly Hills High (a fictional version of the tony Beverly Hills High). Perry’s Dylan was a brooding, soulful Fonzie for the nineties, and he was soon receiving upwards of 3,000 fan letters a week. Perry was so popular, in fact, that his personal appearances tended to turn into riots–he even had to be spirited out of one shopping mall in a laundry hamper to avoid the clutches of his lovesick fans. He branched out into film with the back-to-back 1992 releases of the utterly forgettable Terminal Bliss and the truly atrocious Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both of which capitalized on his James Dean-like appeal. He attempted to distance himself from this teenybopper image with a starring role in a 1994 biopic about the late rodeo champion Lane Frost, 8 Seconds, but the film barely held on that long in movie theaters. Though a commercial flop, it did profoundly influence his wardrobe; he was thereafter frequently seen in ten-gallon hats and cowboy boots. At one time romantically linked to Baywatch star Yasmine Bleeth, Perry married Minnie Sharp, a former paralegal, after production on the film wrapped. The Perrys currently live in the San Fernando Valley with their two children and three Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.
Closing in on his thirtieth birthday, Perry finally graduated from Beverly Hills 90210 in 1995. Life beyond the popular series hasn’t exactly been jam-packed with plum leading-man assignments. In 1996, he was paired with Ashley Judd in the little-seen Normal Life, a drama based on the true story of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde-esque bank-robbing couple from suburban Chicago, and that same year, he also appeared in the virtually ignored American Strays. Some of Perry’s most recent projects have been TV movies: he played a cop in Showtime’s Riot and fell victim to an extraterrestrial virus in Robin Cook’s Invasion. On the big screen, he appeared as an archeological assistant in the Bruce Willis sci-fi flick The Fifth Element; he next plays a man who seduces and plots the murder of a woman in order to harvest one of her lungs to save his wife’s life in the thriller Lifebreath. Perry has also started his own production company, the quaintly titled Midwest Productions.
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