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Luke Perry of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ and ‘Riverdale’ fame dies at 52 after stroke

By Nardine Saad

Luke Perry, the actor best known as bad-boy heartthrob Dylan McKay from the 1990s TV drama “Beverly Hills, 90210,” has died. He was 52.

Publicist Arnold Robinson confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Perry died Monday after suffering a massive stroke.

Perry “was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancee Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, stepfather Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder and other close family and friends,” Robinson said.

“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning,” he added. “No further details will be released at this time.”

The actor was hospitalized last week after Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to an “unspecified medical aid request” at his Sherman Oaks home. He was put under observation after that, Robinson said at the time.

The former teen idol was most recently seen on the CW’s “Riverdale,” on which he played Fred Andrews, the father of the show’s protagonist, Archie Andrews. Production on the dark, Archie Comics-inspired series was shut down on Monday in the wake of Perry’s death.

In a statement, executive producers, Warner Bros. Television and the CW described Perry as “a beloved member of the Riverdale, Warner Bros. and CW family.”

“Luke was everything you would hope he would be: an incredibly caring, consummate professional with a giant heart, and a true friend to all. A father figure and mentor to the show’s young cast, Luke was incredibly generous, and he infused the set with love and kindness. Our thoughts are with Luke’s family during this most difficult time,” they said.

The Ohio-born actor was next expected to appear in Quentin Tarantino’s Charles Manson murder tale “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is due this summer.

His death comes nearly a week after Fox announced a six-episode revival of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” the hit teen prime-time soap that starred Perry, Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty, among others. However, Perry had not yet been attached to the project.

The original series, created by Darren Starr and produced by Aaron Spelling, was credited with putting the affluent ZIP code on the map. It ran on Fox from 1990 to 2000, and Perry’s Dylan was the disaffected, ever-mysterious love interest of the teen drama’s romantic leads, Brenda (Doherty) and Kelly (Garth).

Fox said that he “will always be part of the Fox family” and that he “will be deeply missed.”

His co-stars rallied around him online following news of last week’s stroke, and fans and colleagues paid tribute to the late actor on Monday.

Gabrielle Carteris, president of the actors union SAG-AFTRA and Perry’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” co-star, said in a statement that Perry “was a tremendous force in the lives of so many.”

“He was a very sensitive soul who was kind, generous and he fought for the underdog. He was a strong voice and an advocate who will be so missed by all who knew him. He has left his mark _ never to be forgotten,” Carteris said.

He left the show in 1995 following a contrived plotline involving Dylan marrying the daughter of a mobster, but he returned in 1998 to close out the series after a string of feature films. He did not participate in the CW’s 2008 reboot, which featured a few of the soap’s original stars.

“You know, some actors aren’t very gracious; I’m always trying to be gracious and act with a lot of tact. ... You’ll never catch me throwing a phone,” he said in a 2006 Times story.

Perry, who was born Coy Luther Perry III on Oct. 11, 1966, and his family moved around several Ohio farm towns before settling in Fredericktown. His parents divorced when he was 6 because his father was a violent drunk, he told Vanity Fair in 1992. He didn’t do well in high school and never made it to college, but instead moved away when he was 17, an experience he mined for his “90210” character.

“I felt like another,” he told the magazine. “It was never about escape. It was about wanting to feel like I belonged. I felt like I belonged on a screen. I don’t know why. I guess because I related to the people up on that screen much more than the people around me. I always felt like I was one of them and in a matter of time I’d get there.”

He moved to Los Angeles, then New York to pursue acting, and landed brief, recurring roles on the daytime soaps “Loving” on ABC and “Another World” on NBC. He worked many construction jobs and enrolled in an audition-workshop class to improve his craft, and then moved back to L.A., where he worked more construction jobs until he found steady work.

Perry befriended several members of the Arquette family and hobnobbed with Robert Downey Jr. and Madonna early in his career. He also played Buffy Summers’ ally and love interest, Oliver Pike, in Joss Whedon’s 1992 film version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

After that, Perry never found quite the same level of success on the big screen, even when he starred in the 1994 biopic “8 Seconds,” playing rodeo hero Lane Frost. And he provided some comedic relief as Billy Masterson in Luc Besson’s 1997 sci-fi adventure “The Fifth Element.”

Perry played himself on “The Simpsons” and notched several guest appearances on comedies such as “Spin City,” “Will & Grace” and “Community.” His lengthy TV resume also included voice-over work and short stints on the sitcoms and dramas “Oz,” “Windfall,” “John From Cincinnati” and “Body of Proof.”

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