From TV Screen to Real-Life Dream: The Day I Met Luke Perry
The very first poster I ever hung on my wall was of Luke Perry. 1990 Luke Perry. Luke Perry as Dylan McKay. I, like many of my generation, was hooked on Beverly Hills, 90210 from the start. And it was Dylan who hooked me. The scar, the stare, the secretive Valentine's Day outing to donate blood... Dylan McKay was the first boy I ever loved. I voraciously read (and kept) the TV Guides, BOPs, and Tiger Beats with Luke Perry on the cover. And I said goodnight to him via poster each evening as he watched over me while I slept. He was the best paper boyfriend a girl could ask for.
Twenty years after 90210 premiered, something extraordinary happened -- something that I had only ever imagined in my wildest dreams. In 2010 - October 22, 2010, to be exact - I was volunteering in the library of the Paley Center for Media when Luke Perry walked in. He wore jeans and a flannel shirt, a baseball cap, and a full beard. I recognized him instantly. My two colleagues, each about fifteen years my senior, did not. Luke walked over to me and wanted to watch some episodes of The Virginian for an upcoming Western he was involved with (likely Goodnight for Justice). So I helped him select two episodes and set him up at a viewing station in the back room where he wouldn't be disturbed. As I turned to walk back to the reception area, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Hey, I forgot that slip that you printed, would you mind getting it for me?" Frankly, I'm surprised I remember what he said, because LUKE PERRY PUT HIS HAND ON MY SHOULDER. I said, "Sure," retrieved the paper detailing his episodes and handed it to him, and he locked eyes with me and said, "Thank you." And all of a sudden I was Brenda Walsh, and he was Dylan McKay, and life was perfect. If he had asked me to donate blood, I would have.
Luke finished watching the episodes and walked back by the reception desk, and we started making small talk about President Obama's visit that day and which roads to avoid. And then he thanked me for my help and walked out, after which I promptly texted my sister and my three best friends from childhood to tell them that I just met Luke Perry, and he was wonderful. I was in a daze for days after.
I know that Dylan McKay was a television character, and that Luke Perry was an actor. But when you spend your tween years watching a TV show that you truly connect with, it's hard to divorce the two. That's the power of television. But I actually got to know both the character AND the actor: I grew up with Dylan, and feel so lucky that I got a chance to meet Luke. They will each forever hold a special place in my heart.
When I interviewed Beverly Hills, 90210 creator Darren Star for The Television Academy Foundation in 2015, I asked him about casting Luke Perry:
"My recollection of him is when he came in to read for Dylan, we loved him, and Aaron [Spelling] loved him. I think it’s very well known that Aaron went out of pocket to hire him on the show as a series regular... Aaron really understood the DNA of what makes shows work, and I think he knew that we needed this kind of character on the show. And of course, Luke was fantastic."
Of course he was.
- Adrienne Faillace