In 1992 interview with Dayton Daily News, Luke Perry talks about acting, fame and growing up in Ohio

Luke Perry, a teenage heartthrob on the 1990s television series “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and the current CW series, “Riverdale,” died Monday, March 4, just days after suffering a massive stroke. 

The actor, who was raised in Fredericktown, Ohio, sat down for a 1992 interview with Dayton Daily News reporter Tom Hopkins. 

The two met at a diner in Marina Del Ray, Calif. and talked about the Ohioan’s role on the hit television series “90210,” fame and growing up in Ohio.

Here is the original story published in the April 26, 1992 issue of the Dayton Daily News.

— Archive content compiled by Lisa Powell, Staff Writer 


Unrequited love is bugging Luke Perry.

We are sitting at the counter at Edie's Diner, an oceanside hamburger joint just a short Beamer's drive from Hollywood. We're pretending it's the Peach Pit, fave hangout of the high school gang on Fox's megahit “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

Perry has come a long way from that Ohio farm he grew up on. He plays Dylan McKay, resident rebel and recovering alcoholic, on the hottest teen show on television.

But the guy with the killer sideburns and gold earring is ruing the day when Fox decided to take a cold shower.

Beverly Hills (9 p.m. Thursdays on Channel 45) has addressed safe sex, teen-age alcoholism, AIDS, racism, drinking and driving, parental substance abuse, date rape and teen suicide, and that's fine with Perry.

But Cool Hand Luke isn't happy with the way Beverly Hills has gone into the sexual closet this season.

A year ago, Perry was playing second fiddle to Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty, the stars of that likable brother-and-sister act, Brandon and Brenda.

Then came prom night. That's the night Dylan and virginal Brenda went all the way.

Sponsors and parents hit the roof. Even Doherty admits that she complained to producers that the episode would send out the wrong message.

"People were very afraid that we were condoning, possibly even promoting, sexuality among teens," Perry said.

"We're not. I think if there is any message that our show puts out about sexuality to teen-agers, it's that abstinence is the safest route.

"Whenever anybody on our show has had sex, it's had certain consequences and led a character to consider abstinence as the best option while in high school. Sex is not something to be taken lightly, and that's the message that we put across."

Trouble is, Fox reacted to the criticism by going into withdrawal pains. Dylan and Brenda broke up, then reunited - and stopped having sex.

In one earnest show this season, the message was that condoms are good — and abstinence even better.

In an odd Valentine's Day episode, Dylan kept dropping hints to Brenda that they were going to have a red hot night — then took her to a clinic to give blood.

For his part, Brandon was lured into a hot tub with the most beautiful girl in school, who wanted to have sex with him. And he said no.

That kind of unreality drives Perry up the wall. He sees the audience and advertisers dictating story lines, and he's furious: "Our characters just stopped having sex! They don't even talk about it anymore."

But Fox knows what teen viewers like, and sex still drives the show.

A synopsis for this week's story line reads like this: "Brenda and Dylan head south of the border for a romantic weekend in Mexico. Meanwhile, Kelly finds love with a twentysomething construction worker. For ages 12 and up."

Incidentally, the construction worker turns out to be Jake Hanson (Grant Show of the late Ryan's Hope), Luke's mentor in all matters cool. He'll star in the spinoff series, Melrose Place.

It'll feature a new group of young, unknown actors and will be set on LA's trendy Melrose Avenue. Fox has ordered seven episodes of the one-hour show to debut this summer.

Not bad — a series that isn't even two years old already has spawned a spinoff series. Fox already has ordered 60 more episodes of Beverly Hills.

When Perry appears at malls, he causes riots. During a melee in Florida last year, 21 fans were injured. Police had to sneak him out in a laundry bin.

He and Priestley are TV's champion mail-getters, each pulling in 3,000 letters a week.

You can even buy Luke and Jason dolls, for heaven's sake. Luke's has an earring — and that's a first for Mattel.

But Perry, 26, is clearly uncomfortable with all the acclaim, because it also means loss of privacy.

A rail-thin guy, he's been called the new James Dean, but he reacts angrily to the comparison.

"Yeah, I've read that about Jason, and Brad Pitt, and Michael J. Fox, and Phil Donahue," he quipped. "At one point or another, everybody gets called 'the new James Dean.'

"We're both from the Midwest and we both crashed a few cars and we both have problems. I certainly have some. He's dead, I'm not. I don't plan on it. He made three motion pictures that shook the world and I haven't."

Perry suspects he's just "the flavor of the month" and says he's fighting to make sure that when the fans switch their gaze to somebody else, he'll still be able to act.

And don't call him a role model.

Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, File

Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, File

"It doesn't say 'role model' in my contract," he said. "I looked at every page. I was hired as an actor. It's what we do. The role model thing gets imposed on you by someone else. I don't think that's fair."

He'd like to avoid playing any more "James Dean" roles. It didn't help matters when Terminal Bliss, a movie he made before Beverly Hills, came out in March. He plays a sex-crazed, drugged-out rebel.

Perry refuses to discuss his family, but the Fox bio says he was raised by his mother and stepfather on a farm near Fredericktown, Ohio.

He does admit to some rebellious antics in high school. He got tossed out of a production of South Pacific after posing for a publicity picture with fellow cast members. The photo, now a collector's item, showed Perry using one of his fingers to flash a familiar message of contempt to the photographer.

"As you know, the camera doesn't lie," he said. "They saw it and asked me to leave, so I did."

After graduation, he went to New York and landed the role of Ned Bates in the soap opera “Loving.”

He now lives in a rented two-bedroom house in Hollywood with, he says, a pet pig. Hobbies include skeet shooting at a range in the Hollywood hills. He says he has a girlfriend but won't identify her.

Perry has a two-movie deal with Fox. He's hoping those two movies will get him out of Dean's shadow.

"It caught on so fast," he said. "All of a sudden in the second year, everything happened. It's a little too fast. It's hard to keep a grasp on it. But we all stick together and talk to each other. There are no secrets. Everybody keeps their head together."