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Television

From the Archives: Luke Perry remembers saying goodbye to ‘Beverly Hills, 90210'

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Luke Perry and his frequent onscreen love interest Shannen Doherty from an early episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
(Fox)

Actor Luke Perry died Monday at the age of 52 after suffering a stroke. The actor had most recently been starring on the CW’s “Riverdale,” but it was with his role as bad boy Dylan McKay on the long-running Fox drama “Beverly Hills, 90210” that he enjoyed breakout success. Back in May 2000, Times staff writer Paul Brownfield wrote about a visit to the set of the series as it prepared to wrap its 10-year run.

They are the dog days of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” the last gasps of a teen soap grown up and grown old: Episode No. 299, titled “The Penultimate.”

In this scene, for the umpteenth time, Dylan McKay (Luke Perry) and Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) will (almost) profess their love for each other. Dylan will ask, “How’s Matt?,” meaning Kelly’s boyfriend, and Kelly will say, “He’s pretty devastated,” because Matt’s something-or-other died, and Dylan will say, “The other night. You wanted to know things. But you had to talk to Matt first. I was wondering if you’d done that,” and Kelly will say, “Not yet. No,” and Dylan will say, “Well, tell him I’m sorry for his loss, will you?,” and Kelly will say, “Of course.” And then Dylan will go to the door, as if to leave (where is he always going?). He will say, “I talked to David about Donna,” and Kelly will ask, “How’s he doing?” and Dylan will reply, “He can’t figure out how two people so obviously meant for each other can’t get together,” and then, before he exits, Dylan will add: “And frankly, neither can I.”

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Though Perry originally moved out of the “90210” Zip Code after the show’s sixth season, he returned three years later for the show’s final two seasons. As the show prepared for its finale, he discussed why it was different the second time around.

On a cellphone, Jason Priestley says this about the media: “If anyone in the media has ever bestowed you with [the name] teen idol, it then gives everybody else in the media license to completely defecate on anything you do thereafter.”

He is calling from London, where he is starring in the seemingly defecation-proof, Tony Award-winning play “Side Man.” By various accounts, Priestley, who played the good-guy hunk Brandon for seven full seasons, had the roughest time with his “90210" celebrity, with the full-court press of personal appearances in the early days, when Spelling and Fox dispatched their budding stars into the heartland and beyond to stoke the show’s fan base.

It seems quaint to recall, in today’s era of multimedia convergence, but “90210" fashioned a sense of mania the old-fashioned way--through mall appearances. Locked into five-year deals, the cast wasn’t drawing top dollar relative to the show’s emerging success; these global hit-and-runs, then, had the added benefit of lining their pockets.

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Priestley and Perry, the show’s true sex symbols, attempted a more detached pose, staring at fame and all the kooky crap that came with it through a cigarette haze. Today, neither have come full circle on that teen zine chapter in their lives--at least not enough to joke about it openly. They’re more prone to oblique rants on the nature of fame versus “the work,” as if the tabloid press is still rooting around in their trash for underwear.

Like Priestley, Perry left the show before the bitter end, but unlike Priestley he came back, two seasons ago, after a string of feature films didn’t work out as planned.

“Apathy coupled with whatever is a nasty cocktail,” he says, asked about doing the show now versus then. “Nobody is walking through anything on camera, that much I am sure of. But you know, it used to be a lot of fun and now it’s not as much fun and it still could be. I’m just a little disappointed about that.”

Read Brownfield’s full story here.


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