Everything You Didn't Know About Luke Perry: From Hating His 'Teen Idol' Status to His Private Personal Life
By Antoinette Bueno
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On Monday, fans were devastated over the news that beloved actor Luke Perry died after suffering a massive stroke at his home in Sherman Oaks, California, on Feb. 27. He was 52 years old.
Perry is, of course, best known for his role as bad boy Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. Stars like Rachael Leigh Cook and Olivia Munn reacted to his death on Monday by echoing a popular sentiment -- that for many people who grew up in the '90s, Perry was their first crush.
But although Perry was a superstar in the '90s, he was also notoriously private, keeping his personal life to himself.
Read on for seven things you didn't know about the late Perry.
He had humble beginnings:
Perry grew up in Fredericktown, Ohio. His mother, Ann Bennett, was a homemaker, and his father, Coy Luther Perry, Jr., was a steelworker. The two divorced when he was six years old, and he had said that he considered his real father to be his stepdad, Steve Bennett.
Perry moved to Los Angeles after high school in order to pursue an acting career, but definitely wasn't living a glamorous life right off the bat. He worked for an asphalt paving company and for a doorknob factory, and in his first interview with ET in 1991, talked about his work experience keeping him humble even after hitting it big with 90210.
"A year ago I was shoveling asphalt and a year ago I could be doing it again," he noted. "I think it keeps a good perspective on things when you remember that."
He also talked to Peoplein a 1991 cover interview about his blue collar jobs in L.A.
"I had dug everything else back in Ohio: dirt, horse sh*t, cow sh*t,” he shared. “The shovel works the same, no matter what you’re shoveling. ... Sh*t, I was laying asphalt the week before I got Beverly Hills, 90210. I’ll do whatever it takes to pay the rent.”
As for coming from a rural farming town, he said, "I love where I come from. The people there are good people. When they say, ‘Thank you,’ they mean it. A lot of people say nice things to me out here because they’re getting paid to.”
He wasn't an instant success:
Perry told People that he auditioned 216 times before he eventually landed a role on the ABC soap Loving. And although it's hard to picture 90210 without him, the studio wasn't initially a big fan of his. In a Hollywood Reporter feature about late television producer Aaron Spelling, Perry talked about almost not getting cast.
"I was a guest star, and Aaron wanted to make me a regular," he shared. "The studio didn't want to pick up the deal, and he used that instance to illustrate an important principle: He gets to pick who's on the show. He didn't want me to have to go in the room with the network, but he calmly looked at me and said, 'Go get 'em, kid.'"
According to Legends Revealed, Spelling actually paid Perry's salary for his first two years on 90210 when Fox at first wasn't interested in hiring him, and was only officially added to the payroll in season three.
He didn't like being called a teen idol:
When asked about being a teen idol in 1991, Perry told People, "Man, I hate those two f**king words!”
He also shunned a certain lifestyle.
“Some people would say that I’m not an actor, simply because I don’t own a Harley-Davidson and I’ve never been to a poetry reading,” he also said. “That sh*t isn’t what I’m about.”
In his 1991 interview with ET, he admitted he struggled with certain aspects of fame.
"The only thing I'm finding difficult is a little less privacy, you know?" he said. "People know who you are, you just don't know who they are. You don't see them on TV."
Still, in a later interview with ET, he stressed that he was grateful for his fans.
"Any time you hear a loud noise like that, it's a rush, like an explosion," he said of fans cheering for him. "But you know it's coming from people who really like your work and they like the show that you're on, yeah, that's the best feeling in the world."
He's been linked to famous actresses and was a father to two children:
Perry had kept his personal life extremely private. He was in a relationship with actress Yasmine Bleeth in the '80s and had also been rumored to have dated Kelly Preston and Renee Zellweger.
He told People in 1991 that he preferred not to date actresses.
“Sooner or later, the relationship is going to become competitive," he explained. "You’re going to be competing for each other’s time, or somebody’s career is going to be at a spot where the other’s is not.”
Perry did marry Rachel "Minnie" Sharp in 1993 and they were together for a decade before splitting in 2003. They had two children together, 21-year-old son Jack and 18-year-old daughter Sophie.
At the time of his death, he was engaged to Wendy Madison Bauer, though it wasn't announced until his rep stated it when confirming his death.
"Actor Luke Perry, 52, passed away today after suffering a massive stroke," the statement read. "He was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancée Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, step-father Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, and other close family and friends."
A source tells ET that Perry’s daughter, Sophie, was in Africa on a humanitarian mission at the time of his stroke. According to the source, she was able to fly back to be by her father’s side during his last days.
Although Perry rarely discussed his personal life, he did talk to ET in 2017 about how being a dad in real life compared to his role as Fred Andrews (Archie’s father) on Riverdale.
“I think in some ways this character is the closest thing to me that I’ve ever played because he’s a guy that loves his kid. That’s really all he’s about,” he said. “That’s what I’m about.”
He had a longtime friendship with the late Alexis Arquette:
ET talked with Patricia backstage, who talked about the significance of Perry's decades-long friendship with her sister.
"He and Lex were friends since they were kids and I remember many years ago, the height of the 90210 craze, they all said, 'Alexis Arquette is dating Luke. Luke is secretly gay,'" Patricia told ET. "And Luke said, 'I'm not going to say that's not true, even though Alexis and I are just best friends because that would be to say there's something wrong with it, and there's nothing wrong with it.'"
"Look, when you love somebody, you love them. Bottom line," Perry also explained to ET. "And I loved Lex and Lex loved me, and I don't need to explain that to anybody. That's how love works, and that's what's so special about the message Patricia spreads."
He had a serious cancer scare in 2015:
Perry revealed in a 2017 interview with Fox News that doctors found precancerous growths in his colon after he underwent a routine colonoscopy in 2015 when he was 49 years old. He had the growths removed following tests.
"If I had waited, it could have been a whole different scenario," he said. "When I heard that this was the most detectable cancer that we know of yet it’s the second most lethal, I just couldn't figure out why that was and I wanted to get out there and tell people about it."
In between his roles on 90210 and Riverdale, Perry had memorable guest starring roles on such hit shows as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Will & Grace, Community, Criminal Minds, The Simpsons and Hot in Cleveland just to name a few.