As you may have heard, last week Luke Perry — AKA the beating heart, furrowed brow, and racing motorcycle of Beverly Hills, 90210 — suffered a stroke. Today, he died. He was 52. This is very distressing, and not a post that I wanted to write, like, ever. I would have preferred Luke Perry, like all the men on whom I had powerful and momentous crushes, to live forever.
There is something very unmooring about losing a formative crush. I obviously did not actually know Luke Perry. But I spent every week with him — and then, later, when 90210 was in syndication, every single day for long stretches of my life. He was always in the background, looking emotionally pained about something and/or being concerned that his father just blew up in a boat explosion. (It turns out Dylan’s very questionable Dad faked that boat explosion.) I even — fun fact! — once played Dylan in a sketch take-off of 90210 performed for my high school’s senior play, which I co-wrote with another girl in my class. (I got the first network note of my life when we were told we could not have our Kelly Taylor use the word “ho-bag.” We changed it to “bimbo.”) And he literally lives in my apartment, because I own a Dylan McKay doll even today — a doll I looked for on Wednesday, when news of Perry’s stroke hit the media, and which I could not find. I need to be honest and say that I know this is very silly and superstitious, but it was very unnerving not to be able to find that doll, and if I walk into my office and he’s sitting on my desk chair, I will take that as a hello from the big West Bev in the sky. (I know Heather has her own Dylan stories too — one that’s much better than mine — and I’m sure she’ll chime in when she gets to her computer. This sort of thing should not happen when a person is offline.)
I’m not sure if the younger people who read GFY truly get just how big Beverly Hills 90210 was, back in the day. There isn’t a modern equivalent. We didn’t have as much TV then as we do now, for one thing — literally everyone in my high school class watched the show, and that’s not hyperbole — but also, back in the early ’90s, there was simply not much programming about teenagers that treated them seriously. Beverly Hills, 90210 was arguably the first real teen soap — without which there would probably be no CW at all, honestly — and Dylan was its heartthrob, the perfect trope of the Sexy Bad Boy With Hidden Depths; Misunderstood With Terrible Parents, Sensitive and Thoughtful and Hot, Who Doesn’t Even Make Fun of You When You Have an Unfortunate Accident With Sun-In Leave-In Hair Dye. And Luke Perry was completely perfect in that part, to the point where every woman I personally know between the ages of 35-50 forever referred to him — even when he was on Oz, even when he was on Riverdale, even when we read the news of his stroke last week — as “Dylan.” We thought a lot about Dylan McKay when we were young and emotionally building ourselves into people, and he’s still and forever tucked up in the corner of our hearts.
He meant a lot to us and I truly can’t believe he’s gone. See you on the flip side, McKay.