Burbank, CA

Luke Perry: The Tragic Life & Death of the "90210"/"Riverdale" Star

Herbie J Pilato

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The news was shocking.

On March 4, 2019, Luke Perry, star of the classic TV show, Beverly Hills, 90210, and the more current Riverdale series, died after suffering a “massive” stroke less than a week prior. The Riverdale actor died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, CA, at just 52 years old.

A statement from his rep said at the time, “Actor Luke Perry, 52, passed away today after suffering a massive stroke. He was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancé 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. The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully requests privacy in this time of great mourning.”

According to People Magazine, "At the height of his Beverly Hills, 90210 fame, Luke Perry was one of the biggest teen idols — his face gracing the covers of magazines. causing frenzies at malls, and appearing on merchandise everywhere (yes, there’s even a Barbie doll designed after his TV character, Dylan McKay).

"But as Perry retreated from the spotlight over the years, the late star — who died on Monday at the age of 52, five days after suffering a massive stroke — focused on his family life.

"He married Rachel ‘Minnie’ Sharp in November 1993. A one-time furniture saleswoman, Sharp had dated Perry for two years before they exchanged 'I dos' in a private ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Their wedding was attended by 50 friends and family (including 90210 costars Jason Priestley, James Eckhouse, and Brian Austin Green, as well as Perry’s mother and stepfather, Ann and Steve Bennett).

"While Sharp’s father Alan wrote the screenplay for the 1983 Mel Gibson-Sigourney Weaver movie The Year of Living Dangerously, it was the fact that she had a life outside of Hollywood that made her the right fit for Perry. 'She will be good for Luke,' 90210 creator Aaron Spelling told USA Today at the time. 'She’s not in show business. Her head is on really straight.'

"Early on, the couple lived together (with his three Vietnamese potbellied pigs) in what he described to People in 1993 as his 'old house on one acre' in the San Fernando Valley.

"They had two children — son Jack, 21, and daughter Sophie, 18 — before divorcing in 2003. They shared joint custody from there on out."

“Luke was a super great, very hands-on dad,” a source told People. “He was always attending his kids’ school and after-school functions when they were younger. He loved just hanging out with them and being present. He was so proud of everything they accomplished.”

"Jack has followed his father’s footsteps into the entertainment industry, though as a professional wrestler," People continued to report. With a fit frame and lion’s mane hair, Jack currently performs under the name 'Jungle Boy Nate Coy.'

"Perry was supportive of his son," People Magazine concluded, "...even showing up in Los Angeles to watch one of his matches back when he was wrestling for Underground Empire Wrestling. The proud father was spotted there in the stands, filming his son the entire time."

To read more about Luke Perry, click here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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