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Luke Perry: A Relentless Kind of Cool

March 5, 2019 2 comments

I spent all day yesterday trying to figure out how to talk about Luke Perry. Not because I knew him, not because I felt like I did – but because loss sometimes hits you sideways. Unlike most people, the first thing I ever saw him in wasn’t 90210 or Dylan McKay; I came late to that party. No, it was Buffy—it was Pike. And he was, for all intents and purposes, my first serious crush. The character of Pike is probably intermingled in my head with my perception of Luke Perry: easygoing, funny, supportive, and ready to throw down when it counted. (Did you hear the story from the 2008 writer strike? Yup, definitely a standup guy.)

Later, when I watched Perry as McKay, I got it anew—the ineffable quality he brought to every role, a roughness that was edged with softness, a leather jacket and a certain look that simply cut right to your soul. He was incredibly cool, without trying to be. There was, no matter what, a great kindness to Perry—and on that, I’m not simply talking about his acting. From the last friendships he made wherever he went to the extra mile he always seemed to travel without even the slightest push, what I will remember most about Luke Perry is his unshakeable, genuine warmth.

People often referred to him as my generation’s James Dean. And to an extent, that’s spot on. They both shared that soulfulness, a gravity of spirit that went well beyond years. But Luke Perry had an accessibility, an approachable demeanor. He didn’t try to distance himself from his teen heartthrob role as McKay. He seemed to carry that admiration straight to his heart, knowing how much that bad boy with depth meant to hordes of people. Brenda and Dylan, the original ship of so many.

Yesterday, I spent time reading all the loving tributes that people wrote about Luke. Each one seemed more heartfelt than the one that preceded it. Sometimes, when someone dies, the sweet words ring less true. This was the opposite. Every sweet sentiment had a weight to it, a love with an undercurrent of grief, as those who loved him began to mourn his absence. Grief, I’ve learned from my own life, is never predictable. It’s never manageable. You can’t know how you’ll get through it, until you start muddling through.

As a fan, I’m sad. But my heart goes out to every life he’s now absent from, every loved one who has to figure out what to do with the empty space. That sudden, devastating hole. Life isn’t fair. It’s incredibly short. And it’s horribly unpredictable. Even when you see a death coming, you can’t brace for it. But when it’s a blindside, a sucker punch? It’s a different kind of hard.

Luke Perry made his mark on this world, through his talent and his innate, radiating kindness. May we all find ways to be more like him. May his memory be a comfort to those he loved.

Rest easy, sir.

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