Everyone has their person – that famous someone that they adore from a distance and think – “one day – I’m going to meet him/her and they will be my best friend forever.” For me, that person was Luke Perry – and I was a full grown adult when he became that 90210 heartthrob Dylan McKay. But that’s not even why he was my person.
In September of 1996 I was living in New York City and had just quit my job at a fairly new CBS Newsmagazine called “Day and Date.” I had 5 thousand dollars in the bank – and no prospects for a new job. Then I got a call from a friend of mine who was working at a new show called Access Hollywood. They were the first show to attempt to take on the all mighty Entertainment Tonight and they needed a writer. I had no current intentions of ever moving to Los Angeles but it had been something I had flirted with in the past. I thought – well why not accept a free weekend in LA. I did have one friend who lived there. So – off I went.
The show put me up at the Universal Hilton. I felt very celebby. I was also terrified. Hollywood was a whole other beast and Entertainment Tonight was the mother of all shows to try and take on. Did I know enough about celebrity culture for this job? I mean – I was trained at A Current Affair – the biggest tabloid show in the world. How hard could writing about a bunch of celebrities be?
The Executive Producer of the show interviewed me for an hour or so and I wasn’t convinced this was the right move for me. In fact – there was no way I was leaving Manhattan for this weird sunshine filled place. But then he invited me to lunch in the NBC Cafeteria!! OHMIGOD THERE’S A STUDIO CAFETERIA? !! Were all those movie images of studios filled with stars milling about eating tuna sandwiches with regular people – real? I wasn’t buying it and I certainly wasn’t going to move three thousand miles just for a nice cup of chili.
And then it happened. Out of the corner of my eye – in full on slow motion – Luke Perry glided into the Cafeteria like a totally normal breathing human – and sat down with someone right near me for lunch. My heart exploded. “Is that Luke Perry? Does he like – live here?” “Yeah of course. Lots of celebrities do” said the Exec producer. “And they just walk around with the rest of us?” I asked? “Uh yeah.” I can’t believe he wanted to hire me after this exchange – but he did.
Now I’m a New Yorker and sure I saw a star here and there growing up – but it was never in this kind of situation. They were never just – walking around. But Luke was right there – in my same space – breathing my same air – eating off of my same plastic tray. And that was all I needed. I reached across the table and shook that Exec Producers hand and never went back to New York City. If I could live in a place where giant stars were in my orbit – then maybe I could become a giant star or at least work with them. And that my friends is what the lure of Hollywood is all about.
In all my years here I have met hundreds of celebrities. I never met Luke Perry. His career started and stalled a few times while I was busy trashing other celebrities for my job – but I was so happy he was working steadily again. My friend Dana had worked with him recently and when I told her my story and how much I loved him – she promised to introduce us. Sadly that never happened.
When I heard the news today from my friend Jeremy – I was in Target – and I cried.
Thank you Luke Perry for giving me Los Angeles. You’ll never know how grateful I am.