13 was a funny age. Braces, glasses, hairy legs. I begged my mom to let me start wearing a bra even though I had miniature ski slopes and no real need for one just yet. I was starting high school and not allowed to go to the Valentine’s Ball with the guy from my primary school who had asked me out. I watched K-TV and Days of Our Lives while doing Maths homework. On weekends, my brother and I would gather our 99 men to clock Contra and try repeatedly to save the Princess in Super Mario Brothers. Harsha, my best friend and I, would sit on the wall dividing our houses and talk about everything until it was dark and our moms called us back in. ‘Everything’ meant there were no secrets and no stories left untold. We went to an all-girls’ school with high walls topped with barbed wire. And we believed Boys II Men was the best R&B band to hit planet Earth. So at our school concert, a bunch of us girls dressed up like them and performed “In the Still of the Night”.
It was also the time of my life when I was obsessed with Hollywood star, Luke Perry.
Normally when a celebrity dies, they get a ‘RIP’ on my Facebook status. But not Luke Perry. On the morning I found out about Luke Perry’s death, it took me way back. And I knew that Luke Perry deserved way more than 3 lousy letters.
Monday nights in the Gordhan household were like a moment of reverence. Everyone was shushed and at 8pm sharp there was one thing and one thing only that would take place – the viewing of Beverly Hills 90210. Even my father had no say. He was ushered out the lounge with the knowledge that my spot was reserved; that I’d be there eating my Cinnabon ice-cream, tuned in to simulcast, (back then the best shows were dubbed into Afrikaans), and I’d watch every part of the show from opening to closing credits. Each week’s episode was met with the same overboard excitement that only a 13-year-old can summon.
The next day, all the girls would spend the whole of break dissecting every word of Luke Perry’s – like when Brandon’s dad asks Luke about whether he removes his earring when he showers and Luke responds, “Depends on the circumstances, Sir.” Harsha and I would sit on the wall that divided our houses and mimic his über-cool, slightly irreverent delivery and giggle the night away.
When I bought any magazine, even the tiniest picture of Luke was cut up and painstakingly stuck on the inside of my cupboard door. It didn’t matter if the same picture appeared twice. What was wrong with seeing Luke Perry in step and repeat?
On my 16th birthday, the Perry crush still hadn’t died and my family knew it well. So I received a giant Luke Perry poster. It was like the spirit of all the little pics inside my cupboard joined forces to give me one life-size serving. That poster hung on my wall next to my bed – ensuring that I would be greeted by the god of West Beverly High every morning and every evening.
What made this guy park his Porsche 356 Speedster in my teenage heart? Was it his acting, really? Or was it just his brooding, leaning eyebrows and dark, mysterious eyes? His sneaky smile or bad-boy vibes? I even endured all of the movie 8 Seconds, just because he was in it. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. He represented something my innocent teenage-self thought was hella exciting – someone to make up for my awkward teen reality.
This may seem like hagiography but Luke deserves nothing less:
Luke Perry was inexplicably linked to some of my best teen memories. He was the fantastical corrupter in my Age of Innocence. He was to me what Cliff Richard was to my mom. He was a rite of passage and the joyful silliness that is only permitted in your springtime existence. He was the ultimate crush shared by me and my best friend.
I’m sorry you’re gone, Luke Perry. I adore you forever. Rest well, and thank you for the unforgettable years.