Did Aaron Spelling Pay Luke Perry’s Salary Out of His Own Pocket on 90210?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Aaron Spelling paid Luke Perry’s salary himself for the first two seasons of 90210.

Beverly Hills 90210 was a big hit as soon as it debuted in October 1990, and it was practically a cultural zeitgeist of its own, leading in a wave of shows aimed at “Generation X” viewers.

It was yet another hit for famed TV producer Aaron Spelling.

One cast member missing in the first episode, though, was Luke Perry, whose portrayal of “bad boy” Dylan McKay soon became perhaps the most famous character on the show.

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Spelling was quite taken with the actor, who he thought had a lot of appeal, but the network was less enthused.

They approved Perry appearing in an episode (and perhaps a story arc, but that’s it).

Once they saw the dailies for the first episode, they were unimpressed. Spelling told them that Perry was a hot commodity at the time and that if they did not lock him up to a deal right then, they would lose him. They told him, fine, we’ll lose him.

Undeterred, Spelling took his case to the head of Fox, Barry Diller. Diller told him he couldn’t force his people to pay an actor that they didn’t like, but if Spelling wanted to pay for him, then that’d be okay.

And amazingly enough, that’s exactly what Spelling did!

He was so sure that Perry would be good for the show that he shelled out his own money to pay Perry’s salary for his first TWO years on the show!

Now, don’t get me wrong – Aaron Spelling was not exactly a poor man. He could have paid the entire cast without too much of a pinch on his personal coffers, but still, it was a tremendous gesture by Spelling to put his own money on the line.

Perry certainly paid off on the bet, as he became a major star for Fox and they began paying him starting in season three.

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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