TV and film fans across the nation were saddened this week by the news that Hollywood actor Luke Perry, 52, had died following a massive stroke.
Perry is best remembered for his star turn on the popular 1990s television drama Beverly Hills 90210 on which he played bad boy Dylan McKay, a role that elevated him to heartthrob status overnight.
After his role on 90210 ended, Perry’s Hollywood career cooled, but continued. And what many may have forgotten is that more than 20 years ago, one of his acting jobs actually brought him to our area.
In 1997, Perry and an ensemble cast that included a number of well-known actors descended on the Lehigh Valley to film “The Florentine,” a big-budget drama-comedy about a working-class bar in a decaying mill town.
Directed by Nick Stagliano and produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope, “The Florentine” was released in April 1999.
The movie was both a critical failure and a commercial flop, which could be one reason why its connection to the area has largely been forgotten.
The majority of exterior scenes for the movie were filmed in locations throughout Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, but at least one memorable scene was filmed on Main Street in Hellertown.
In it, Perry’s castmate–actor Tom Sizemore–walks past several former borough landmarks.
At about 10 minutes into the film, Sizemore walks in front of Hellertown’s former movie theater, The Movies, in the 1100 block of Main Street, and then past the former Hero Electric store in the 600 block.
The Movies–which was originally known as the Sauconia theater–closed about a year after “The Florentine” was released. About 15 years later, the rundown building was extensively renovated and reopened as a dental office.
In the film, “The Tenth Avenue Cowboy” appears in block letters under the theater’s distinctive marquis.
Hero Electric remained in business until last summer, when its owners retired and sold their building along with its contents. The space that was once occupied by the repair and hobby supply shop is currently for rent.
Perry will likely be best remembered for other works, but with his role in “The Florentine” he and the rest of the cast inadvertently helped preserve snapshots of the Lehigh Valley as it existed more than two decades ago.