Photo provided
Kate Baker of Noblesville poses with heartthrob, “Beverly Hills, 90210” star Luke Perry, whom she met while working at HBO in Los Angeles in 2007. Perry died Monday of complications after a massive stroke. He was 52.
Photo provided Kate Baker of Noblesville poses with heartthrob, “Beverly Hills, 90210” star Luke Perry, whom she met while working at HBO in Los Angeles in 2007. Perry died Monday of complications after a massive stroke. He was 52.

A young Kate Baker smiled in a photo that she posted Monday on Facebook, herself pictured with the late heartthrob, “Beverly Hills, 90210” star Luke Perry.

Perry died on Monday morning after suffering a massive stroke. He was 52. He was a cool teen idol, a “bad boy,” playing the role of brooding millionaire son Dylan McKay on the Fox TV teen series from 1990 to 1995 and 1998-2000.

In the 1990s, Baker was a die-hard “90210” fan.

“It’s not very often that one gets to work with their teenage celebrity crush,” the Old Town Noblesville resident wrote on her Facebook page Monday night, acknowledging Perry’s untimely death.

Being a die-hard “90210” fan myself, (and hearing Fox’s announcement a week ago of a ‘90210’ six-episode revival that will air this summer.) I had to find out more from Baker about her experience.

And she welcomed my inquiry.

What path took her to Los Angeles and then brought her back to Noblesville? What cool things did she do along the way since graduating from Noblesville High School in 1999? And what was it like to work with Luke Perry?

Baker, 38, a Noblesville native born at Riverview Hospital, grew up singing and loving theater. She was involved in high-school drama productions and sang with NHS Singers and New Dimension show choirs, and she also sang in the chancel choir at Noblesville First United Methodist Church with the late music of ministry Mary Resler. She also performed in a couple of productions at The Belfry Theatre.

It was through her involvement with the Up With People organization — she toured for a year right out of high school performing in musical productions, spending six months in the United States and six months in Sweden, Austria, Germany, Spain and Portugal, Belgium and France — that Baker was awarded a college scholarship to study music.

But after living on the East Coast, and earning a college degree in music business, with voice as her instrument, she headed for the West Coast.

“I moved to Los Angeles the day after I graduated from the Berklee College of Music (in Boston) in May of 2004,” she said.

Baker attended college with the intention of being involved in music management. “But 2004 was an interesting time in the music industry,” she said. “I did land a job with (singer songwriter) Tori Amos but ended up transitioning to television. I worked at Fox for an action sports network called Fuel TV. That’s where I developed some marketing and talent-relations skills.”

She heard about a job opening at HBO in 2007 and was hired, working from February 2007 to July 2014 in HBO’s media relations department.

The first show that she worked on was “John From Cincinnati,” a television drama set against the surfing community of Imperial Beach, Calif., airing June to August in 2007. Perry played a surfing talent scout, manager and agent in 10 episodes of the series.

“It was my introduction into Hollywood. My first job where my role was to work with these people that I idolized. It was a reality check,” Baker said.
While working with the show, she met Perry.

“I was nervous to meet Luke Perry,” Baker said. “I absolutely loved him as Dylan McKay. He was such a crush for me in my early teenage years. I was a ‘90210’ fan through and through. I never missed an episode. One time, I took a trip to visit my grandma in Iowa and realized I hadn’t set the VCR to record the show. I tearfully called my dad, who was still in Indiana, to see if he could be sure to tape it for me. Talk about an emergency.”

Once that she met Perry, face to face, she felt at ease.

“He (Perry) was kind and helped me bridge that transition from celebrity to human being,” she said.

She remembers going to the TV show set for the first time. “As I was sitting at a table, in walked ‘Dylan McKay.’ Trying to be professional, I tried acting aloof. But he came over to me, extended his hand and said, ‘Hi, I’m Luke.’ I’m sure my voice elevated several octaves as I said my own name. It was a new reality for me. He didn’t disappoint. He was a gentleman, a person who exuded a cool, easy kindness. He was the guy who offered his arm when walking conditions weren’t suitable, especially for a girl in heels,” Baker said.

“I was lucky to know him as a fan, and it was a privilege to get to work with him professionally,” said. “It was a short time I worked with him. ‘John from Cincinnati’ was just a one-season show, but my interactions with him were always positive.”

Baker also worked on HBO’s “True Blood” series, for which she assisted in the launch and wrap of the seven-season series, and on “Real Time with Bill Maher” and “Game of Thrones.” 

She said, “I had the great fortune of working with many actors throughout my time with HBO. HBO was always a place talent wanted to work, and I was proud to get to see these people up close doing their craft.”

After working in Los Angeles for seven years, she said, “I relocated back to my hometown of Noblesville in July 2014 to be closer to family, though I miss L.A. and my friends there very much.” Today, she is assistant music director for Noblesville First United Methodist Church, where she still sings in the chancel choir. By day, she is donor relations manager at Conner Prairie in Fishers.

Baker was saddened by Perry’s death on Monday but has good memories of the actor, who was currently a co-star in “Riverdale,” a TV series based on the Archie Comics characters, the set of which remained dark for a second day on Tuesday.

“It was a brief moment in time, but through his work, in many ways, I, like so many, was truly touched,” Baker said. “His performance as Lane Frost in ‘8 Seconds’ still steals my heart each time I watch it. What a wonderful actor. My heart goes out to the family of Luke Perry, such a sad loss for someone much too young.”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. This columnist was also a ‘90210’ fan and had the opportunity to meet ‘90210’ star Jason Priestley (who portrayed Brandon Walsh), during a celebrity hockey event to Carmel and Indianapolis during the run of the TV series.