Luke Perry

updated 12/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Fans of Beverly Hills, 90210 send him 3,000 letters a week and besiege him during appearances at shopping malls. Readers of Seventeen say he's the guy with the sexiest eyes. Even Madonna thinks he's neat. What's most remarkable, though, is that in his first year of living famously, Luke Perry, 25, continues rolling around LA. in a beat-up Chevy truck and saving coupons for cereal. And when the Ohio-born teen dream imagines his ideal house, there's no pool, no hot tub, no butler at the door. "My perfect home would be remote," he says, "with water running through it and a tree growing through the roof, searching for the sunlight."

Hmm. Could that lone tree be a metaphor for his bachelor state? Perhaps. But Perry—who has been dating, among others, furniture salesperson Rachel Sharp, 22—is already basking in plenty of sunshine. "When I look back on 1991, I'm gonna have to squint," says the guy with the narrowest gaze since Eastwood, "because it's been a pretty bright year."

Meteoric, in fact. A year ago, he was just one of a dozen youthful unknowns on a low-rated Fox Network show, with his pal Jason Priestley sitting at the head of the 90210 class. Then came his prom-night seduction (of Shannen Doherty's Brenda) and Perry—as rebel-with-a-past Dylan McKay—was king of West Beverly Hills High. Those steamy moments also helped 90210 secure its spot as the most watched prime-time series among teens—which in turn enabled Fox to put the heat on the Big Three. For Perry, rewards came quickly: He now has a two-movie deal with Fox and a contract with superagency CAA.

Fortunately, the Luke-fest hasn't yet ruffled 90210's other young egos. When Madonna was honored for her crusade against AIDS with an AmFAR award earlier this month, she chose Perry as her presenter—replacing Liz Taylor, who was ill. "The whole cast and crew sent him off with lots of hooting and hollering," says 90210 producer Paul Waigner. "Everyone was so happy for him."

None happier than Perry himself, though he sometimes frets about his loss of privacy. "It's crazy for me right now, man," he says, with a hint of exasperation. As for 1992...chances are he still won't be enjoying any solitary trips to the shopping mall.

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