08/26/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT
MAYBE IT'S THE SIDEBURNS. OR THE wounded puppy eyes. But whatever it is that Luke Perry, star hunk on the hit Fox series Beverly Hills, 90210, employs to hold teenage girls in thrall, he might consider throttling it back some. Just look at what happened to Cari Callaghan, 14, a major fan of Perry alter ego Dylan McKay. When Callaghan heard that Perry was making a promotional appearance at the Fashion Mall in Plantation, Fla., she grabbed two friends and hustled over. "He's definitely cute," says Callaghan. "I've kinda got a crush."
Actually, Callaghan kinda got crushed—along with quite a few other fans. In a scene reminiscent of the glory days of Elvis and David Cassidy, Perry was mobbed by an estimated 10,000 admirers the moment he stepped onto a stage at the mall's Center Court. "Everyone started screaming," says Rebecca Levin, 14. "The whole mall shook." Perry was whisked away after just a few seconds but left in his wake 21 injured fans, ranging in age from 8 to 39, yes 39. Thirteen were sent to area hospitals, including Callaghan, who suffered torn ligaments in her knee. Later, a shocked Perry issued a statement: "I had no idea so many people would come. I wish things had turned out differently."
It wasn't the first time that Perry, who, like his series co-idol Jason Priestley, gets 1,500 fan letters a week, had encountered Luke-Mania. Three months before, when he appeared at Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Wash., he was hidden in a laundry hamper after 4,000 fans rushed him. And, indeed, Fashion Mall management, taking note of that event, had tripled their usual security force. Still, even 40 officers could not equal the power of rampant infatuation. "Quite frankly," says a Plantation police spokesman, "a crowd of young girls who were so excited to see this star are hard to control."
Since returning to L.A., Perry has tried to contact the victims who were hospitalized. He also canceled two future appearances. As a Fashion Mall spokeswoman noted, "There is a fine line for some celebrities at which point they can no longer make mall appearances...Tiffany comes to mind. I think Luke Perry may have reached that point too."