In the 1990s, Dieter Brummer captivated an entire generation of young girls.
He played Shane Parrish, the dimple-faced bad boy from Home and Away, with Melissa George’s fiery Angel Brooks from Summer Bay, and the two became one of Australia’s most-loved on-screen couples.
On Saturday, the 45-year-old actor was found dead at a house in Sydney. There were no suspicious circumstances.
Who was he?
Turns out, he was only a kid himself when he landed in Summer Bay on Channel 7’s super soap.
Brummer was 16 when his first episodes aired in 1991, but only by a few weeks: he had only celebrated his birthday a few weeks prior.
Heath Ledger and Chris Hemsworth would later star on the show, but Summer Bay’s first major heartthrob was Brummer. If you were a teenager back then, you’d buy magazines like Dolly or TV Hits to learn everything you could about him and carefully take out the large picture for your locker or wall.
- Dieter Brummer, an Australian actor best remembered for his role as Shane Parrish on Home and Away in the 1990s
Marina Go, the editor of the now-defunct Dolly magazine at the time, created the Prince of Soap competition. It was essentially intended to provide a larger stage for someone like Brummer, and he won it twice. He was worthy of his crown, of being someone who young teenagers looked up to. “He was always smiley,” remembers Go, “and he had those lovely dimples. But he was very quiet. Many of those actors then had big personalities and were in your face, but he wasn’t like that. We highlighted him a lot because our deputy editor Suellen Topfer told us he was going to be hot – she had a strong sense about him. And Prince of Soap was totally voted on by the audience. He was a major player.”
I worked as a writer on Dolly at the time, but my colleague Gina Johnson interviewed him. “He was golden in those halcyon years,” she says. “And he was genuinely a lovely guy. Unexpectedly quiet and humble for someone so famous. Teens were enthralled by his portrayal as the ideal boy next door. And because of his PG rating, parents let their girls decorate their rooms with posters of him.”
For his performance on Home and Away, Brummer won two Logies for the most popular actor, and he also appeared in Neighbours, Underbelly, and Winners & Losers. During the early 2000s, he left acting behind to become a window cleaner on high-rise buildings. “The good part about it is I don’t have to deal with people too much,” he said of his second career as a bucket-and squeegee-wielding abseiler. “If I was pulling beers I would have to put up with guys saying: ‘Oh you’re pulling beers now and you used to be in Underbelly’.”
What does it mean tWhat does being a teen crush mean?
Coming directly from high school to the pinnacle of teen adoration was “a fairly emotional moment,” he told TV Tonight in 2010. It’s one thing to be renowned; it’s quite another to be a heartthrob. When girls saw you, they would hyperventilate in the street. Every day, notes in tiny, curling script arrived at the TV station, sometimes wrinkled with dried tears. It meant being popular outside of Australia, where Home and Away drew up to 8 million viewers in the United Kingdom.
It meant everyone thinking they know you when none of them actually do.
Crushes in adolescence are itchy and achy. Fans may have been equally enamored with Luke Perry from Beverly Hills, 90210, or Johnny Depp from 21 Jump Street at the time, but they were the type of objects of adoration who you knew would break your heart.
Dieter Brummer was a distinct kind of crush in that he seemed approachable, relatable, and generous. However, when his character died in Home and Away, teens’ hearts were devastated, and they ended up sobbing genuine tears for a fictional character who meant so much to them.
Why such an effect?
Many of those kids, now grown men and women, sobbed real tears again this week as they posted photographs of school books covered with Brummer stickers or magazine covers with cover lines like “Check out Dieter’s Sizzling Calendar” on social media. After his stay in Summer Bay was finished, they talked about how much they adored him and how excellent an actor he was in Underbelly. They undoubtedly looked back at recent images of him and noticed that he retained his young good looks, grin, and dimples as a 45-year-old guy despite his age. They might have thought to themselves, “If only I knew him, I could really make a difference in his life.” as they did three decades ago.
After appearing in 557 episodess, he left the show six years later in 1996, not just to pursue other job options, but also to reclaim some sort of normalcy in his life.
“I was so busy as a teenager I didn’t get to join friends on trips or do a lot of the things my friends got to do,” he said. “I spent the early part of my 20s catching up on a few years that I’d missed out on.”
His family, the people who knew him best, described him as “handsome, talented, funny, complicated and beloved”.