Obituaries reported the world lost an actor.
But those in the bull riding community, including the mother of a famous Oklahoma bull rider, tell stories that suggest the world lost a heck of a guy.
“He was a great person,” Elsie Frost said.
Luke Perry, best known for the television series “Beverly Hills, 90210,” died Monday. He was 52.
Perry forged a lasting bond with the bull riding world when he played Lane Frost in the 1994 movie “8 Seconds.”
Frost, a 1982 graduate of Atoka High School, was fatally injured when he was rammed by a bull at the 1989 Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. Frost died at age 25 and is buried near a rodeo hero, Freckles Brown, at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hugo.
Elsie Frost, Lane Frost’s mother, lives near Atoka in Lane, Oklahoma. During a phone interview after Perry’s death, she said Perry did a “super” job of portraying her son and indicated the actor will always have a place in her heart.
“He wasn’t someone that thought he was a movie star and couldn’t talk to people,” she said.
“He was very down to Earth. When we made the movie, he said he had never played anyone that was a real person before, and he was so conscientious of wanting to do it the way it should be done. He would come to us and ask us, ‘How would Lane talk in a situation like this?’ And he watched a lot of video of Lane, so he actually had some mannerisms like Lane and actually he looked quite a bit like Lane once they got his hat on him and stuff. It was kind of eerie.”
Elsie said her family got fairly close with Perry during the making of the movie. Christmas cards were exchanged for a period of years.
“I still have his phone number,” she said. “He had told me I could call any time, and I knew he meant it. He was truly a nice person, and we are just so saddened by his death. Our heart just goes out to his family. He has got two kids and a brother and a sister and his mother. My heart just breaks for her.”
Stock contractor and former bull rider Jerome Davis is connected to Perry through “8 Seconds” also. Jerome did stunt work for the movie, which was filmed in 1993. Jerome suffered paralysis five years later when he was thrown by a bull.
After the tragedy, the phone at Jerome’s home rang.
Jerome’s wife, Tiffany, picked up the receiver and heard these words: “Hey, this is Luke Perry. Is Jerome around?”
“I thought it was one of Jerome’s buddies playing pranks because they are always playing pranks,” she said. “I said, ‘Yeah, hold on.’ But it was actually for-real.”
Perry had heard about Jerome’s misfortune and a planned benefit for him in North Carolina. Perry said he wanted to come to the benefit and asked if someone could please pick him up at the airport. Arrangements were made and Perry lent his presence to the benefit.
“It just kind of shows you what kind of guy Luke Perry was,” Jerome said, adding that the actor was a cowboy at heart.
“He actually got on some bulls for that movie. He really just liked, I think, taking care of the cowboys. I feel like he felt like he was one of us a little bit, and he was. He just fit in when he was around. He fit right in as one of the guys. I didn’t know him as the ‘90210’ star or whatever. Whenever he was around, he was just humble old Luke, it seemed like. I just can’t say enough good about him. He was a super good guy, and it really bothered me when I heard he passed away just because he had such a good heart, what he had done for me.”
Before leaving the benefit, Perry left his phone number with Jerome and told him to call if he ever needed anything.
“Jerome never called because he didn’t want to bother him, although Luke would randomly call Jerome just to check up on him and make sure he was doing OK,” Tiffany said in a Facebook post after Perry’s death.
The post recapped Jerome’s history with “8 Seconds” and Perry. Tiffany said at the top of the post that she felt compelled to “share a little about the nonactor Luke Perry.” Continuing, she wrote, “The real man Luke Perry had to be one of the most humble, compassionate, truly sincere men I have ever met. He will forever leave a lasting impression in our hearts and mind.”
Professional Bull Riders (PBR) CEO Sean Gleason released a statement about Perry. The statement concluded with this: “Luke once said that while he had played other athletes, he never felt more connected to a sport than bull riding. He was a good friend of the PBR family until his passing. The PBR’s thoughts are with Luke’s family and friends during this very sad time.”
Perry died five days after suffering what was termed a massive stroke. Elsie Frost refrained from calling Perry after the stroke because she did not know if he would be able to talk on the phone. She said she will probably donate to an organization like Western Wishes in Perry’s memory.
Perry was an active supporter of Western Wishes, a Make-A-Wish-type organization that grants wishes to ill children and teens who lead a Western lifestyle. Visitors to the online site westernwishes.org will see a photo of Perry at the top of the page and a filmed-in-2012 video featuring Perry at the bottom of the page. Among celebrity wish-granters shown in the video are Perry, Taylor Swift, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Jason Aldean, Shania Twain and rodeo cowboys.
Elsie and Lane’s father, Clyde, are shown in the video. Elsie and Perry are seated side by side near the end of the video and the following words scroll across the screen: “Lane’s legacy lives on through the cowboys and country singers who have brightened the lives of Western Wishes kids since 1994.”
Referencing Perry’s death, Elsie said, “I said even (the day Perry died) God can bring good things, even out of tragedy. I know God is going to do something with this tragedy also. We don’t see it usually until later, but, with Lane’s death, because of the movie, so many people knew him, and I got to go places and tell about his salvation because he was only saved a short while before he died.”
Elsie wasn’t pleased the movie inaccurately portrayed Clyde as a never-satisfied father. “But God even used that part of it because we heard from so many people that his character made them know that they needed to change a relationship with a daughter or a dad or someone in their life.”
The making of “8 Seconds” (Tulsa's Jeffrey Swab was an executive producer) came along at the right time for Jerome, who said he was broke and trying to make a living as a bull rider in Texas. He and other riders were offered $50 to wear the same apparel Perry was going to wear in the movie and, if any of their rides were chosen for the movie, they would receive $500. Wearing those clothes, Jerome said he won $18,000 at a bull riding event in Del Rio, Texas.
“It was a good weekend,” he said.
In a photo taken during that era, Perry is shown in the rodeo bleachers wearing the same hat and shirt as Jerome.
Years later, when Tiffany needed someone to pick up Perry at the airport so he could attend Jerome’s benefit, she called her sister.
“Can you pick up one of Jerome’s buddies at the airport?” Tiffany asked.
“What does he look like and who is it?” her sister said.
“It’s Luke Perry.”
Tiffany said her sister hung up because she thought it was a prank.
“I called her back and, as soon as she answered the phone, she said, ‘Quit being stupid,’ and hangs up the phone again because we were always pranking around,” Tiffany said. “I had to call my mama to get my mom to tell her that this was real and it wasn’t a joke.”
Tiffany’s sister headed to the airport with other family members to get Perry. Tiffany said a cousin with a birth defect was in the group and, because the birth defect was visible, the cousin had reason to be self-conscious about her appearance.
“My mom and them couldn’t get over how (Perry) took to her and how he took his time with her and made her feel so special,” Tiffany said. “I don’t know who got more out of him coming that week. I know Jerome appreciated him coming out, but what he did for that little girl, my cousin, he just reached out and made her feel special.”