Luke Perry, who died Monday at the age of 52, has a connection to Oklahoma because of another famous figure who died too young.
Oklahoma cowboy Lane Frost was fatally injured when he was rammed by a bull at the 1989 Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. Frost, who died at age 25, was a 1982 graduate of Atoka High School and is buried near his hero, Freckles Brown, at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hugo.
Perry played Frost in a 1994 movie (“8 Seconds”) about Frost’s life. It was Perry’s fourth film and he did the movie at a time when the television series (“Beverly Hills 90210”) that made him a household name was riding high with viewers. Perry played “bad boy” Dylan McKay in the popular Fox prime time drama.
Perry’s work in “8 Seconds” drew critical acclaim. A New York Times review described Perry’s “strong, persuasive portrayal” of Frost as the movie’s happiest surprise. A Tulsa World review of the film said this: “Played with honest simplicity by Luke Perry, Lane Frost is portrayed as the darlin’ of the rodeo circuit: tossling the hair of freckle-faced autograph seekers, courting his sweetheart by talking nice to her mom, settling barroom brawls with folksy diplomacy and taking the relentless ribbing of his cob-rough partners (who call him “purdy boy”) with a good-natured grin.”
Perry was one of two actors to play Frost in the film. The other was child actor Cameron Finley, who played a younger version of Frost.
Frost was born in Colorado and was raised in Utah until his family moved to Lane, Okla., when he was a teen in 1978. Taught bull riding by his father and Brown, Frost became a national high school bull riding champ while at Atoka High School.
The PBR presents a Lane Frost/Brent Thurman Award annually to the bull rider with the highest-scored ride at the PBR World Finals. It is named in memory of two fallen cowboys. Thurman sustained fatal injuries at the 1994 National Finals Rodeo.
Footage of Frost was included in Garth Brooks’ music video for the 1990 hit single “The Dance.” Oklahoma-rooted music acts Vince Gill, Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn contributed songs for the “8 Seconds” soundtrack. Gill and Brooks & Dunn appeared as themselves in the movie.
The Associated Press reported that about 1,200 people gathered at the First Baptist Church of Atoka to pay respects to Frost at his 1989 memorial service. The crowd spilled onto the lawn, where some followed the service on loudspeakers.
“He was everybody’s idol,” local resident Bennie Welch said in the AP story. “He was a local hero. Everybody loved him.”