The Real Lane Frost

July 3, 2011

Legendary bull rider’s mother devoted to telling the truth about her son

PUEBLO, Colo. (June 21, 2011)—by Keith Ryan Cartwright- Lane Frost was a World Champion bull rider.

Nearly 22 years after he was killed in Cheyenne, Wyo., he is still remembered as much for his smile as he is for his rides, and he remains one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of professional bull riding.

His parents Elsie and Clyde Frost credit much of his lasting popularity to the film “8 Seconds.”

But in recent years, Elsie has been speaking out publicly to tell the real story of her son – specifically that he was a born-again Christian, who had found a relationship with God a year before his untimely death.

“I’m always just amazed that people are that interested in Lane’s story,” said Elsie, in a Podcast posted here. “I have to give the movie a lot of credit for that. They’ve seen that and it’s kind of piqued their curiosity.”

The Frosts were in Colorado last weekend, and Elsie spoke at three different engagements, including one in Pueblo.

“It’s just his life story and it’s nothing real extraordinary, but people receive it very well,” said Elsie, of the hour-long talks she gives, which primarily take place at cowboy churches.

Tarnish on the silver screen

The film, which starred Luke Perry, was released in 1994.

Elsie said producers had approached the Frost family a few years earlier, but that it was too soon. The next time they were approached, she and Clyde talked with Tuff Hedeman and Cody Lambert, since both would be prominently featured in the storyline.

Looking back, she said “it was very traumatic just reliving every aspect of Lane’s life,” but that she doesn’t regret taking part in the film.

However, she wouldn’t go through it again.

“It was emotionally disturbing,” she explained. “You just wanted to scream at them: ‘This isn’t right. It’s not the way Lane would have done it.’ But that’s just not the way things are done in the movie business.”

To Elsie, the two most bothersome aspects of the film had to do with the absence of Lane’s faith and the misrepresentation of his relationship with Clyde.

Additionally, the film did not depict the fact that the Frosts have two other children.

Elsie said she had numerous conversations with director John Avildsen, whose high-water mark was having directed the original “Rocky.” She asked to have Lane simply say, “Lord help me,” when his character was having a difficult time.

“Just to let people know he was a believer,” said Elsie.

Although nothing could be done to alter the portrayal of Clyde as a father who was never pleased with his son, Elsie did successfully argue for the deletion of one particular scene, in which her character told Lane’s wife Kellie not to let him treat her “like Clyde treated me.”

The scene, which never took place in real life, was devastating to read in the script.

In fact, according to Elsie, there were several versions of the script that had been written prior to Avildsen’s involvement in the project. After he was hired, the veteran director, who has directed only one feature film since “8 Seconds,” elected to use the original draft as the shooting script.

Despite all the script notes she gave producers, she said there were other “little things” – the trailer home with a guitar on the side of it, Lambert as a poet and the bedwetting scene – that have become less worrisome as the years have passed.

“Now I can look back and chuckle at it,” she said, “but, at the time, it was too fresh – too new – after Lane’s death. It just really bothered me. We shed a lot of tears and did a lot of praying, but, like I say, God’s used it and so it’s OK.

“It’s been a process for me. It’s taken some time.”

She later added, “It was a process. It took a while for God to reveal to me, ‘I’m using this. Don’t underestimate me.’”

For all its inaccuracies, Elsie said the impact of the film has been bittersweet.

While she knew that Lane’s death had made a big impact on the rodeo world, “God has been able to use the movie,” she said.

The Frost family developed a friendship with Perry that went beyond the set and continues today.

As tough as it was watching Perry recreate Lane’s accident, Elsie said it could not have been reenacted “any more near like it actually happened than what they did, so some things they did a good job in.”

“It seems like when people see the movie, they’re kind of curious whether that was right or this was right,” Elsie said. “The important thing to us was to let people know he’s a born-again Christian, we know he’s in heaven now that he’s gone, and we felt that was important. We wanted that to be in the movie, but it wasn’t.”

After ‘8 Seconds’

“One thing the movie did do, and I think Lane would be proud of, is it made some bull riding fans,” Elsie said. “It introduced some people to bull riding that had never been before, and they became fans.

“I think Lane would be proud of that.”

The movie’s initial popularity coincided with the PBR’s early years. Elsie called it “good timing.”

While touring the PBR headquarters for the first time since it was relocated to Pueblo, she stopped in the lobby of the main entrance and remarked, “Lane would have been part of this.”

In the two-plus decades since they buried their son at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hugo, Okla., next to his hero Freckles Brown, much has changed.

Thanks to Lane’s friend and travel partner Cody Lambert, bull riders are required to wear a protective vest, and a majority now choose to wear a helmet instead of the traditional cowboy hat. PBR events are held in arenas like Madison Square Garden as opposed to dusty fairgrounds, for tens of thousands instead of hundreds.

“I don’t think there was anyone who could foresee the advances that it would make and where it would go to,” Elsie said. “It’s been phenomenal. I’m just so tickled that some of the bull riders are finally making the money they deserve in their sport.”

She and Clyde both marvel at the unprecedented growth the PBR continues to experience.

They also continue to be awestruck by the passion and emotional attachment of fans to their son, whose memory continues to inspire new generations of bull riders and fans of the sport.

“It just amazes me,” Elsie said. “He’s been gone 22 years and I never dreamed that after this long people would even remember who Lane was, and so that’s been a blessing for us.

“It’s always an honor when somebody remembers Lane or names their son Lane – I haven’t kept track, but there’s thousands of those now – and I just never dreamed. I have no idea how much longer it’ll last. … I’m quite sure that’s a God thing – because he’s still using Lane.”