Cowboy up: Actor Rex Linn returns to OKC to emcee the Western Heritage Awards
Rex Linn still remembers the exact day he left Oklahoma City for Los Angeles to pursue his acting career.
“I left Oklahoma City and hit I-40 on Feb. 5, 1990, and got here at midnight on Feb. 7. So, I’ve been here 30 years,” Linn said in a phone interview from his L.A. home.
“I was a banker and worked for a couple of oil companies out there … and, hey, I was 34 when I moved out here. That’s old for moving out here, especially to pursue the career of acting. ... You remember … those impactful moments, especially when everyone except your family and two best friends are thinking that you’ve completely lost your mind."
Over the past three decades, the Texas native, 62, has earned nearly 100 screen credits, including the films “Wyatt Earp,” “Cliffhanger” and “Rush Hour” and the TV series “CSI: Miami,” “Better Call Saul” and, most recently, “Young Sheldon.”
But makes frequent pilgrimages back to OKC, often to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, where Saturday he will again serve as master of ceremonies for its star-studded Western Heritage Awards.
"The Cowboy Hall of Fame, when we went there the first time … that was like walking into Disneyland. I grew with cowboys, and man, just from the start, we were enamored … so it holds a special spot in my heart — and always will,” Linn said.
“I’ve been up there on that stage so many times, it’s been great. … The Western Heritage Awards are really fantastic. And this year especially there’s gonna be a lot of good energy there.”
The 59th annual Western Heritage Awards on Saturday night will celebrate creative works in literature, music, film and television that reflect the significant stories of the Western genre. The show also will mark the induction of several people into the museum’s halls of fame.
Two-time Oscar winner Kevin Costner will be inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers, along with the late musical and screen performer Howard Keel (1919-2004). Costner stars in the popular television series "Yellowstone," which also will be honored.
Inductees into the Hall of Great Westerners will be the late Clark McEntire (1927-2014), three-time world champion steer roper and father of country music icon Reba McEntire, and the late George McJunkin (1851-1922), a cowboy and former slave who discovered the first Folsom archaeological site.
Dave Stamey, cowboy entertainer and musician, will receive the Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award, named in honor of the museum’s founder, while singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Western Heritage Awards festivities begin at 11 a.m. Friday with a workshop featuring Emmy-winning makeup artist Michael F. Blake that is free to the public with museum admission. It is followed by a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. and an autograph session with honorees at 6 p.m. The Western Heritage Awards Panel Discussion is set for 11 a.m. Saturday; it is also free to the public with museum admission.
Although Saturday night’s black-tie awards dinner is sold out, the Wrangler Network will be streaming the event live and free on wranglernetwork.com.
Linn said he is thrilled to help induct Costner into the Hall of Great Western Performers; the two are close friends who have worked together on three films: “Wyatt Earp,” “Tin Cup” and “The Postman.”
“It’s really nice to be asked to make some remarks about Kevin. He’s done a lot for me. He’s done a lot for everybody. He’s a class act," he said.
Linn's acting career continues to offer new opportunities, including his recurring role as the Texas high school principal whose students include 9-year-old genius Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) on “The Big Bang Theory” spin-off “Young Sheldon.”
“I don’t ever take it for granted because I’ve gone months without employment. If you’re gonna be in this business, you need to embrace the idea of a work in progress, because it always is,” Linn said. “You have to just persevere and so far, so good. It’s been a great ride so far; I’m not done yet, hopefully.”
What: 59th annual Western Heritage Awards.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63.
Tickets: Sold out. The Wrangler Network will be streaming the awards live and free on wranglernetwork.com.
Information: nationalcowboymuseum.org/westernheritage or 405-478-2250.
See Brandy McDonnell's coverage of the Western Heritage Awards on Sunday in The Oklahoman and on NewsOK.