Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pose's Billy Porter won 100 grand on Star Search, and left Ed McMahon hanging

Jimmy Kimmel, Billy Porter
Jimmy Kimmel, Billy Porter
Screenshot: Jimmy Kimmel Live

With the third and final season of FX’s Pose premiering this Sunday, almost-an-EGOT star Billy Porter (he just needs that Oscar) appeared virtually from his new home on Long Island on Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. Admitting that his long-in-coming superstardom allowed both him and his husband to flee their longtime Manhattan home for the less densely packed environs of L.I., Porter conceded that he’s one of the lucky ones who could just pick up and flee the COVID hotspot during the pandemic. “I worked hard for it,” exclaimed Porter, emphatically telling Kimmel, “I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps,” in order to live “high, mighty white woman dreams out here.”

Fair enough, especially since the Broadway (and now TV) icon has been toiling at his art ever since he was kicking it in his less-fabulous hometown of Pittsburgh. (No offense to the Steel City, which no doubt has a fine and thriving theater scene.) Kimmel could only agree with Porter’s assessment of his long hard-fought career success (again, one letter from an EGOT) and brought out some video documentation to prove it. Showing a clip from the then 21-year-old Porter’s grand prize-winning performance on the venerable, Ed McMahon-hosted nationwide talent competition show, Star Search, Kimmel might have been playing some gotcha late-night games with his illustrious guest, but Porter was all too happy to relive his younger glory days. (You can watch the whole, 1992-America-in-miniature spectacle here.)

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And why wouldn’t he be? First off, Porter won the male vocalist competition (over ponytailed mononym, Rosco), belting out a judges-wowing rendition of Jennifer Holliday’s “A Dream With Your Name On It,” walking away with a cool hundred grand for his trouble. (Porter noted that that was only $44 thousand after taxes, much of which went toward getting his spaced-out choppers turned into “movie star teeth.”) Secondly, there’s visual proof of the young Porter being so swept away by the moment that he left perennially, let’s-say “distracted” Star Search host Ed McMahon hanging, walking off to rapturous audience applause without acknowledging McMahon’s proffered handshake. “I didn’t know!,” protested Porter, of the Tonight Show sideman’s awkward snub. (Porter did shake the disappointed Rosco’s hand, which is nice.) And, sure, maybe some might take issue now with Porter’s very 90s wardrobe (imagine if Sinbad were one of the Friends), but, as present-day Porter advised Kimmel (who’d been shamed all day for his own clothing choices), “You just have to let the haters hate.”

Pose returns on FX on Sunday at 10 p.m. EST.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.