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Inspiration Behind Emmy-Winning TV Movie Dead at 81 NY Times

The man who inspired an Emmy-winning 2002 television movie has died. The New York Times reports that the inspiration behind the TNT movie “Door to Door,” Bill Porter, died Dec. 3 at 81.

Porter, who worked as a salesman despite his severe cerebral palsy, was portrayed by William H. Macy in the TV movie. Porter died of an infection, according to his longtime assistant, Shelly Brady, the story says.

Porter worked for J.R. Watkins, which sells grocery, household and personal-care products, from 1962 until he died, the piece adds.

“The successful door-to-door salesman must be skilled at driving, walking and talking. Mr. Porter did the first of these not at all and the latter two only with great difficulty. But through a combination of persistence, gregariousness and charm, he was for many years Watkins’s top salesman in the region comprising Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho,” the piece reports.

The TV project gained momentum following a profile of Porter on ABC’s “20/20,” which Macy saw and was moved by, the story notes.

“Door to Door” starred Helen Mirren as Porter’s mother and Kyra Sedgwick as Brady. The production won six Emmys, including one for Macy for his acting and a screenwriting award for him and his co-writer, Steven Schachter. It also won for outstanding made for television movie and for directing for a miniseries, movie or dramatic special, won by Schachter.

A birth injury left Porter with cerebral palsy, with Oregon deeming him unemployable. He was turned down by the Fuller Brush Company as salesman, and “the Watkins company turned him away, too, until Mr. Porter, in his first successful pitch, persuaded them to give him their most inhospitable territory in Portland,” the piece notes.

bill porter-william h. macy.jpgBill Porter, right, with William H. Macy,
who played him in "Door to Door"