Hits of a TV Salesman

A movie about indomitable schlepper Bill Porter has done more than make him famous. It has flooded his Web site with customers

Since William H. Macy portrayed him in the TNT made-for-television movie Door to Door, Bill Porter still gets up at 8 o'clock every morning, makes himself breakfast, and schedules sales calls around reruns of Matlock. But for the 69-year-old salesman who, despite cerebral palsy has been selling home products for the Winona (Minn.)-based Watkins Inc. for almost 47 years, one thing has changed: He is unexpectedly on his way to becoming a rich man.

In just three days after Door to Door first aired on July 14, Porter's Web site, which offers products ranging from organic dishwashing detergent to barbecue sauce, tallied $60,000 in sales, according to Shelly Brady, Porter's longtime friend and business associate who was also portrayed in the movie.

By comparison, Porter was named "Salesman of the Year" in 1989 for sales of $42,460. Hits on his Web site have risen steadily, from 80 per second in the first days after the broadcast to 200 per second at the end of July. The result: more than $125,000 in gross sales for the month, 44 times more than he makes in a usual month.

The first thing Porter plans to do with his newfound wealth? "Pay income taxes," he says. "Then maybe build a new house. Mine's getting old."

By Andrew Heller