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Porter Still Waiting to Play Favorite Role : Marathoner: Busy schedule keeps actor, who resides in Westminster, from running every day.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He has rubbed elbows with Arnold, flown with E.T., paraded around Disneyland dressed as Mickey. He has been a robot, an ape, a scooter-riding bear; he has been a lovable monster with long purple hair.

But the role actor Bobby Porter really wants to play, is that of a runner who can run every day.

As it is, Porter, a marathoner and 20-year veteran of television and movies, has been reduced to a weekend runner lately because he’s working 12- to 14-hour days on the set of “The Land of the Lost,” a children’s television series that will debut Sept. 7 on ABC.

Porter, a 39-year-old Westminster resident, portrays the character “Stink” in the show, one that, similar to the original “Land of the Lost” of the 1970s, features a modern-day family trapped in a prehistoric world.

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Stink is described by studio officials as “a mischievous, prehistoric monkey boy whose favorite thing is to ‘get down’ to tunes.”

This role is no more unusual than most for Porter. On Aug. 22, he’ll celebrate 20 years of being in the business, most of which entailed stunt work and costumed character acting.

Because he is only 4 feet 9 1/2 and 82 pounds, Porter often plays--or doubles for--children and animals. Being pigeonholed doesn’t bother Porter, a father of two teen-aged boys. He loves the business, even though the time requirements often keep him away from his family and his running.

“My running log and my checkbook are inversely proportioned,” Porter says. “When I’m working a lot, my checkbook’s full and my running log’s empty. And vice versa.”

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Porter’s most recent work can be seen at theaters nationwide. In “Terminator 2,” a $100 million film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Porter did part of the stunt work for Eddie Furlong, who plays teen-ager John Connor, who is hunted by the Terminator.

The film features a wild chase scene in which Connor, riding a small motorcycle, is chased through a drainage ditch by the Terminator, who is driving a semi. Porter says some critics have compared it to the best chase scenes of all time.

“That was probably the most difficult work I’ve done in a long time,” Porter said. “Timing was critical.”

As was endurance. Porter says keeping fit is important in his business, as stunts are sometimes performed over and over until the director feels it was done right.

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Porter began to run as a freshman at Westminster High School in the mid-1960s. When he entered high school, Porter was 3-11 and, as he describes it, “as overweight as you can imagine.” He entered a UCLA testing program for children of short stature, and was injected with the human growth hormone every other day for 18 months.

He grew 10 inches in 1 1/2 years. That, along with his involvement in the Westminster cross-country team, gave Porter’s self-confidence a boost.

Actually, his mother, Shirley Bertoch, said Porter never really looked at his height as a disability. In high school, he wrote a paper for a psychology class on how some people would consider his small stature as a handicap, but he wrote that it was they who had the handicap--between the ears.

“We just lived with the motto ‘A winner never quits and a quitter never wins,’ ” Bertoch said. “With everything he did he’d always say, ‘Mom, I may never be first, but I’ll never, ever give up.’ ”

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Porter scoffed when he first heard about the Westminster cross-country program, then one of the finest in the state. Coach Jack Hedges had his runners train 85 to 100 miles per week, about double the mileage commonly posted in current high school programs.

“I’m like, ‘Eighty-five to 100 miles a week? What are you guys? Idiots?’ ” Porter said. “But a month later, I was right there with them. . . . I fell in love with it.”

Four years later, as a sophomore pre-med student at UC Irvine, Porter fell in love with the film industry. A neighbor who piloted helicopters in movies introduced Porter to the business, and soon Porter was taking acting lessons and working in small parts, including posing as Mickey, Minnie and Donald Duck at Disneyland.

Some of the films and television shows he has worked in include:

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* “The Poseidon Adventure” (Porter doubled for the only kid who survived the collision between tidal wave and ocean liner).

* “E.T.” (He doubled for the lead character, Elliott, and flew by the moon).

* “The Wonder Years” (doubles for the lead, Kevin).

* “On Golden Pond” (doubled for the grandson of Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, went through a windshield when he crashed a boat into a rock).

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* “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” (played the teen-age ape Cornelius, son of Caesar, played by Roddy McDowall).

* “Every Which Way But Loose” (doubled for Clyde the orangutan, who sucker punched Clint Eastwood).

* “Rescue 911" (played a kid who set the house on fire).

* “Annie” (donned a red dress, white tights and curly red wig to double for the lead character in a bridge climbing scene in New Jersey).

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* “The Shaggy D.A.” (doubled for the big pooch who always found himself in the midst of mischief).

* “Cat’s Eye” (played the little gremlin from Hell who steals the breath of sleeping children).

* “Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 5" (got knocked through a stained glass window as a teen-aged version of killer Freddie Krueger).

* “The Blob” (In this 1988 remake, Porter is one of the Blob’s many victims. In fact, producers used a picture of him being terrorized by the Blob for its promotional posters. Says Porter: “I was the Blob Poster Child.”). Others include “CHiPs,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Fairie Tale Theater,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “The Wizard,” “Problem Child,” “Prancer,” “The Toy,” “Oh God!,” “The Towering Inferno” . . .

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Even though he has worked in a glamorous field for two decades, Porter is modest and down to earth. He and his family live in a townhouse in Westminster, and when he’s not running, he spends his spare time leading Boy Scout Troop 514.

During the filming of “Terminator 2,” Porter made a deal with Schwarzenegger--if every member of Porter’s Boy Scout troop earned their fitness merit badges, Schwarzenegger would invite them onto the set.

“I had those kids doing push-ups and sit-ups until they were blue,” Porter said. "(Schwarzenegger) was great. He took time to talk with them and take pictures with each boy. They were ecstatic.”

Porter says if he decides to retire from acting, he’ll probably teach and/or coach. Kids, he says, relate well to him because of his size and outgoing personality.

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“Of course this (career) is all I’ve ever done,” Porter says. “Doing something else might be scary.”

Then again, it might be just another role to master.


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