Maybe Someday They'll Name a Drink After Little Alisan Porter; She'd Like to Be the Next Shirley Temple
02/15/1988 at 01:00 AM EST
From the moment she heard him squeak out his opening line in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Alisan Porter was entranced by the diminutive star. "I felt like he's my type of man," says the precocious 6-year-old, "because he's crazy and so am I." So, like a fox, Alisan talked her mother into letting her try out for a part on Pee-wee's Playhouse. She sailed through one audition, then a second while in the grip of a 102° fever, and beat out 100 other kids for the part of Lil Pumkin, a child who belts out songs instead of speaking her lines. "I had to act like I wasn't sick at all," Alisan remembers. "I really wanted to be on the show, so it didn't stop me."
Unstoppability has always been Alisan's trademark. At 2, she was warbling show tunes at home in Worcester, Mass., and by 3½, she was already angling for an acting career. "We'd watch commercials on TV, and she'd say, 'Mommy, I can do that,' " recalls her mother, Laura, of her only child. "I couldn't say no." Since mid-'85 Alisan has done a guest spot on Family Ties, appeared on the annual Jerry Lewis telethon from Las Vegas, been a five-time winner on Star Search, played Valerie Bertinelli as a child in the miniseries I'll Take Manhattan and appeared in 19 commercials (Fresh Start detergent, Kentucky Fried Chicken). She even sang in a PBS special taped at the White House last fall and was escorted to the reception afterwards by the host himself. "I sang 'I Won't Dance,' and at the end the President said, 'I don't have a date,' " says Alisan, giggling. "He gave me some jellybeans and I got his autograph. Hip, hip, hooray!"
Alisan comes by her showbiz ebullience naturally. Her father, Ric Porter, who was divorced from her mother when Ali was 2, is a singer and songwriter. Her mother, a choreographer, danced on Broadway and appeared in A Chorus Line. When Ali was a baby, Laura says, "I would set her down on the floor of the stage among all the smelly feet. She loved it." Alisan's maternal grandparents run a dance studio in Worcester, and it was there that she got her first break. A visiting casting director heard her performing a commercial she had memorized for fun and urged Laura to find a New York agent. After 12 near-miss auditions, Alisan was chosen for a United Airlines commercial, and her career took off. She and Laura moved to L.A. just over a year ago, and last February, Laura married TV producer-director Don Weiner. "Meeting him was like a dream come true," sighs Laura. Alisan, never given to low-key endorsements, bounces and squeals in agreement.
Not everything about the glamorous life makes Alisan jump for joy. At the school she attends near her family's Westwood condo, for instance, there are a bunch of celebrity-hungry Philistines who just won't leave her alone. "They always bother me. They pinch my cheeks and ask me for Michael J. Fox's phone number. I say I don't have it. But I do have friends that like me just the way I am." Even when she's tired of the recognition ("Sometimes," she admits, "I just want to hide my face"), Ali has no intention of becoming just another workaday little girl. "I feel good about being famous," Alisan says, and she's already learning how the famous behave. When her manager's assistant, Mark Baker, phones, she sometimes puts him on hold, just as a grownup would. When Jimmy Stewart, her co-star in the recent TV special A Beverly Hills Christmas, admired her pink dress, she piped up like any other flirtatious starlet, "I picked it out just for you." She's still a bit star-struck, of course. "I'm a TV fan of everyone," she giggles, "even Dick Van Dyke." And while she's a tad young for dating, she admits she really likes 6-year-old Brian Bonsall, who plays Michael J. Fox's little brother on Family Ties. "Once we were going to kiss on the cheek," she says, "but we kissed on the lips by accident! I hope Brian isn't reading this..." Mark Baker, meanwhile, thinks of Shirley Temple whenever he looks at his client. "America is ready to love another little girl," he says, and Alisan would be more than delighted to fill the bill. "I live to act," she says. "I want to become a star."