By JOHN T. WARD
After his mic-drop win in the Red Bank Democratic primary last month, Billy Portman enters the general election campaign as – in all likelihood – the first mayoral candidate in borough history with an IMDB listing and a “filthy” rap record on his résumé.
It turns out the 53-year-old building contractor/cover-band singer has had a long involvement in comedy and films, too.
(The official tally showed Portman with 799 votes, or 60.3 percent of the total, to 521, or 39.3 percent for Ballard, with six write-ins.)
At the moment, Portman’s path to the mayoralty appears clear. Local Republican Chairman Jonathan Maciel Penney told redbankgreen Wednesday that GOP mayoral primary winner Brian Irwin is “100% a placeholder” on the November 8 ballot, with no replacement yet named. Likewise, the party’s slate for the two council seats is “not finalized,” Penney said. Penney and Christine Stout won the primary without opposition.
In recent interviews, Portman told redbankgreen he’s not taking for granted that he’ll win the election. In his free time from his job as a self-employed commercial building contractor, and when he’s not on stage singing with his party-time cover band So Watt, Portman said he’s schooling himself on government and listening closely to residents.
If elected, “I don’t want to have to change who I am,” he said, “but I also want to be respectful of who people think their mayor should be.”
Who he is, among other things, is former comedy troupe member and film actor.
Through the 1990s and into the early part of this century, Portman was in a comedy trio called No Time. His YouTube channel describes it as a “comedy/rap group.”
Mocking the bravado of 1990s rap, the LP included “a song about how large our junk was – that was the brag,” Portman said.
“It’s filthy, absolutely filthy,” he said. “It was not like I was in my 20s thinking, ‘oh what if I decide to run for mayor someday?’ But it’s funny. We used to call them ‘intelligent dick jokes.'” The lyrics referenced Teddy Roosevelt and 15th-century navigator Vasco da Gama.
Portman said he’s unconcerned about the possibility that the record and another the group recorded might be used against him in the campaign.
“It’s not like, ‘oh no, my political career is ruined,'” he said. “I jumped into this not to become a power player in Democratic politics. I jumped into it because the town I lived in was a bit of a disaster, and I thought I could help.”
As previously noted by redbankgreen, Portman served for about a decade as emcee for the Topanga Days Country Fair, an arts and music festival in southern California, where a local media report cited “the familiar tenor of Billy Portman’s voice announcing the seed spitting contest” among the event’s charms.
In 2013, he acted in an independent thriller called “The Shoot” that screened at the Count Basie Theatre, and last year voiced a character in the animated short “Piccolo Junior’s,” by his cousin, Jon Portman.
“Once I quit acting, my acting career really took off,” he quipped.
In So Watt, Portman shares the stage with two friends he’s known since they were in a band together as eighth-graders in Ocean Township. “This is like my second-half-of life hobby, and it’s been just the best thing,” he said. (So Watt’s next Red Bank gig is scheduled for September 1 at Red Rock Tap + Grill.)
Might there by any carryover of skills from fronting a band and rapping about “junk” to serving as mayor?
“I think there is,” Portman said. “Whether you’re doing comedy or singing, even in a cover band, you’re communicating something. I think it helps that I’m a good communicator.”
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