BEACH PARK — Sam Port took a gamble auditioning for Bally's Las Vegas' sexy showgirl revue Jubilee! and landed a role most men can only dream about.
After singing three songs and answering two questions affirmatively, the Tampa native became the youngest of six male singers in the longest running production show on the Strip.
"They asked me if I would be willing to move to Vegas,'' he said recently during an interview in Sin City. "And if I was comfortable wearing a G-string."
Twice a night, six nights a week, Port, in top hat and tails, steps in front of the curtain and exclaims:
Each time I look at this stage full of beauties, I say to myself, Why not add some more cuties? How about 10? 17? 24? Oh, what the heck, let's add even more!
Port slowly raises his arms and a series of elevators delivers almost 60 women strutting in rhinestones, feathers and very little else. Their huge pink and orange feathered headpieces weigh 15 pounds or more.
"I just take a step back and laugh," he says. "It's like, this has to be the best freakin' job in the world.''
Port, 24, had never been to Vegas when he moved onto a friend's couch the first few weeks. It took him longer to adjust to slot machines in grocery stores and gas stations than the show's nudity.
"In context, it's part of the story," he says. "Backstage, it's not even an issue. They'll be running around topless and we'll have conversations about what we had for dinner."
Port makes 10 costume changes, including into a leather thong in the Samson and Delilah scene. "And my dressing room is two floors below (the stage),'' he said, calculating he must run 1,500 stairs a night.
"It's surreal, I can't believe I'm doing this," Port said.
His resume is as brief as the spectacular costumes: a couple of high school plays at Berkeley Prep; hosting Rhino Rally rides at Busch Gardens; singing a capella at Cornell University.
Oh, and one summer playing a rock star in an Ohio theme park musical.
Working nights leaves plenty of time for acting classes and side jobs, like modeling and commercials.
"I still go to every audition I can,'' he said, naming Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys and Phantom of the Opera, among others.
Yet anyone who knows Port would have bet he'd be running an amusement park by now.
"Everyone's always associated me with roller coasters,'' Port says. "I've been a fanatic all my life."
Instead of recess, Port drew roller coasters — "ride-able art," he says, explaining the attraction is "not speed or danger, but engineering and design."
In sixth grade, his parents, Barbara and Marty Port of Beach Park, took him to see the Broadway hit, Miss Saigon. He was so taken with the mechanics of the show, he spent five years re-creating every set, "including the helicopter,'' he says.
When he heard the show was closing in January 2001, Port, by then an 11th-grader, sent pictures of his project to the producer, Cameron Mackintosh. He replied with an invitation to the 4,000th performance and final cast party in New York.
"I never doubted he would find his way to a creative field,'' said Kathi Grau, Port's drama teacher at Berkeley Prep, remembering when she cast him as Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele and author Leo Tolstoy.
"Something about Sammy on a stage. He was at home."
After graduation from Cornell in 2003, Port took his degree in hospitality management to Epcot as an attraction manager overseeing 200 people. After seven months on the "nonmagical side of operations," he left to pursue performing.
"There are many similarities,'' he notes, between musical productions and amusement parks. "Both are artificial realities."
Port hired an agent, signed up for acting lessons, booked a couple of commercials and waited tables at Carrabba's. On Craigslist, he learned Jubilee! was scouting talent in Orlando.
"I made sure each day I did one thing that would further my career," Port says.
Fittingly, he was at Busch Gardens, coasting on SheiKra, when the Jubilee! manager.
"It was 7/7/7,'' he said, "Lucky numbers in Las Vegas.''
His contract runs through April, then perhaps he'll entertain onboard a cruise ship. Being transient is part of the process, he says.
"Not knowing what's next is really exciting.''
Amy Scherzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3332.