The rise and thrall of an Idol
Kalan Porter seems both overjoyed and horrified.
It's 11:30 p.m. on Thursday night, less than two hours since the porcelain 18-year-old from Medicine Hat was declared champion on CTV's wildly popular Canadian Idol.
Porter enters Schmooze nightclub on Mercer St. for the glitzy after-party. As we snake toward an empty storage room, a temporary refuge from throbbing dance music and peering eyes, he exhales.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," he says, looking dazed. "It doesn't feel real."
Just before 10 p.m., inside the John Bassett Theatre, Porter stood on stage, holding hands with finalist Theresa Sokyrka.
When Porter's name was announced, Sokyrka threw her arms around him, a physical catharsis ending months of toil and escalating stress. Porter averted his blue eyes and mustered a shy, sloping smile in the downpour of red and white confetti.
"The first thing that went through my head is, `Oh, crap, I have to sing that song now,'" he says, referring to "Awake In A Dream," his single that is already getting radio airplay. BMG Canada will release it next month.
He says, strangely, there is guilt in winning.
"I would have been happy either way," he says. "It's hard. I would have been just as happy if Theresa won because we've become such close friends."
A few months ago, Porter was an unknown musician from Alberta. Tonight, after months of national exposure, his newfound celebrity is both palpable and astonishing.
We re-enter the bar. As "Celebration" segues into "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough," Porter is mobbed by wide-eyed admirers. He looks disoriented, graciously signing posters as cameras flash. He is congratulated. Praised. Hugged. Worshipped.
It's now after midnight and I'm standing outside with Sokyrka.
"I'm really proud of Kalan," she says. "I truly believe he worked very hard to earn this."
Her advice to Kalan: "Stay as humble as he is but gain confidence, because I know he can do so much in this world. All he needs to do is believe in himself."
Earlier in the night, Jacob Hoggard, the rowdy Idol eliminated last week, says something similar, albeit with off-camera language.
"You did it!" he screams, grabbing at Porter's throat. "Now follow your dreams, you motherf----r!"
If unruly behaviour is a prerequisite to life in the music business, Hoggard is poised to have a legendary career. On this night, I've witnessed him emerge from a black limo shouting, with a martini shaker in hand; dance atop the bar; kiss a nubile admirer; and bolt through Schmooze in a cropped white tank top with the erratic speed of a cougar on crack.
A record 3.6 million votes were cast in the Porter-Sokyrka showdown on Wednesday night. The voting breakdown is a heavily guarded secret. It was not, however, a runaway.
"I will just say this vote was closer than some people may have thought," says a beaming Ivan Fecan, chief executive at CTV. "It was not a landslide."
Fecan says Canadian Idol was a risk that succeeded.
"It's a very expensive show to do," he says. "The worry I had as an executive is I wanted to make sure we had enough resources to do it right. If we did, I thought we had a pretty good chance of being successful."
The only person in Canada who understands how Porter's life is about to change is Ryan Malcolm, who went through all of this last year. It's now approaching 1 a.m. as we walk down Mercer St.
"It kind of feels like last year when you and I were sitting on the patio," Malcolm says, lighting a cigarette. "Only I'm wearing a more expensive suit!"
Malcolm has sold more than 100,000 albums since winning the rookie competition. He's relieved to be sharing the Idol crown with Porter, a man too young to order a drink at his own party.
"When I won last year, I didn't have anybody to work with," he says. "Now that there's another Idol, I have somebody to hang out with and tour with.
"And the girls love him. I'm hoping he can help me with the women."
Jake Gold, one of the four judges, hopes the success of this year's show will convince skeptics and demolish the haughty snickers echoing from certain corners.
"The industry has to wake up and understand that this is a serious vehicle," he says. "This is the only show of its kind in Canada."
Gold is also disappointed with some Canadian performers who not only declined to participate in recent weeks but refused to clear rights for their songs to be used on telecasts.
"We asked many Canadian artists and they turned us down," he says, with a shrug. "I won't name names. But they wouldn't come on the show. They wouldn't work with the kids."
Maybe that will change. Maybe it won't.
From judge Farley Flex entering the bar in a cream-coloured suit while holding a vanilla ice cream cone, to a bouncer grabbing Hoggard's tumbler and dumping the mystery contents on the sidewalk, it's been a night of disjointed spectacle.
The Idols are now in a semi-circle on the dance floor, jumping to a pounding beat, pumping their arms triumphantly upward, revelling in the ephemeral moment.
"That's so cute," says a semi-clad woman as she sips a blue martini. "They're having so much fun."