Bill Cosby kicked off Sidney Poitier’s Film Society of Lincoln Center tribute Monday night at Alice Tully Hall by disclosing a little-known fact about his three-time co-star: “The only man I ever met who’s never picked up the check.”

Cosby continued, “It’s about standing erect and excusing yourself before the check comes. Some of the cheapest people have fallen for Sidney’s trick.”

Harry Belafonte recalled how in the early 1950s Poitier, his understudy at the American Negro Theater, went on when Belafonte had to take out garbage for his job as a janitor’s assistant – that perf led to Poitier being scouted by 20th Century Fox, which cast him in “No Way Out.”

“My presence here is not to honor Sidney,” Belafonte concluded, “but remind him how much his life is based on garbage!”

Norman Jewison mentioned how filming for “In the Heat of the Night” was in Sparta, Ill., not Sparta, Miss., after Poitier and others were “chased by thugs in a pickup truck a few weeks before filming began.”

In between the speeches, Lulu transformed Alice Tully Hall into a rock venue when she belted out “To Sir, With Love.” –