Got another radio quiz for you, this time on sidekicks.
Huh. Just learned something: the word “sidekick” originated in the pickpocketing trade. It referred to the front side pocket of a pair of pants, supposedly the hardest pocket to pick. Somehow that morphed into a synonym for “dependable friend.” And so doeth “Our Crazy Old English Language” evolve.
The sidekick was an important element of radio adventure shows, too, as he or she provided a means for the writer to describe the action without having to disturb the narrator (no doubt down the hall in the announcers’ lounge, his hand cupped behind his ear, practicing his “hey, fellas and gals…”). “Mr. Dillon, they’re headed for the Long Branch,” tells you and Mr. Dillon what you both need to know.
The sidekick was also a device to find out what the hero was thinking. Consider the shows where there was no sidekick: Superman had only himself to talk to whenever he put on the cape and union suit; Sgt. Preston could talk to King, but his cold-nosed companion only yipped in response. (Superman in particular should have raised the eyebrow of any eavesdropping mental health professional.)
I’ve often wondered what role the sidekick played in less dramatic, day-to-day moments. Perhaps they also handled the ops side of the business, setting up gigs, arranging for hay deliveries, making sure the local saloon stocked the star’s favorite rye. Maybe they acted as business manager: “Hey, Keemosabe, what’s this entry for $200 under Client Relations”?
So, here’s the quiz, then. Below are the sidekicks—who are their respective principals? E.g., who was the “Simon” to Kato’s “Garfunkel”? The “Hall” to Jingles’s “Oates”?
3. Little Beaver
5. Margo Lane
8. Mike Clancy
9. Cadet Happy
10. Dr. Watson
12. (Although from a comedy) a classic wingman: Frankie Remley
And since I’ve raised the topic of pocket picking: A few years ago I had an unfortunate short course in the subject while visiting Portugal. Here’s how I subsequently described it for the Los Angeles Times and Newark Star-Ledger:
The little trolleys are just so cute that they almost make me forget the only negative experience of our trip: I got robbed. Tram No. 28 is recommended in the guidebooks as a charming way to ride through the old neighborhoods and to the Saturday flea market (“Feira da Ladra”). So my wife and I boarded the crowded tram on Saturday morning, heading for the flea market.
Had I not been the victim and instead been watching the episode as a member of an audience, I would have applauded the sheer artistry of the pickpockets. My wife and I got separated in the crowd. Someone brushed my camera and the lens cap fell to the floor. (Bravo!) I searched the floor, which was difficult to do while hanging onto the overhead straps as the trolley climbed the steep São Jorge Hill and swung abruptly around its sharp corners. Two middle-aged guys kept jostling me as they disagreed over which of them should take the one empty seat next to me. Then they were gone—and so was my wallet. (Encore! Author, author!)
I can report that Lisbon police are polite, sympathetic and that they helped us contact our credit card companies to report the theft. And they gave us advice that was echoed by our hotel’s concierge and other locals: Oh, you have to be careful on Tram 28—it’s notorious for pickpockets. Ahem, the guidebooks might have pointed that out in their catalog of Tram 28’s charms. (Did I mention that Feira da Ladra literally means “thieves’ market”?)
I add that the wallet was in a front pocket. The guys were that good.