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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: January 2023

New Year's Resolution for 2023

Norm Tabler

New Year's Resolution for 2023 Vintage Photography

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I will turn 79 this year, so I think it’s high time to get to the bottom of a mystery that has weighed on me for years. I resolve to do my best to solve the mystery in 2023.

The mystery? Whatever happened to sidekicks? When we were young and even not so young, every hero had a sidekick. Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson, Perry Mason had Paul Drake (not to mention Della Street), Roy Rogers had Pat Brady, Batman had Robin, the Cisco Kid had Pancho, and, of course, Johnny Carson had Ed McMahon.

Sidekicks added a lot. For example, Tonto could track hoofprints over solid rock. That was an enormous help to the Lone Ranger, who was—let’s admit it—practically hoofprint-blind. (By the way, was it really accurate to call him the Lone Ranger when Tonto was at his side 24/7? Another mystery to solve.)

A sidekick could often perform duties that were inappropriate or unseemly for a hero. As a private eye, Paul Drake could do things strictly forbidden to a prominent lawyer. Need to break into a suspect’s office? That’s a job for Paul. Perry wouldn’t dream of doing it, but he has no qualms about reading the incriminating papers Paul found, and he might even drive Paul to and from the scene of the break-in.

Of course, a sidekick makes a great straight man. Just ask any of Johnny Carson’s millions of fans. Where would Johnny have been without Ed by his side, ever ready to ask rhetorically, “Just how hot (cold, crowded, busy, expensive, cheap, or long) was it?”

Pat Brady and Watson added humor. From time-to-time Watson even spotted a clue, although he rarely understood its meaning or even that it had one. More importantly, both men provided an audience for the hero’s explanation of what he was thinking and how he had solved the mystery. That was so much better than having Arthur Conan Doyle add an “aside to the reader” or Roy turning to the camera and intoning, “Kids, here’s how I figured out the rustled cattle were in the box canyon.”

The presence of a sidekick enabled the hero to express his feelings out loud. He did it by simply talking (often down) to the sidekick. Without the sidekick, the hero would be a stick figure, devoid of emotion. The lowly sidekick enabled him to be three-dimensional.

That is why my resolution for 2023 is to solve the mystery of the disappearing sidekick. I have my deerstalker cap and magnifying glass. Now, if only I had a sidekick!