Yeah, sidekicks — you know, like the partners in crime, the partners in fighting crime, the “not marquee enough to steal the show” guy, the “not pretty enough to get the guy” girl, the whipping boy, the supporting role, the court jester and the like. I love sidekicks.
Maybe because they never get the glory.
Maybe because my heart bleeds for underdogs.
Maybe because I’ve always been the sidekick.
It’s true. And I know that probably comes as a heart-stopping shock to your system. Like you totally thought I had enough charm going for me that I couldn’t possibly be the impish character providing the sympathetic audience guffaw, didn’t you?
But then you’re probably forgetting that I didn’t look like this:
So much as this:
Here are a few of my favorite TV sidekicks.
Squiggy (Laverne & Shirley). Squiggy was like an unneutered Jack Russell dog bathed in pomade. He made even Lenny look good. Even Backseat Laverne wouldn’t have him. Hell, Shirley found even the Big Ragu more appealing. Yet how could you not feel sorry for this little guy and want to adopt him and take him home from the shelter? After he’s been dewormed.
Al (Quantum Leap). In the face of uncertainty that comes with time-travel, Al always made me feel safe, like good things would happen if we only found our way into the future, all the while wearing crap like this:
Velma (Scooby-Doo). While Shaggy and Scooby were off getting high and Fred and Daphne were off getting pregnant, you could always count on the smart, loyal, practical Velma to keep her head about her and meddle her way into cracking the case, all the while wearing crap like this:
Boner (Growing Pains). The fact that he was so naive, so nonthreatening, so lame and asexual that he made the network censors completely forget how the word “boner” translated to the show’s teenage fans is nothing short of a Christmas miracle!
Natalie & Tootie (The Facts of Life). Was Natalie a sidekick to Tootie or was Tootie a sidekick to Natalie? And does their dual-sidekick status somehow cancel out that they were sidekicks to everyone else on the show, including Mrs. Garrett? Could they be some type of super-sidekick duo, thereby making them more powerful than Blair? I cannot begin to work through that mind-bending conundrum for you today.
Derek (Silver Spoons). Derek was the first bad boy I ever loved. And even though he’s an unconventional choice, I thought I’d throw him on my list as a sort of tribute to my good pal Jason Bateman and the other unappreciated, overlooked sidekicks everywhere. Who’s the sidekick now, huh, Ricky?
Other famous sidekicks who almost made my list: Kimmy Gibbler, Cousin Oliver, Mr. McFeely, Barney Rubble, George W. Bush and Balki Bartokomous.
*** Who’s your favorite TV sidekick? ***
It so happens I had one of these furry flea-bitten spider monkey dolls.
I’m not proud of it.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll already know how I feel about monkeys. You’ll know I have a long history of being repulsed by monkeys.
Whether this kind.
Or this kind.
You name it.
And then you might wonder why I owned a Monchhichi.
You might wonder why any kid would own a Monchhichi.
I can easily explain.
They have these holes in their heads. In which you can stick their thumbs. Or sometimes a peeled banana. I saw a knock-off Monchhichi with a peeled banana in its hand that could fit inside its mouth and/or ear, and that seemed sanitary enough. As opposed to its fingers which . . . aren’t.
So back to the holes. We all know how kids like to stick random junk drawer items — pennies, jawbreakers, pipe cleaners, what have you — into their own bodily orifices as if their orifices are simply handy hidden pockets. Then, inevitably, the items get stuck and have to be removed with tweezers or through surgical means.
This is fact.
I know a kid who stuck beads up her nose until it bled and she had to go to the hospital. I once tried to fit a Chiclet inside my belly button. My neighbor used his mouth to carry around his Smurf collection. We’ll say upper quadrant out of respect for the Smurfs.
Mattel is an evil empire and they know just what makes kids tick (and pick and lick for that matter).
Monkeys are not much different than children, am I right? They’re filthy little creatures who stick things in their orifices, play with their feces and eat lice off their pals’ shoulders. Which is a lot like monkeys.
Enter Monchhichi. Finally a doll children can relate to. My former kid-self included.
Need more information? Doing a report on monkeys soon? Wondering how to spot the signs that a monkey has stuck its fingers into your favorite box of chocolates? Check out the post I wrote on Curious George, the most vile creature of them all.
And enjoy this clip for daily flashback purposes.
Monchhichi, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.
I’ve recently returned home from a long family vacation. We had a great time — despite that Bobby uncovered a cursed tiki idol that created quite the pickle for us.
Oh, and Greg caught syphilis. Again. Stupid tiki.
Feeling way behind in my work around here, I was thrilled when Heather from the deliciously witty blog Becoming Cliche offered to do my homework for me. Which in the blogging world is what we call “a guest post.”
So please give a warm welcome to Heather (aka The Turtle Whisperer) — in the form of comments, confessions, Pop Rocks, denim scrunchies, etc. And please check out Heather’s blog – which the WordPress gods feature on their short list of recommended humor blogs. And you don’t want to upset the gods, what with what happened to Greg and all.
Of Mice and Mighty Men
As a child I was an average artist, and it broke my heart. When I heard people complaining that they were so lacking in artistic ability that they could not draw a stick figure, I envied. I could draw stick figures just fine, thank you. And produce little begging puppy dogs by the pack. And draw rainbows without a compass. But that was my limit, and it hurt me. I was blessed with a vivid imagination and cursed with the inability to portray my imaginings accurately on paper. With every rainbow, my heart bled a little. Until one day.
Was it birthday or Christmas or just because? I haven’t the faintest clue. I don’t even remember the actual unwrapping and receiving of it. I just recall the sense that all was suddenly right with the world. There may have also been a touch of smugness. After all, this toy was advertised during Saturday morning cartoons. That’s prime time, people! Everyone wanted it. And I had it. I, the uncool kid, was suddenly the envy of all my imaginary friends. My mom had purchased me the Mighty Men and Monster Maker kit.
If you are unfamiliar with this toy,
you have my pity let me explain. Sadly, it didn’t create actual monsters, just pictures. The kit came with 18 etched plates. To create a monster picture, the budding artist chose three plates, one head, one trunk, and one pair of legs. Want a mummy head with a superhero torso and lizard tail? You could make it! Since the plates were reversible, the number of monsters and heroes a kid with a pile of paper and half an hour to kill bordered on infinite. Once the three plates were placed in the holder and a piece of paper was inserted over the top, the image was produced by rubbing a purple crayon over the top of the paper, kind of like a grave rubbing.
It was a thing of beauty. For the first time in my life, I was able to put down on paper what was in my heart. Looking back, maybe that particular thought is a little alarming considering I primarily created the undead, but I prefer to think of my younger self as pre-emo. I didn’t need to wear black eye liner or mope about. I had the coolest toy in the universe and some mad
scientist skilz with a purple crayon.
What, you think it didn’t take skill? Clearly you have never used a Monster Maker or Tomy’s more mainstream equivalent, the Fashion Plate. Like a diamond, it takes just the right amount of pressure to create this thing of beauty. Too little, and there’s no monster at all, too much and you’re dealing with giant purple smudges all over the paper. And let’s not forget the coloring. Each monster had to be hand colored with colored pencils! Not crayons, you understand. Crayons are for babies, and this toy ain’t for babies. I colored those things all up! And I stayed in the lines every, single time. I told you I was good.
So where is this toy now, you ask? This toy that launched me to the very height of coolness? Good question. One day my magic gadget was just gone. *poof* I have ever since been deprived of the ability to express myself through art. I think that’s what forced me to become a writer.
I’m in a rush to do stuff, stuff that is much too boring to talk about here.
But I feared your Tuesday would feel dark and meaningless without a weekly dose of lead-laden, flashbackin’ toy goodness.
(This thing is not about me, friends — it’s about you. I swear it. I do it for you.)
Today: Spider-Man Ricochet Racer
Soon I will be off on an annual cross-country trek to visit my dear ol’ brother, Tony.
You may already know Tony from his various cameo appearances here on Childhood Relived.
Over the past two years that he’s been featured on this blog, perhaps his best known roles have been . . .
“Kid with a Poopy Diaper and a Droopy Conscience,”
“Kid Who Wrapped Up a Live Spider for His Sister’s Birthday,”
and “Kid Who Made His Sister’s Face Look Like This for Most of the ’80s.”
Notably, he’s also known by someone somewhere as “Sweet Ninja.” Which you may have read about here in my exclusive, dramatically revealing interview with Tony last fall, which blew the doors clean off this blog.
Today, in honor of the big guy, I’m spotlighting a very special chunk of plastic.
Sadly, it’s probably nothing you’d ever remember, but it’s definitely been certified as one of Tony’s favoritest mildly dangerous toys.
I had to dig deep, deeeeeeep, into my heap of useless memories to find a picture of this thing. Tragically, the internets told me the world had forgotten it.
Searching “Spider-Man gun,” “Spider-Man toy that shot matchbox cars, Legos and Cheetos,” and “things that hit me in the head once” proved fruitless.
Finally, I stumbled upon it, almost by accident, in fact due to an accident, when I searched “signs of a past, undiagnosed concussion.”
Although, I’m still not 100% satisfied with the results. While the shooter thingy is dead-on accurate, I’m thinking the Spidey shuttle pods were different? Maybe more pointy? Like a compass spike?
I’m fairly positive the Spideys were lost within days of their initial launch. And were never heard from again.
I’m fairly certain my brother found comparable items to stuff in and shoot at me.
I’m fairly relieved that our darts wouldn’t fit.
Spider-Man Ricochet Racer, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.
Here we are again. It’s Toy Tuesday. That special time of the week that occurs on Tuesday. When I feature a toy. And that’s why I call it Toy Tuesday.
But first, let me revisit with you a couple painful subjects.
(1) The Blogging Blahs and (2) Rainbow Horny Wings.
Ahem, the Blogging Blahs. I’ve had a pesky case of them for the past three months now.
I’ve lost the will to write.
Not a case of Writer’s Block, mind you.
Oh, no, no, no. Nooooo.
No performance problems here. My creative noggin is as virile as the Brawny Paper Towel guy. And I’d like to talk more about my hulking, mustached beast of a creative noggin, but now it’s on its way to hammer up some drywall. Later, nogs.
So I bring up the Blogging Blahs because these past two weeks since I introduced Toy Tuesday, you all have lifted me up with your love and enthusiasm for flashback toys!
Dare I say, I want to write again? I think so.
You all are the wind beneath my Rainbow Horny Wings!
Rainbow Horny Wings of course being my top secret toy pitch to Mattel that consisted of a hybridized winged unicorn. “Anatomically impossible!” said Mattel.
Nothing is impossible, my friends. Nothing.
So my sincere thanks for reminding me why I have this blog.
To remember things that you’ve forgotten.
And to remind the world that I invented the winged unicorn.
Today I’m reminded of a toy I don’t remember. I remember playing with it. Sooooort of. But I don’t remember where. Because I personally didn’t own this fine specimen of plastic testosterone. So whether I played with it at a friend’s house or stumbled upon it in the hepatitis box in my doctor’s waiting room, I just don’t know.
But I know I played with it. Him. I played with him. I played with Ken. Oh my, yes I did — wink, wink, hubba-hubba, if you catch my drift, which you shouldn’t even bother to catch because I lack all imagination in that department.
You might be a little disgusted when I tell you that I remember the plushy feel of his Coloforms-style punch-out facial hair.
It wasn’t bristly. It was soft, velvety and never rough against my skin. Which was too bad since I needed it to itch my chicken pox.
And if you think those scraps of facial hair were adhered only to his upper quadrant, you must think children are made of rose petals and smell of cinnamon with nary a snotty booger stuck to their bedposts.
And then you probably also believe this is Greg Brady’s friend Phil Packer.
And not just Peter in a Mod Hair Ken mustache.
Is it getting hot in here now? Well it’s about to get hotter.
You think you know a person like Mod Hair Ken.
But you don’t ever really know anyone, do you.
Until you strip off the illusion — in this case, a polyester leisure suit — to unveil the truth.
HE HAS A DICKIE.
It’s okay, Mod Hair Ken.
A lot of men have this.
Nothing to be ashamed of.
Nothing that a couple of sideburns and a Fu Manchu patch can’t hide.
Mod Hair Ken, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.
Last week I kicked off a new sometimes-weekly segment where I will flashback-up a toy from the era of my childhood.
And I so creatively call it — Toy Tuesday. Read here if you missed out on the kickoff celebration that might have included free pairs of Romper Stompers for every man, woman and child or actually just a print-yourself poster of Russell Crowe wearing white suspenders.
Today I’m honoring the simple wonder that is the View-Master.
The View-Master was magical! Here’s how it worked. You stuck a round card of tiny slides into the View-Master. You looked through it. You saw a picture. Then you clicked the lever. And then you saw — get this — another picture. And another — it just kept going! Forever. That’s the beauty that is a circle. It never ends. Amen.
Our View-Master was among the usual suspects of toys that ended up lying in the corner of the basement next to the toy box. These were the toys flung out in search of other toys.
Sadly, I can remember only two of the reels we had for our View-Master. The rest were probably lost, damaged or confiscated after being fashioned into Chinese throwing stars. In fact, all of them were fashioned into Chinese throwing stars, which is why they became lost or damaged.
One reel we owned was some kind of directory of the wild animals of Africa. Perhaps a lion. Maybe a gazelle. I seem to recall a zebra hiding in some tall grass. No, I think now it was the wild animals of North America. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps a mountain lion. Maybe a deer. I seem to recall a moose hiding in some tall grass. Okay so I don’t exactly recall what animals I saw. But I am 100% certain about the tall grass.
The other View-Master reel I remember contained scenes from Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Which is why I never had to visit Disneyland as a kid. I had the View-Master slides, you see. My parents were really thoughtful.
View-Master, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.
Pretty snappy, right?
Eight other names I came up with for the segment that did not make the cut:
(1) Totally Tubular Toy Tuesday:
(2) Toys Were Us Tuesday:
(3) Throwback Toy Tuesday/Thursday (Depending on What I Have on My Schedule on Tuesday or Thursday):
(4) Remember That One Thing? Tuesday:
(5) Slightly More Fun Than Sticks and Rocks Tuesday:
(6) When Lead Was Fun Tuesday:
(7) Toys That Almost Killed Us Tuesday:
(8) It’s Tuesday:
But there’s more! I will also be taking your input on toys to feature in future segments. See that adorable bite-sized comment box way down below? If it so moves you, please leave a suggested toy feature right there. Or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I pick your toy idea to feature, I’ll be sure to give you a special shout-out.
But I will not give you a toy. Repeat. I will not give you a toy.
Today I’m featuring one of my favorite old toys – Romper Stompers.
What’s that, you ask?
Yes, that’s right — Romper Stompers.
I know, you probably didn’t even know they were called Romper Stompers.
I personally knew them as “those plastic cup things that you walked about on during nursery school in order to appear taller and intimidate the biters.” And when I googled that, I learned they were called Romper Stompers.
Not to be confused with Romper Stomper:
Not to be confused with Romper Room:
Not to be confused with Romper Brat:
What I loved the most about Romper Stompers is how sometimes one foot (particularly if clad in a wooden-soled clog) would slip right off the front of the cup and sort of launch you to the linoleum floor — in the process, creating an entirely different type of toy. The hurty variety, if you will.
What I also loved about Romper Stompers is how the foot apparatus appeared to be, quite simply, plain old recycled Parkay margarine tubs, thereby allowing the toy company to capitalize on what children had already been doing for centuries — standing up on random stuff to reach something.
Romper Stompers, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.
Dearest Readers, the video thingy at the end of this blog is an advertisement and not part of the content of Childhood Relived. These ads help off-set a small portion of the cost of the copious amount of coffee I drink, necessary for writing this blog.