I mentioned the old radio serial Terry and the Pirates in the posting of December 17, 2008, but I did not follow it. It came on after all of the others—Tom Mix, Superman, Jack Armstrong (“the all-American boy”), and Captain Midnight—and I turned it off soon after the introduction, which I liked. The problem was that I did not understand the point of it all. (The same was true of Lum and Abner that is now one of the classics of Old Time Radio. Who were they, and what were they talking about?)
From the title and the little I heard, I assumed the main male character was Terry, and his entourage of disparate characters were the Pirates. Boy, did I have it wrong.
I finally got it straightened out, at least as much as it can be, from some old time radio programs on CD disks that included several Terry and the Pirates episodes, including the very first one. I gather the comic strip, on which the radio serial was based, provided more details, but I never read it.
No wonder I was confused. Terry Lee is actually a young teen-aged boy befriended by the thirty-something alpha male, Pat Ryan, who is the real hero of the series. Terry is almost a minor character. Pat is sort of a soldier of fortune who seems attracted to young boys, but I’ll let that pass. Those were innocent times. There are many jokes about the Lone Ranger and Tonto, but they also had a boy, Dan Reed, in many of their episodes. It helped to have a character their audience could identify with.
Nothing is mentioned of Terry or Pat’s background. They just abruptly appear one day in “the Orient” (not further identified, but obviously China) looking for a gold mine. Pat is officially a journalist, but he never writes anything, meets deadlines, nor corresponds with his editor. They pick up a local guide named Confucius who they call Connie, but Confucius is not even a Chinese name. It is a Latinized version of “K’ung Futzu.”
Their entourage grew to include Burma (who sounds like a hot lady, but Pat is apparently not attracted to her), Hot Shot Charlie, Flip Corkin, and Ellita (also a female, but the comedian type that never attracts anybody, like the characters Eve Arden often played). They, too, appear out of nowhere, and they never mention their family or past life.
The Pirates were the evil gang led by the Dragon Lady, although they didn’t to do much actual pirating. Mostly they were just gangsters who were into wartime profiteering.
But I loved the introduction. It began with the loud street noises of Shanghai, surprisingly accurate even today, followed by a slow, echoey voice-over dramatically announcing “Terry . . . and . . . the Pirates!” A catchy title, but sure misleading.
(Speaking of Eve Arden, I thought she was hot. I have always liked sassy women. The characters she portrayed were always spinsters unsuccessfully looking for a boyfriend, but even at ten years old I would have volunteered in a heartbeat, even over the Dragon Lady. Pick me! Pick me, Miss Brooks!)