"Aw, c'mon Dennis!"
"Sorry, Jimbo, but I can't help you out this time".
This scene played itself out many times over on the hit NBC series, The Rockford Files, whenever private investigator Jim Rockford would pop into LAPD headquarters hoping his buddy, Sgt. Dennis Becker would run a licence plate for him or agree to provide any other professional favour that only the police can.
So on what would have been the 88th birthday of my favourite actor, James Garner, I'd also like to pay tribute to Jim's dear friend and colleague, Joe Santos, who played Sgt. Becker and whom we sadly lost just a few weeks ago on March 18, 2016, after he suffered a heart attack at the age of 84.
Joe Santos was completely believable as the constantly beleaguered, overworked and under-appreciated Sgt. Dennis Becker, with his Brooklyn accent and moon face always sporting a hangdog expression. Though he was Rockford's best friend off-duty, on the job Dennis had to be careful not to be seen doing Jim any favours that might go against official police protocol, lest he be caught by one of his superiors, either Lt. Diehl or Lt. Chapman, both of whom detested poor Rockford and still viewed him as a bad news ex-con (despite his being innocent of his charge and given a full pardon after being released from prison). Fortunately, friendship and loyalty always won out in the end, with Dennis following up on Rockford's tips and often showing up with his fellow cops just in the nick of time to get Jim out of a tight spot in the climax of many episodes.
The Rockford Files had one of the best ensemble casts of any TV detective show back in the 1970s, and due to Jim Garner's legendary generosity to his fellow actors, all his co-stars remained loyal friends to Jim off-screen as well. Though Joe Santos played many other roles in his long career (including the role of Frank Sinatra's father, Marty, in the 1992 TV miniseries, Sinatra), he will always be best remembered as harried but loveable Dennis Becker, who happily, eventually got promoted to Lieutenant for all his hard work and dedication!
So here's to both Jim Garner and Joe Santos - two wonderful actors and good friends, both on and off screen!