For its annual fall meeting, the Amateur Mendicant Society again gathered at its unofficial headquarters, the veddy British Commonwealth Club, located in the suburban outlands of Warren, Michigan.
It was another record-setting event, as 69 Sherlockian scholars and friends gathered to enjoy each other’s company and fete The Master once again.
Most of the group was in their places by 7:11 p.m. when the society’s capo di tutti capi and Gasogene, John Kramb, gaveled the session to order.
Kramb quickly acknowledged the board members in the audience along with members of the society’s planning committee. A first-timer was also recognized, Angie Lai, a local actress who will perform in “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” Oct. 25 – Nov. 23 at the Broadway Onstage theater in Eastpointe, Michigan.
In other miscellaneous business, member and Tantalus Emeritus Ray Mandziuk displayed the bottle of limited first edition 221B Cellars wine to be auctioned at the society’s January meeting. Only 200 bottles of the “Study in Scarlet,” a blend of Sonoma County Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, are being offered nationwide by Vamberry the Wine Merchant.
During the evening, members also had a chance to browse a large selection of Holmes’ books and memorabilia, courtesy of member Mike Smith, who is handling the materials for the estate of the late Sherlockian Jerry Bixby. More will be available for collectors at the January meeting.
Kramb also alerted the audience about an upcoming TV documentary co-written by AMS member Brad Schwartz. The documentary, on Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” program, will be broadcast on the PBS “American Experience” series Oct. 29, the eve of the 75th anniversary of the original show about a Martian invasion, which popular legend holds created a public panic.
In other AMS broadcast news, member Scott Monty reminded the assembled multitude about his regular podcast and Web site, ihearofsherlock.com, which provides regularly-updated news and information about Sherlock Holmes in popular culture.
Next came the obligatory toasts which were offered to The Woman (by Al Calderini, completing his grand slam of toasting all four saluted characters), Watson’s Second Wife (by Phil Jones, marking his fourth time for saluting the second Mrs. Watson); Mrs. Hudson (by Michael Jones in a loooong toast or short paper that blended textural criticism, “LaLaLand” and the pre-Kevlar era) and finally Mycroft Holmes (by Bev Sobolewski, short and sweet). Bringing up the caboose was Jerry Alvin, who repeated a toast he did at a 1978 AMS meeting, to honor Ezekiah Hopkins, the late millionaire from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who so generously provided for the propagation of redheads everywhere with his generous bequest to create the Red-Headed League.
Resplendent in a British major’s dress uniform made for a family member, Dr. David Mohan also rose to remark on ancestral England, the War of 1812 and a recent flag ceremony at the Detroit Historical Museum. He ended by reading poet Rupert Brooke’s sonnet to an English soldier.
By this time, the buffet board was groaning and the group queued up to avail themselves of chicken cordon bleu, freshly-carved roast beef, savory potatoes, vegetables and an assortment of desserts.
Over dinner, several members were heard to comment on the arrangement of roses at the entrance table. Mysteriously delivered to the club minutes before the meeting, they contained only a card that read “My dearest Sherlock, My heart is breaking at the thought of your illness. Please get well soonest, my darling! Love, Irene.” One can only assume that this gift referred in some way to the evening’s assigned reading, “The Case of the Dying Detective” – but more on that later.
Following the repast, Tantalus Rob Musial offered special recognition to the winner of the 2012 Beggar’s Cup Award. Given annually since 2008 for the best presentation of the year, it was bestowed this time on Dennis Ward for his PowerPoint monograph, “The Enigma of Sherlock Holmes.” Wags who noted that Ward actually gave his paper at the January 2013 meeting failed to take into account that the AMS has only recently adopted the Georgian calendar in place of the Julian, thereby qualifying Ward’s work as scholarship in 2012.
Next, Gasogene Kramb offered a spirited review of discussion points on the “Dying Detective” story which was first published 100 years ago. This was followed by a diabolical 12-question quiz on same devised by Commissionaire Chris Music. Earning ribboned scholar’s medals for the most correct answers were Patience Nauta, Chris Jeryan and Terri Roth. Those who missed every question could find themselves subject to the Tapanuli Fever mentioned in the story.
Prior to the evening’s presentation, the regular door prize drawing was held and Elaine Johnson, Arlene Katkowsky and Joyce Hostnik were awarded summer-weight deerstalker caps.
That was a perfect lead-in to the presentation, “The Legend of the Deerstalker,” by Regina Stinson, AMS, BSI and co-founder of the Ribston-Pippins scion. Her excellently-researched monograph reviewed the two dozen artists who illustrated the Canon in its early days, among them Arthur Conan Doyle’s father, Charles Altamont Doyle; and more popularly, Sidney Paget and Frederic Dorr Steele, who contributed the most iconic depictions of The Master and his surroundings.
With the meeting drawing to a close, Gasogene Kramb offered that the next meeting (and annual celebration of Sherlock Holmes’ birthday) would likely be in late January (or possibly in early February) and perhaps at a new venue; details will be worked out shortly.
Anne Musial and Dr. Mohan then led the 69-voice gathering in the traditional singing of “God Save the Queen” followed by Lascar Richard Jeryan’s stalwart reading of “221B” and the meeting was adjourned at 9:55 p.m.