Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Spring Meeting Report

The spring meeting of The Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit was held on a sunny Sunday afternoon, April 29, 2012 at Vince’s Italian Restaurant in southwest Detroit.

Amid the mingling, Gasogene John Kramb called the meeting to order at 1:39 p.m. by introducing board members, planning committee members and other high-ranking notables in attendance. He also reminded folks that the assigned story for this meeting was “The Adventure of the Red Circle,” hence the choice of venues. But more on that later.

The first-time guests included a couple who drove in from Howell (Arnie and Kathi Rubin) and the real long-distance winner (Rita Stein) who lives in Albany, New York, and came with her father, Eddie Stein, the AMS Tidewaiter. She noted however that she had actually attended an AMS meeting with her dad about 30 years ago, presumably when she still had training wheels on her bike.

As members of the Perfili and Improta families who own Vince’s readied the buffet items – mostaccioli, herbed potatoes, chicken and green beans – the regular toasts were offered, to The Woman (by a tuxedo-clad Larry Katkowski), Watson’s Second Wife (by Chris Music), Mrs. Hudson (Regina Stinson), and Mycroft Holmes (Michael Ellis).

In addition, Al Calderini hoisted a brew to the legendary actor Basil Rathbone, who set the standard for portraying Holmes in many movies in the 1940s.

Next, Rob Musial offered a historical toast that managed to link the fact that the side street bordering Vince’s (Rathbone) was named after the Civil War major who was in the booth when President Lincoln was killed, that the major’s distant cousin was Basil Rathbone and that the 1940s actor was portraying Holmes on the radio on December 7, 1941 when the broadcast was interrupted by the news that another president, FDR, would be addressing the nation the following day about the Pearl Harbor attack. Whew!

After a tasty buffet of mostaccioli, herbed potatoes, seasoned chicken and green beans, the gathering heard the first presentation of the afternoon.

In it, member Phil Jones delved into “The Illusion of Holmes,” which was predicated on what some would call a heretical supposition – that Holmes and Watson were not real at all but were characters created by someone named Arthur Conan Doyle. If one believes this, then the true genius of Doyle shines through because, according to Jones, what makes the stories in the Canon work is that the author controls the flow of information by having Watson be the one who relates what Holmes does to earn his distinction as the world’s greatest private detective. In Jones’ scholarly opinion, most portrayals and pastiches of Holmes and Watson miss that subtle magic and instead offer up straight-forward, chronological action tales cloaked in Victorian garb.

Next, Commissionaire Music offered up a diabolical quiz, loosely based on “The Adventure of the Red Circle,” the Canonical tale that was this meeting’s assigned reading. Devised by the late Sherlockian (and honorary Mendicant) John Bennett Shaw, the questions in the quiz more resembled those in an evil crossword puzzle since they depended on bad puns, the addition and subtraction of various letters and a working knowledge of several types of dog breeds. Nonetheless, Patience Nauta scored 5 ½ correct answers out of nine, taking home a beribboned medallion of honor. Jim O’Keefe came in second and likewise earned this valuable prize, which of course, could be engraved to enshrine forever such an accomplishment.

The afternoon’s main course was dished up by member Brad Schwartz. Entitled “The Shadow of the Great Detective: The Sherlockian Career of Orson Welles,” the presentation, complete with PowerPoint slides and rare audio recordings, capsulated the Sherlockian career of the man who portrayed Charles Foster Kane, Harry Lime and the gourmand who would “drink no wine before its time.” On his way to completing a 200-page undergrad history thesis on Welles, Schwartz surmised that the legendary impresario likely enjoyed the Canon as a child. Crossing paths with the character throughout his life, he played Holmes in a radio version of the famous William Gillette play as well as portraying Prof. Moriarty on a BBC radio show. There was well-documented more, including what would have given Welles a unique Holmesian Hat-Trick in terms of portraying our beloved characters but you get the idea.

After that, the drawing for the door prize – a Sherlock Holmes action figure – was held. The initial winner was Gasogene Kramb, but he declined, claiming to already have a closet full of such things so the next name was drawn and AMS Tantalus Rob Musial took home the collectible.

Kramb then mentioned that the next meeting would be held on the second weekend of September – details to come later.

Closing the meeting, Anne Musial led the multitude in the traditional singing of “God Save the Queen” (especially during this, her Jubilee or 50th year of reign) and the Mendicant’s rascally Lascar, Richard Jeryan, rose to recite the closing poem “221B” and the meeting was adjourned at 3:55 p.m.