Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall Meeting Recap

Early in the afternoon of Sunday October 5, 2014, some 55 Sherlockians and friends converged on Pasquale’s Italian Restaurant on Woodward Avenue in suburban Royal Oak for the annual fall meeting of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit.

The esteemed Gasogene of the society, John Kramb, called the meeting to order at 12:55 p.m. and forthwith dispensed with the introductions of the board members and planning committee. He also introduced three guests, including Barbara Bergman, Jan Calderini and John Calderini, who later would factor into the proceedings.

The Gasogene also reminded the assemblage that a large display of Sherlockian books and videos were also available from the collection of the late Holmesian, Jerry Bixby, with Michael Smith handling the details.

Soon, to the delight of the multitude, the buffet luncheon was uncovered and its savory smells of veal parmigiana, roast chicken with meat and marinara sauces and hot garlic bread sticks wafted through the lower vaults of Pasquale’s.

During the meal, the regular toasts were offered. Saluted were The Woman (a toast offered by Regina Stinson), Mycroft Holmes (by John LaFond who briefly mentioned the current problems being experienced by the Michigan Wolverines, a situation that even Holmes might not be able to right), Watson’s Second Wife (by Larry Katkowsky whose salutation was as long as a short presentation) and Mrs. Hudson (by Mike Smith).

In addition, in keeping with tradition, longtime Mendicant Jerry “Red” Alvin rose to offer a toast that combined the Red-Headed College of Musical Knowledge, a red envelope, Willie Nelson’s song “The Red-Headed Stranger” and of course, a salute to Ezekiah Hopkins, the late millionaire from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who so amply provided for members of the Red-Headed League.

With trays of dessert cannolis polished off and the meal concluded at 2:10 p.m., the society’s rascally Lascar, Richard Jeryan, next took members through the salient points of the assigned story. “The Final Problem,” of course, details the fatal clash between Holmes and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. Among the elucidated facts was the notation that the cosh, wielded by one of the professor’s bludgeon men, could also have stood for what Jeryan described as a “hyperbolic cosine,” presumably an inside joke aimed at the supposed mathematical prowess of the evil professor. At the sound of a reference to higher math, the alcohol intake in the room was observed to increase markedly.

Next, the society’s Commissionaire, Chris Music, presented a Sherlockian quiz, a 15-question exercise that sought the correct titles of various (and some nefarious) members of the nobility mentioned in the Canon. The answers ranged from sirs Henry Baskerville and Cathcart Soames to barons Adelbart Gruner and Von Herling, with six lords, a duke and a count thrown into the mix along with the remaining three sirs. In a display of spectacular scholarship, three Mendicants tied, scoring 100 percent on the quiz – Chris Jeryan, Patience Nauta and Regina Stinson. They elected to select books from the Bixby collection instead of ribboned medals to add to those they’d won in previous quizzes.

The door prize was won by longtime member Elaine Roberts, who scored a hand-embossed leather bookmark from the recent International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, which was presented over the summer in the capital city of that state just South of Michigan.

All of this brought the afternoon to its main attraction, a 20-minute presentation by Al Calderini on “Memorable Moriartys of the Media.” The presentation was greatly enhanced by video clips from several movies starring the Master and the evil Moriarty. The afore-mentioned John Calderini manned (and put together) the movie and TV clips, giving a taste of such menacing Moriartys as one of the earliest, George Zucco, and on through Lionel Atwill, Henry Daniell, Eric Porter, Jared Harris, Natalie (!) Dormer and Andrew Scott, who so brilliantly threatened Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) in the BBC’s recent “Sherlock” episodes.

Along with the clips, Calderini offered fascinating tidbits about each of the Moriartys. Among the highlights: Zucco’s mother had actually been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and Harris is the son of Richard Harris, the late actor and soulful emoter who warbled that loopy 1968 hit, “MacArthur Park,” about someone who’d left a cake out in the rain. (Fortunately, the cannolis at Pasquale’s were much better.)

Gasogene Kramb then announced the next meeting of the Mendicants – to be held Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the British Commonwealth Club in Warren. The evening’s presentation will feature actor John Sherwood who will detail his experiences portraying Holmes on-stage.

As the meeting wound down, Anne Musial and Jim and Gayle Conway led the group in the traditional signing of “God Save the Queen,” Rob Musial intoned the traditional closing poem “221B” and the meeting was adjourned at 3:08 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Musial
Tantalus, AMS