Tuesday, June 14, 2016

70th Anniversary Dinner Report

The 70th anniversary dinner of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit saw 64 members and fellow travelers gather at Lelli’s of Auburn Hills to celebrate the society’s seven decades of longevity (with, like Sherlock Holmes himself, a hiatus here and there).
In keeping with the observance, the gathering was highlighted by a special program that reproduced the agenda of the society’s first meeting which occurred at a Detroit supper club on April 26, 1946 – coincidentally, the same year that the Baker Street Journal was first published.

Even the cover of the program had special significance, reproducing the artwork from the society’s “resurrection” dinner in 1975, complete with a reproduced autographed copy of Vincent Starrett’s famous poem, “221B”, on the back. In keeping with the afternoon’s historical theme, several people, among them Velda Dykehouse, Dennis and Lucille Petroni and Bev Sobolewski, even came in Victorian-era garb, adding to the celebration.
Gasogene John Kramb cordially welcomed the throng at 1:10 p.m. and introduced the board members, guests and new members, including Frank Bartolo of the Commonwealth Club. 

Underlining the historical significance of the afternoon, Kramb also noted that two former AMS Gasogenes were in attendance: Tom Voss and Dr. Ed Stein along with past Commissionaire Bill Volz and past Tantalus Ray Mandziuk.

With that, the afternoon got underway as members made their selections from Lelli’s fine board of entrees, ranging from a char-broiled filet with zip sauce, veal parmigiana marinara, chicken Marsala, sautéed lake perch or an eggplant parmigiana. Dessert was a special cake made to resemble a giant version of the society’s legendary lapel pin.
The lapel pin was also reprised in a gift bookmark everyone received. Designed by artist and member Martha Thierry, it showed the pin, the anniversary years and a Sidney Paget illustration of an amateur mendicant on one side and a complete list of the Sacred Writings on the obverse.

During the luncheon, the society’s traditional toasts were offered, plus the ones that were made at the First Dinner 70 years ago.

Toasted were The Woman (by Phil Jones), Mrs. Hudson (by Velda Dykehouse), Watson’s Second Wife (excellently done by Regina Stinson as a poem), Mycroft Holmes (by Ed Stein) and the Second Most Dangerous Man in London (by Rob Musial, who pointed out that this personage, Col. Sebastian Moran, caused Holmes to return from his three-year hiatus). Finally, as in 1946, a toast was offered to The Game is Afoot (by Al Calderini, who spelled out what the Sherlockian “game” is all about).

In addition, former Tantalus Jerry “Red” Alvin offered the now-customary toast to Ezekiah Hopkins, the late eccentric millionaire from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who so amply provided for the Red-Headed League. Alvin’s toast was made all the more convivial with a fine red wine, a 1986 French grand cru, supplied by member Phil Jones.

Glasses were also raised to Queen Elizabeth II who had celebrated her 90th birthday a week earlier, having surpassed in 2015 the record reign of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, the ruler during most of Holmes’ adventures.

Next, Baker Street Irregular member Mark McPherson, who attended his first AMS dinner in 1962, offered his perspectives on “The Adventure of the Literary Agent.”
McPherson, who has investigated the Loch Ness Monster, the final séance of Houdini, the Shroud of Turin and the location of King Arthur’s Camelot, was perfectly suited for delving into this matter, having presented the first commemorative plaque at 221B Baker Street in 1978 and for conferring with Dame Jean Conan Doyle, the daughter of the actual literary agent, on the dramatic work, “An Evening with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” which he performed for a decade throughout America, Britain and Canada.

In keeping with modern AMS practices, the audience was also involved in the discussion points on the assigned story, “The Adventure of the Second Stain.” Led by Tantalus Rob Musial, the discussion considered the story’s finer points, including how Dr. Watson actually outsmarted Holmes by deeming the theft of the secret letter and the murder “an amazing coincidence,” though Holmes failed” to give the good doctor any credit for his deduction.
Harkening back to the society’s early days, Bev Ellis then read an extract on “The Historicity of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit,” as researched by the late AMS member, Robert Harris (BSI), which traced the society back to an unexplained tale mentioned by Dr. Watson that reportedly took place in 1887.

Taking another page from the past (and the First Dinner), AMS members next reenacted a “Meeting in Baker Street,” by the eminent early Sherlock actor William Gillette. It starred Billy the Page (Bev Ellis), Holmes (Michael Ellis), Prof. Moriarty (John Kramb), and a Narrator (Chris Music) and portrayed the fateful first meeting between the two adversaries.

Following that, Commissionaire Chris Music led the audience in another agenda item from April, 1946 – a recitation of the Musgrave Ritual, which was done “for the sake of the trust.”

No AMS meeting would be complete without the awarding of door prizes and the 70th anniversary luncheon was no exception, thanks to prize facilitator Anne Musial.
In the drawing, Terri Roth took home a Sherlock Holmes bag made by Debbie Streck, Natalie Kwatkowsky and Tom Doppke each won limited-edition Sherlock Holmes mugs and Michael Clyne took home the book “At the Dawn of Time,” an Allan Quartermain adventure that features Holmes.

As the meeting neared the end, Anne Musial and Gayle Conway led the crowd in the traditional singing of “God Save the Queen and Michael Ellis read the meeting’s traditional closing, Vincent Starrett’s poem, “221B.”

With that, Gasogene Kramb noted that planning for the fall meeting in late September was already underway. With that, the meeting concluded and the 70th anniversary gathering went into the history books at 4:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Musial, AMS Tantalus


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