Wednesday, September 22, 2021

75th Anniversary Dinner Report

On August 15, 2021, 35 Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit members and friends gathered in the clubby confines of the Iroquois Club in Bloomfield Township for their first meeting since October 2019.

Though long-delayed by COVID, the crowd in attendance on that Sunday afternoon seemed in good spirits and happy to once again see each other in person to celebrate the society’s 75th anniversary.

At 1:13 p.m., longtime Gasogene John Kramb called the meeting to order and introduced the society’s board members and the new attendees.

Next, playwright and Mendicant David MacGregor told the group that his third play involving the Master and Doctor Watson, “Sherlock Holmes and the Ghost Machine” would premiere next April at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI. More news on that will be forthcoming but playgoers can expect his usual blend of suspense and wit.

Then, the buffet luncheon was served as the group enjoyed Caesar salad, chicken piccata, parmesan cod and baked mostaccioli. This was topped off by desserta specially-prepared AMS 75th anniversary cake featuring our own Mendicant logo

The traditional AMS toasts were next served up, as organized by the Commissionaire Chris Music. Patience Nauta noted the legacy and popularity of “The Woman,”David MacGregor offered his brief investigation into the heritage of “Mrs. Hudson,” Al Calderini waxed poetical on “Mycroft Holmes” and Rich Krisciunas offered a poem indicating that Mary Morstan was indeed “Watson’s Second Wife.”

Two extra memorial toasts were also made. The first, by Rob Musial, saluted Una Stubbs, the motherly Mrs. Hudson in the BBC’s recent series “Sherlock” who had died earlier that week. The second, by Chris Jeryan, honored the many memorable toasts to the “Red-Headed League” made over the years by the late Jerry Alvin, while speculating that the League’s founder, the late Ezekiah Hopkins of Pennsylvaniaactually shared a lineage with Scotland Yard’s Inspector Stanley Hopkins, one of the few policemen of whom Holmes approved.

Since the Mendicants were coming off the long COVID-induced hiatus, this meeting’s story was “The Adventure of the Empty House,” in which Holmes comes off his own three-year hiatus to surprise Watson and, with the help of the good doctor and the venerable Mrs. Hudson, solve a murder and capture the last member of Professor Moriarty’s gang.

The “Empty House” presentation by Rob Musial discussed the high points of the storywith several easy quiz questionsHe also speculated the Holmes had closely followed the exploits of the first automotive adventuress Bertha Benz and that his research into coal tar derivatives during the Hiatus very likely included formulating gasoline. He also likely researched ballistics (which was unknown at that time) to conclusively link the air rifle bullet that killed the Honorable Ronald Adair to the exact same kind as the one Col. Sebastian Moran attempted to kill Holmes with.

Then, Chris Music and Michael Ellis (aided by PowerPointshowcased the long, magical but ofteninterrupted history of Detroit’s Mendicants. Music noted that the society began in 1946 at the venerable Cliff Bell’s in Detroit and then briefly talked about some of the group’s other notable early venues, including the Leland Hotel and the Stockholm restaurant (which in the 1970s enjoyed a brief renaissance as Detroit’s Playboy Club)

Next, Ellis delineated the December 1975 resurrection dinner of the Mendicants

brought to life (surprisingly) by members of the Wayne State University accounting department, aided by a favorable mention by local TV’s Bill Kennedy while introducing a Basil Rathbone/Holmes movie. Among those 1970s era Mendicants still participating are Ellis and Glenn Walters. The presentation also noted a 1976 Detroit Free Press Sunday magazine story by Lionel Bascom that told of the society’s tongue-in-cheek picketing of “Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” movie for taking way too many liberties with our favorite characters.  

Then, members shared their favorite memories of meetings past, including at the Scarab Club and the historic Piquette Plant in Detroit, the January 2004 meeting at Meadow Brook Hall in a blizzard and the famous snow-blower incident at Birmingham’s former Big Rock Chophouse.

With the presentation concluded, Kramb told the gathering that the next meeting would likely be early next year, depending on the decision of the AMS board members.

Kramb then presented a special recognition award to long-time Tidewaiter, Beverly Ellis, who has decided to retire from the role.

Finally, Christine DelGreco held the door-prize drawing for a carefully curated assortment of Sherlockian books, which were won by David Koern, Lynda Locke, David MacGregor, Beverly Sobolewski (resplendent as always in period Victorian dress) and Glenn Walters.

Kramb then led the gathering in the traditional singing of “God Save the Queen” and Chris Jeryan read the closing poem, “221B.” And with that, the meeting ended at 4:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Musial, Tantalus.