Saturday, May 07, 2022

Spring Meeting Report


The spring meeting of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit was gaveled into session at the Commonwealth Club in Warren at 6:40 p.m. on April 23, 2022.

The society’s Gasogene, John Kramb, welcomed the 35 members and guests and introduced the board members and planning committee members plus the first-time attendees.

While the buffet dinner was readied, the traditional toasts were offered, as organized by Commissionaire Chris Music.

Michael Jones toasted The Woman (Irene Adler), with a digression that included white-tailed eagles, Lola Montez, King Ludwig of Bavaria and the founding of the AMS in 1946. Next, Mark Diehl offered a toast to Mrs. Hudson (drafted by his wife Wendy) that worked in famed psychologist Abraham Mazlow, the theory of hierarchy and the stalwart service of Holmes’ landlady.

Then, John LaFond toasted the dominant mind of Mycroft Holmes, noting that he was the only character in all of The Canon to call Sherlock by his first name. Next, Rob Musial bid the multitude to raise their glasses to Watson’s Second Wife, pointing out that the fair sex was perhaps the only department in which Holmes acknowledged Watson’s authority.

Finally, newly-appointed Tide Waiter Chris Jeryan, recalling the toasts made by the late Jerry Alvin, offered a toast to the Red-Headed League. In it, she pointed out that redheads may make up only two percent of the population but have included such personages as Alexander the Great, Galileo, Mark Twain, Maureen O’Hara and of course, Ezekiah Hopkins, the late millionaire from Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

With the toasts done with, dinner was served – a buffet that included chicken piccata, braised beef, penne pasta in marinara sauce, garlic potatoes, and peas with onions. Concluding the meal was a cake honoring the Mendicants on their 76th year that featured the door of 221-B Baker Street and baked especially by the Chocolate Bar Café of Grosse Pointe Woods.

Then, Comissionaire Music led a short discussion on the assigned story, “A Study in Scarlet.” The story gives us the first meeting of Holmes and Dr. Watson and also introduces Lestrade and Gregson of Scotland Yard. Music said he had a love/hate relationship with the story, due to the long middle section which moves the action to the U.S. and supplies the Mormon back-story for several characters. This, he concluded, was because Watson and his literary agent, Arthur Conan Doyle, co-authored the story, with Doyle providing the exotic American frontier section to make the short novel more marketable.

Next the evening’s main course was served up, what was billed as “a scholarly yet entertaining paper” detailing the “3 ½ Definitive Sherlock Holmes’s: The Evolution of Popular Culture’s Greatest Hero.” 

In his presentation, author and society member David MacGregor traced the evolution of the Holmes’ character on screen and stage, working back from the recent modern-day interpretation by Benedict Cumberbatch to the faithful TV adaptation offered in the 1980s by Jeremy Brett to the classic Holmes of the 1930s/1940s as captured by Basil Rathbone on screen and radio – the first series to portray Holmes paired up with Dr. Watson (in this case Nigel Bruce). 

MacGregor also noted the first Holmes to be seen on-stage, William Gillette, who starred as Holmes in 1,300 performances over 30 years, including a silent film long thought to be lost which was found and restored in 2014. Presenting Holmes as quiet, stoic and masterful, Gillette earned the endorsement of Doyle and was the first American actor to star in a leading role on a London stage. He also popularized such Sherlockian props as the deerstalker cap, the curved pipe and the phrase, “this is elementary, my dear fellow.”

(As a sidenote, MacGregor’s third play about The Master, entitled “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ghost Machine” just opened at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI. where it will run through Aug. 27, teaming Holmes with inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla – and Irene Adler.)

With the presentation concluded, Gasogene Kramb told the crowd that the next Mendicant meeting would likely be in September at a yet-to-be-determined venue.

With the meeting winding down, Christine DelGreco had names drawn for the evening’s Sherlockian door prizes, which were won by Michael Ellis, Anne Musial, Sherry & Bob Jurva, Chris Pilot and Michael Locke.

Members and guests then stood to sing a rousing chorus of “God Save the Queen” and the meeting was brought to a close with Rob Musial leading the traditional reading of Vincent Starrett’s classic poem, “221-B.”

With that, the meeting was adjourned at 9:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Musial

-- AMS Tantalus