The Friday of the BSI Weekend is typically spent running from meal to meal. By the end of it, one begins to wonder if it was even a wise thing to do to commit to a breakfast, large lunch, and catered dinner all in a single day. But then one thinks back on the conversations had, friendships rekindled, and new faces met, and one realizes that it's well worth the expanding waistline.
The William Gillette Memorial Lunch has been in existence for over 60 years. Currently held at Moran's Chelsea Restaurant, it originated as a lunch for out-of-towners who arrived early for the BSI dinner. Now, it's open to everyone who would like to attend, so you'll see a strong contingent of locals as well as travelers. The locals also include the Friends of Bogey's of Baker Street, a stage troupe who always have an humorous skit that incorporates William Gillette. This year, hilarity ensued as they took a Holmesian approach to nursery rhymes and we were treated to Peter Peter Amberley, the Adventure of the Christmas Pie, the Three Rubadubs, the 24 Black Peeps, and a Cardboard Box containing the severed tails of three vision-impaired mice.
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The BSI Dinner
The highlight of the weekend for those who are invited to attend is always the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars - the very event that that got this entire movement started. This year, there was plenty to be excited about, including some celebrity sightings such as Neil Gaiman, Laurie R. King and Curtis Armstrong, to name a few. But the real stars are the Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts who make it such an interesting place to be.
This year, the dinner was held at a new venue for the BSI - the Yale Club, just a couple of blocks from the Algonquin Hotel. It was the equivalent of the Union League Club, The Woman for 2010 - typically the (long-suffering) wife of a long-standing BSI member was Karen Gurion, wife of Andrew J. Peck, BSI ("Inspector Baynes, Surrey Constabulary"). She was toasted by Jerry Margolin ("Hilton Cubitt") and then she gave her own remarks. Of Andy's acquisition of an original Frederic Dorr Steele illustration of Sherlock Holmes, she remarked, "That's art?" To which, noted dealer Otto Penzler, who was in attendance replied, "So sell it back!" Karen clearly warmed up to the group, saying that she felt like Sally Field: "You like me! You really like me!" And indeed, we do.
- Steve Rothman for A Remarkable Mixture
- Les Klinger for his general editorship of the BSI Manuscript and History Series and A Tangled Skein
- John Bergquist for So Painful a Scandal
- Susan Dahlinger and Glen Miranker for co-editing the 2007 BSJ Christmas Annual Rathbone Returns
- Gianluca Salvatore for editing Mandate for Murder
- A posthumous award to H. Paul Jeffers for the 2005 BSJ Christmas Annual Once a Week in Baker Street
Some remarks from Wiggins followed: the BSI Archives will become increasingly important over the next five years and the correspondence of every member of the BSI is sought; more scholarly conferences around the country will be happening; and we need to keep in mind not to take ourselves too seriously. That being said, we launched into some papers, some serious, some not so serious.
Nils Nordberg ("A Norwegian Named Sigerson") opined on the Scandinavian roots of Holmes, and was followed by Sue Vizoskie ("Mrs. Saunders") who posited that Holmes was a woman (!). Finally, Nathan Hartley ("Penang Lawyer") discussed the original Penang lawyer and the real identity of James Mortimer. Then, Peter Blau ("Black Peter") took the podium and gave a toast to An Old Irregular - in this case, Bill Rabe. We'll have some of the audio at a later date. But Peter let us know that Bill, who was one of the inspirations behind "Aunt Clara," which we sing every year, got his inspiration from a song called "Mush Mush."
Henry Boote ("Meyers, Toronto") stepped up to tickle the ivories and gave us a rendition of "Mush, Mush" and then invited Scott Monty to belt out a few stanzas of "Aunt Clara" with gracious help from the audience on the chorus. And as if that wasn't enough musical entertainment, we were joined by Ray Jessel, the songwriter who was responsible for the Broadway musical "Baker Street" (you can purchase it by clicking through). Ray gave some brief remarks and then played a few songs on the piano, including the memorable "A Married Man." He shared that to write for Watson was eaier, as "he represents the human element" in the Canon. To say that it was a treat to hear Ray play would be an immense understatement.
We then stood on the terrace for the BSIs we lost over the last year. They included: Edwin King, Joe Fink, Ed Lauterbach, Edward Starr, Richard Warner, Frank Beckman, and H. Paul Jeffers. Then it was time to move on to the happier part of the program...
The Honours List
The awarding of the irregular shilling is always a marvelous thing. There were nine in the class of 2010, as well as three Two-Shilling Awards:
- "Lord Bellinger" - Tom Cynkin
- "Ettie Shafter" - Pj Doyle
- "Vernet" - Sir Christopher Frayling
- "Imperial Tokay" - Patricia Guy
- "The Red Circle" - Laurie R. King
- "Violet Smith" - Sarah Montague
- "Holloway and Steele" - Daniel Polvere
- "The Three Gables' - Sally Sugarman
- "Isadora Klein" - Maria Carmen Veiga Hayzen
- John Bergquist, Two Shilling Award
- Bob Coghill, Two Shilling Award
- Steve Doyle, Two Shilling Award
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Aplogies for any typos or misspellings; this was done in haste.