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Sherlocking In NYC
The 155th Birthday Celebration for Sherlock Holmes began for me on Wednesday of this past week. I arrived in the Big Apple in time to attend the A.S.H. (Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes) Wednesday dinner at O'Casey’s. This gathering has become a good starting point, where old friendships were renewed and new ones are made. It is where a few surprises sometimes happen. As I walked to the upstairs bar, I heard a familiar voice. It was Philip Cunningham from Chicago. He was there for his first Birthday Celebration Weekend and was chatting up Marilynne McKay from Atlanta. He had recognized the picture of Marilyn and I from last year’s report “Ten Reasons I Love New York City” (Jan. 200, 2008).
As much as I enjoy the A.S.H. gathering on Wednesday night, the first really ‘official’ event is eating breakfast at the Red Flame next door to the Algonquin Hotel on W. 44th Street. This is the place most Sherlockian turn up and there is usually at least one Sherlockian inside regardless of the time of day. Thursday morning was no different. I saw several people I knew. It always feels like home there. Fortifying myself with coffee, eggs, and hash browns, I was ready to brave the day’s first event, The Christopher Morley Memorial Walk. Jim Cox and Dore Nash expertly lead this event and the tour covers many of the relevant places in Manhattan associate with Morley. We visited several places in Midtown before heading to lower Manhattan. Like last year, I departed the walk when it reached the Woolworth building for Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Books, now located on Warren Street.
I set a new record for spending. I got out of there for fewer than fifty dollars! Afterward, instead of taking the subway or hailing a cab, I decided to walk from Mysterious Books to McSorley’s Ale House. McSorley’s is the traditional end point for the walk. This was probably not the wisest of decisions since by the time I arrived the Sherlockians were already starting to leave. Marilynne McCay was there and for the second year in a row, we walked back to the Algonquin. I must have walked ten mile all total that day. There is no official gathering on Thursday evening so I ended up eating alone before heading to O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub on W. 45th Street. I wimped out after only one drink and headed back to my hotel.
Friday began the same way that Thursday did with a visit to the Red Flame. Since the Martha Hudson Breakfast has ceased to happen anymore, a Sherlockian occupied nearly every table inside. I sat with Billy Field and Jim Hawkins from Nashville and Gordon Speck joined us. We had a good vantage point. Our window seat allowed us to watch the parade of Sherlockians strolling up and down 44th Street, where an occasional person would walk up to the window a mouth “Oh my God, it’s Don Hobbs” in honor oh last year’s showing of The Great Whimsical Tour of Oklahoma and Texas.
I chose to skip the William Gillette Memorial Luncheon at Moran's this year. Friday is really more of an Eatfest than anything else. I took this opportunity to do a bit book shopping, which turned out to be a bust. I found two shops that were closed for business and Japanese bookstore that had no Sherlock Holmes, so I was told. Ironically, I ran into Yuichi Hirayama on Saturday and he gave me three Sherlockian books he had bought there.
On Friday night I attended the Gaslight Gala at the Manhattan Club where I was asked to present a toast to the Old Bookseller of Church Street. I was taken back a bit because there was a crew filming a documentary about Sherlockian gatherings. The documentary will be shown in conjunction with the planned November release of the Guy Richie Sherlock Holmes film. I was interviewed for about fifteen minutes, as were others in attendance. My toast was the second item on the program and I was not as prepared as I should have been. I had not fortified myself with enough libations prior because of being interviewed. Still, I gave my toast even while be heckled by many in the audience, all in good-natured fun.
The Gaslight Gala features a less theatrical production that it's predecessor, The Baskerville Bash but the entertainment value is just as high. For those who want more details about the actual event they should attend next year's Gala because mere word cannot capture the true essence of the event. Following the Gala, many of us gathered at O'Lunney's where we were joined by newly invested B.S.I. Sebastian Le Page and throngs form the B.S.I. Dinner. Sebastian celebrated his new investiture by ordering 30 shots of Tequila. After that the rest of the night was pretty much a blur.
Thirty Shots of Petron
Saturday morning dawned much too early. I woke late and hustled to the Huckster's Room at the Algonquin. It held the usual treasures of Sherlockiana but once I again I spent less than fifty bucks. From the Huckster's Room it was off to the B.S.I. Cocktail party. The event moved a couple of years ago to the New York Bar Association just across the street from the Algonquin. This is the most attended event of the entire weekend, with several hundred Sherlockian in the same room, what more could a person ask for?
Thierry Sing the "new" French National Anthem
Once again there was a gathering at O'Lunney's where a new Sherlockian Society was formed - The O'Lunneytics of Sherlock Holmes. We chose to make the late Paul Smedegaard the leader and once again, toasts were given to his honor. Paul was like Toby when it came to O'Lunney's. The pub has moved from many locations around Time Square over the years and Paul could find each new location with his eyes closed.
When Sunday morning rolled around, my liver had been punished enough. I made an executive and skipped the brunch at the Old Castle. I headed back to the airport and caught an earlier flight to Texas where I crashed and burned. Overall, this was another excellent gathering and I will be back next year.
Past 2009 Columns