The Dissecting Room . . . September 1993
Okay. Suppose you got to go to some really trendy part of the country, like Mew Mexico, maybe, for a Sherlock Holmes workshop. And you got there and they had guacamole dip and sangria and gave you a free t-shirt and showed you all sorts of Sherlockian video bites. Then, like, the head of the Baker Street Irregulars and the head of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes showed up and actually talked to you, because it turns out they're just regular guys (except for maybe the head of the Adventuresses, 'cause she's definitely not a guy, which is cool). And then the World's Greatest Sherlockian dropped in and said it's okay if you come over to his house and see his stuff. And you went. Wouldn't that be great?
Excuse me. Whenever I think about how I spent the first weekend in August I keep lapsing into beer commercial riffs and "Wayne's World" metaphors. Maybe it was the part where Kathy and Greg and I were cruising down Rodeo Road in Santa Fe, head-banging along to some old Black Sabbath heavy metal tune. Maybe it's because whenever the Adventuresses show up in any number it seems like the words "It's party time! Excellent!" apply. Or it could just be the way we kept wanting to fall to our knees before notable Sherlockians, salaaming, and shouting "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" like Wayne and Garth do whenever they meet celebs like Madonna or Alice Cooper.
Or maybe I just had such a great time at the Sherlock Holmes conference in Santa Fe that I can hardly restrain myself to proper Sherlockian metaphors. So forgive me if this column is the result of a giddy delirium ... it's basic message is this; myself, wife Kathy, and friend Greg (Ewen) broke out of our Bob Burr non-travelling mode and went to the Holmes workshop in Santa Fe and had a GREAT time. Here are some highlights:
-- Katherine McMahon. Katherine was one of the very first Baker Street Irregulars. In 1934, she was one of the fifteen who gave Christopher Morley the correct solution to his Holmes crossword in The Saturday Review of Literature. According to Morley, those fifteen would "automatically become members of the Baker Street Irregulars," but due to a bit of masculine bureaucracy, Katherine's paperwork was delayed until 1991. She was a delight to meet, though she over-modestly referred to her appearance as "dragging out the dinosaur."
-- The Fifteenth Annual Francis Hay Moulton Memorial (Uninterrupted) Breakfast. They had to shut off a wing of the Kettle Restaurant for this one, as the noise was too much for everyone else in the restaurant, including a squad of hardened military troops and some bikers. A scion society for left-handed people formed spontaneously when they all gathered at one end of the constantly growing table so as not to get into elbow-battles with us righties. John Farrell hosted. Dore Nash dropped by. Need I say more?
-- A Giant deerstalkers from the Rose Bowl Parade.
-- A The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. They gave a terrific presentation on Shaw and their own origins. They also gave us some beer and chips.
-- A The Audience-Interactive Porlock Workshop, conceived and moderated by Graham Sudbury (with a name like that, he has to do PBS). Much as I'm none too excited by The Valley of Fear, the discussion of Porlock's true identity with written input from "twenty-one outstanding Sherlockians" (one of whom was our own Robert C. Burr) and three live panelists was pretty lively. I fully intend to steal this idea to cover a different topic with our own scion.
-- A Video by Paton and Gassner. Jennie Paton is perhaps the leading expert on Holmes appearances in video, and her incredible montage of clips boggled everyone's brains. C. Bryan Gassner annually undertakes to put on a video production of a different Holmes story using a talented cast of elementary school kids, and brought the best to show us.
-- Apparently Dick Miller tried to blow up the college during his talk on Watson's firearms habits. We were touring John Bennett Shaw's library and missed it.
-- People! The whole list of who was there was amazing and I wish we could have had a week with the lot of them. Bob, we have to go to New York!