The View from Sherlock Peoria (182)
December 4, 2005
The Mini-B.S.I. Weekend
Sometimes, you just have to frame things the right way.
This autumn has been a very quiet time for Sherlockiana here in Peoria, partly through chance and partly through design. With the local society in non-meeting mode and no Sherlockian projects on my desk, it seemed a good time to sit back, relax, and put a little distance between Sherlockian matters and myself, to see if any new ideas could spring forth upon the blank slate that resulted. Of course, no one wants to go completely without a bit of fun with Holmes.
Knowing that the big Baker Street Irregulars weekend in New York was going to be out of the question this year, and with my only travel plans in sight being a Colorado visit with the inlaws, it seemed like a substitute Sherlockian weekend might be in order. And that wasn’t a tough order to fill, surprisingly enough.
Now, I don’t want to seem like I’m playing favorites with a certain Sherlockian society, especially given some other comments of late on this website, so I will veil the true events in the style of Dr. Watson, when covering a case in a university town.
The good Carter and I threw our dinner clothes into the little Accord and drove over to St. Chicapolis on Saturday afternoon, checking into a newly minted Hilton Garden Inn that was just off that city’s version of Times Square, much like the B.S.I.’s regular Algonquin is off the original. Christmas lights and functions had the circular city square glowing, and the temperatures just below freezing gave it the appropriate January chill. The Hilton was in a converted office building, so the rooms, while nice, had a just a touch of New York smallness to give it the right feel. Our car was whisked off by the valet parker to who-knows-where, so when it came time for our stand-in B.S.I. dinner, we hit the streets and started walking.
Of course, the venue for the evening’s banquet was just around the corner at the properly aged Columbia Club, so our winter’s walk wasn’t bad at all. Once there, we encountered our first Sherlockian as we waited for the elevator, just like one does in New York, that widely read Sherlockian commentator, Violet DeWard. (Need I remind you that I’m using Watson-like verbal disguise for this adventure?) A quick trip up to the fifth floor and Grace Pinto Wampler was showing us the coat closet in lieu of the NYC coat check girl. The bar was open and mixed nuts (with an ample supply of peanuts) were set out, so I ordered a Coke and ate peanuts just like I did on my first visit to the Algonquin bar years ago. The evening was off to a grand start.
Enough Baker Street Irregulars were present to give the pre-dinner mingling the right tone for my little delusion. As the Sherlockians in any solid Holmes group are usually Irregulars-in-the-waiting anyway, the local membership did a grand job at not dispeling this little fantasy of mine, either. As Tim Conway might say, “Mrs. Awiggins” was there, as was her genial Mr. (Okay, I know I shouldn’t forego Watson for Conway, but I just had to use that line.) along with the leading lights of the Sherlockian publishing world, S. Literaryagent and Victor Gagenly, and Don Curtillo the Tiger of San Dimas. If that distinguished lot wasn’t Irregular enough, the most prominent Sherlockian of this year, Les Klinger was even on hand to say a few words. (I don’t have to disguise Les’s name because he’s probably been to half the Sherlockian societies extant this year.)
The food was excellent, the company first-rate, and my little imitation B.S.I. weekend did went off quite wonderfully, including a stop to visit one of the good Carter’s old classmates afterward, just like we do when in New York.
As a totally separate and completely unrelated sidebar to this week’s column, I am excitedly compelled to include a review of the DVD production that I mentioned a few columns ago, “Sherlockian Myth Busters!” The premiere episode “Thor Bridge” runs a total of five minutes, but they are five of the best minutes I have spent in Sherlockiana lately. While many have decried the relatively worthlessness of television and film compared with written word over the years, I am now convinced that a solid video effort can put points across (and raise questions and subsequent discussion) as well as a journal article can.
The Sherlockian Myth Busters team undertook to recreate the Thor Bridge “making suicide look like murder” trick and show the results. It was a simple enough plan. But how many of us have actually walked through any physical activity of a Sherlock Holmes story to see how it would happen? We trust that everything Watson wrote down took place, yes. And it’s all been faked up for movies and television to look real upon occasion, yes. But to see a Canonical event actually happen, well, that’s a treat. Surprises turn up that no Sherlockian scholar has even conceived of before, as they were just running through the events in their minds.
While I would commend any Sherlockian society for re-enacting and filming such an experiment as the Illustrious Clients did, the direction and editing of “Sherlockian Myth Busters!” by Steve Doyle is what really puts it over the top. Sherlockian scholarship on film and videotape has a long way to go before it has its own Morely-Montgomery award, or its own Oscar, but this little film would surely have been a contender for this year’s short film category.
Even my neighbor found it a delight, and immediately asked, “Do you think they’ll do the bicycle tracks from Priory School that way?” I was happy to tell him that the bike experiment was already under discussion by the Sherlockian Myth Busters team. What comes after that? Shooting “V.R.” in a plaster wall? Harpooning a hog? Stuffing a blue carbuncle down a goose’s throat? (The phrase “No animals were harmed in the making of this film” might be a little hard to tack on that one, unless you don’t count birds as animals.) Hopefully Doyle and company won’t be throwing smoke bombs into ladies’ houses to see what valuable they come out with!
Whatever comes next I look forward to the next segment in the series.
Your humble correspondent,