On January 17, 2014, the Baker Street Irregulars, the world’s leading group of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, held its annual dinner at the Yale Club in New York City, celebrating 80 years as an organization. Michael Whelan, the head of the BSI who’s also known as “Wiggins” or by his investiture name, “Vincent Spaulding,” presided. Some 165 people attended.
Whelan presented a number of awards to BSI members, including “A Tip of the Deerstalker” to Masamichi “Mitch” Higurashi, who has come to every BSI dinner from Japan since his investiture in 1998 as “Baron Adelburt Gruner.” A special plaque went to Leslie S. Klinger, the compiler of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, for his legal efforts to bring Sherlock Holmes into the public domain.
Various members gave the traditional toasts to Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, Watson’s Second Wife, and Sherlock Holmes. Among those invested in the BSI this year was S.J. Rozan, the Edgar Award-winning author of the Lydia Chin mystery series, who now bears the name “The Imperial Palace of Peking.”
The proceedings featured a formal debate by two opposing teams of lawyers on whether to amend the BSI’s Constitution and Buy-Laws. (The “Buy-Laws” chiefly concern circumstances under which a member must buy a round of drinks.) One side argued that after 80 years it was time for change, the other that things were just fine as they are. At the end, Whelan ruled in favor of the status quo.
The day before, another BSI group, consisting of 32 Holmes fans, held its 10th annual dinner at the Coffee House, a club in Midtown Manhattan. This Irregular offshoot was founded by Jon Lellenberg, author of the novel Baker Street Irregular and the U.S. representative of the Conan Doyle estate. After the traditional toasts and speeches (Dr. Robert Katz argued that Moriarty suffered from Parkinson’s disease), Lellenberg announced his retirement as leader. Don Pollock, a former editor of the Baker Street Journal, will succeed him.