A great many of you out there neither know that much or care that much about the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, America's grand old organization of Sherlock Holmes fans. I hear this every time I blog about the subject, so I'll give you all fair warning so you can move along to something more interesting this morning.
Once upon a time, the B.S.I.'s founder, Christopher Morley, wrote a swell little essay called "On Belonging to Clubs" in which he commented upon how his little Sherlock Holmes club had certainly gotten away from him . . . and this was well over fifty years ago. The group's current leader's annual summer letter to the membership put me in mind of that essay, and I really had to wonder what Morley would have to write now.
The concerns of the Irregulars have become so large that a "decentralization" has taken place, where "unit directors" now manage each of the the subsidiaries of the larger entity. BSI Conferences, Baker Street Irregulars Press, The Baker Street Journal, the BSI Trust, BSI Scion recognition, and BSI dinner management have all been split out from the concerns of the BSI CEO, kind of like corporate vice presidencies. Pretty impressive for a club that only has a few hundred members, none of whom pay dues, once has to admit.
The current CEO of the group retains what many see as the true power within the Irregulars -- the ability to choose who is invited to the dinner and who gets made a member. And he seems a bit fussy these days about people who write and ask to be invited or made members of their own accord. One can almost hear a tone of "How DARE they!" And the simple one-line announcement that "Jon Lellenberg is no longer a member of the Baker Street Irregulars" is both historic, precedent-making, and full of backstory, none of which is mentioned. Not sure if he quit or got fired, but either or both was quite possible.
There is talk of institutionalizing core beliefs, the details of a new photographic policy, requests to both react and not to react, reminders that the BSI is not a democracy or anything else outside its CEO's vision . . . generally not fun stuff for those of us that endure corporate life on a workaday basis. But, hey, I'm just an out-of-touch Midwesterner, what do I know? Just that I would greatly enjoy Chris Morley's take on the current state of his little dinner club.
The Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend in New York City has blossomed to the point where it would probably go on just fine if the Irregulars mysteriously disappeared tomorrow, just as Sherlockian life in America goes on just fine without the BSI at its core every day. But there just something a little troubling to an older Sherlockian in the latest missive from the group's CEO.
The goofy old "Buy-Laws" of the Baker Street Irregulars haven't been followed for a long, long, looooong time . . . but at least when they were at the club's center and repeated every year, the old joke made a statement about the core of the group that all this new corporate hoo-haw sadly misses: that somebody was having fun and not taking this little fan club too seriously. It'll be sad if that ceases to be the case.