Office Christmas Party Shenanigans

‘Tis the season to go to your office Christmas party. I’m collecting stories about office Christmas parties, so please tell me about the year that the head of HR threw up in your box of dry erase markers and I’ll reciprocate and tell you about tranny singers, fake comas, and getting drunk with the guys from the loading dock.

OK, I’ll go first.

I was working for the Warren Tribune-Chronicle and I think I’m OK to say the actual name of the paper, since it’s changed ownership at least twice, maybe three times, since I worked there. Most of the people I worked with are long gone or dead, including the publisher, who is the main character in any story about a Trib Christmas party.

Zell Draz was the owner and primary source of entertainment and awe at the Tribune. She was tall and thin, was always flashing a big smile, dressed fabulously, and said things like “ciao” when she left a room. She also kept an ex-husband around, a guy who had a British accent and followed her everywhere. She was very New York, while the rest of us at the Trib were, in contrast, very Warren, Ohio.

I could write a whole ‘nother blog about Zell, but this one is about the wicked awesome holiday parties she used to throw for us. Every single Trib employee was invited. It was a huge dinner, an open bar, and a big show - and it was free. Zell’s gift to us. Since my husband was employed by another newspaper, one that did not host a Christmas party for its employees (their Christmas gift to their news staff was letting them belong to a union) we both loved the contrast of going to a big, fancy party for free, and getting drunk with the guys from the loading dock, who we in the news room rarely saw.

At my first Trib Christmas party, the entertainment was a group of female impersonators who dressed up like Cher, Tina Turner, Bette Midler and a few others, and sang and danced like they were real women. Other than a couple of oversized shoulder blades, you would never know they were men. Many of the old ladies from advertising and customer service were very impressed. Clueless and impressed. “These gals are really good! They look and sound like the real thing!” I overheard one say to another. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that those gals that they were watching were men. They had gotten their hair done and put on girdles for this party; who was I to spoil it for them?

Zell stood in the back of the room, a rum and Coke in her hand, smiling and winking.

After a few more rum and Cokes, Zell would begin the awards portion of the evening. If you worked at the Trib for 10 years or more in five-year increments you would get a plaque or an engraved gift of some kind. It was a long, time-consuming part of the party, since some of those guys in circulation had started working there since high school and weren’t going anywhere. (And why would they? What other employer in Trumbull County had Christmas parties like this?)

Zell was calling out names and people were getting up from their seats and going up to get their plaques and we were all listening and paying attention, because after all, Zell had had all those rum and Cokes and surely something fun was going to happen. Sure enough, Zell called out a guy’s name and then said, “Oh, wait, he’s in a coma!” She set the plaque down and was about to go to the next name when we noticed that someone had gotten up and was halfway to the podium to get his plaque. He stopped in his tracks and looked pretty darned surprised to hear that he was in a coma. I mean, really, don’t they keep you in the hospital for that, normally?

We all laughed, Zell included, Coma Guy included, and had some more drinks and a fancy dessert and went home and thanked God that we worked for the Tribune. And weren’t in a coma. And were born a real girl.

Parties like that don’t exist in the workplace now. They were rare even back then. I don’t know how reporters get to know the guys on the loading dock these days. I suppose they have to become Facebook friends. I’ve been to some pretty crazy office holiday parties, with some very drunk bosses, but none could compare to the Trib and Zell’s efforts in wishing us a fabulous holiday season.

Happy holidays, working stiffs everywhere! Now send me those stories!

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