Naked Christmas (Story told to the best of my recollection in honor of Eric Lundquist.)
It was 1996 and I was pregnant. Too pregnant to fly to the annual company holiday party. (We kept trying to call it “holiday” party but it kept coming out “Chris-holiday”.) The morning after, bright and early, I was in the office and my phone rang. Eric Lundquist from PC Week (eWeek was still PC Week then) was on the line.
“So… I hear things got a bit out of hand last night,” he started, without much in the way of preamble. I could hear a suppressed chuckle. “I hear there were naked people at the holiday party in Ottawa.”
That was NOT what I expected to hear. I thought he was joking and replied back in the same vein. “Oh, Eric. It’s Ottawa in December. Nobody’s naked. They’d freeze. Plus, they are Canadian. This is not the ‘get out of hand’ crew.”
Then he laughed. “Well, were you there?”
“Then maybe you should talk to someone who was.”
I shook my head, not sure of what to say next. He was serious! Although there was still that incipient rumble of laughter. “You’re serious?” Silence, while I’m sure he bit his tongue. “I’ll call you back. I’m sure this is some kind of misunderstanding.”
I was in the Burlington headquarters and started to call my team in Ottawa. The corporate PR team was split between the US headquarters and the Canadian headquarters. Gillian. No answer. Isabelle. No answer. Oliver. No answer. I called my boss, the VP of marketing. No answer. It was the day after a late night holiday party…I called HR, and the VP of HR picked up the phone.
“Marg. I just got a call from Eric Lundquist. He writes the weekly Spencer the Cat column in PC Week. He says there were naked people at the Chris-holiday party.”
Marg sighed. “That was fast. I’ll forward you the memo.”
“THERE’S A MEMO?!?! Are you telling me this isn’t some kind of a joke?”
“Well, we had to send out an apology memo. You know, the ‘sorry if anyone was offended’ memo.”
It turned out that the party had a casino theme. Play money, roulette wheels and black jack to liven up an otherwise sedate rubber chicken dinner. The employee committee in charge of the event decided that it would be nice to also have entertainment. So they contracted for a cadre of dancers – top hat, canes, sequined jackets with tails, and tights. However, it seemed like no one ever bothered to watch the end of the sample video where things got a little wilder. A lot wilder. Evidently the sequined jackets came off and there wasn’t much underneath. And that was just the beginning of the downward spiral.
That apology memo went right off to Eric, in his gossip column/Spencer F. Katt role, from someone who WAS there and WAS offended. I did get to say “They weren’t naked” (and left it at that) and the resulting column kindly just cited “rumors” of a wild party. I think G-strings were mentioned.
We lost Eric last week. Suddenly and far too soon. He was a true gentleman. Wonderful at his job and a wonderful, wonderful person. My condolences to his family. I feel privileged to have known and worked with him, and to have gotten to know him outside of work situations where we could laugh about things like the Totally Not Naked Holiday Party. Knowing Eric, I think he’d get a kick out of my sharing this memory. I’d give anything to hear him laugh about it.