The company holiday party can be a staid affair—cookies, the punch bowl, poinsettias, maybe a white elephant gift exchange— an endurance test that you can’t miss and can’t wait to be over. Or maybe it’s a classy event with a string quartet and canapés. At Pagliacci, it’s rarely classy and it’s never tame. Driver manager Sasha Mitronovos says, “My enduring memory of the holiday party is walking into [owner] Matt Galvin’s office the next day and offering a formal apology. But man, they’re never dull.”
Back in the day, before it closed, Sunset Bowl hosted the event. One year, at the height of the Survivor reality show, teams competed for the grand prize by bobbing for smelt, amongst other challenges. Once there was a spam carving competition.
This year upwards of 600 Pagliacci team members celebrated the holidays late one recent Tuesday night by taking over The Crocodile in Belltown. Up on stage, DJ100Proof kept the turntables spinning and the dance floor grooving. Navigating through the revelers took skill, especially with a full beer in hand. Bins containing hundreds of Dick’s cheeseburgers emptied quickly. Like waves at the seashore, people kept pushing up to the bar. Every time someone left glass in hand, another thirsty customer arrived. Throughout the night various prizes were raffled off, including an Apple Watch, Oculus Rift and Beats Wireless Headphones. The room was just as packed at midnight as it had been earlier, most hanging around to witness the capstone of the evening: the lip sync battle.
Eight teams competed, their numbers ranging from a single performer to a group of six. Dancers channeled James Brown, Al Green, Miley Cyrus, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and Salt-N-Pepa among others. After the performances, Sasha had the job of determining a winner, an honor perhaps earned by past misdeeds. Topped with a jaunty Santa hat, microphone in hand, Sasha herded all the performers on stage and used the scientific cheer-off method to determine the winner. Cheers for two teams rose above the rest, but there was no clear winner.
The two performances couldn’t have been more different. Brian Thompson of the Phone Center, aka Miley Cyrus, sang and danced Wrecking Ball. Brian started off wearing a bright red shirt and black pants but ended up in only white boxer shorts.
Perry Ortiz-Williams and Joshua Mclean, of Columbia City, danced to Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. They wore dazzling black suits—and kept them on.
Without a clear winner the crowd kept cheering for their respective favorite.
“Do you want to just keep making mindless noise or do you want to see a dance off?” Sasha yelled into the microphone. An exuberant cheer rose from the crowd. “That’s right. You have excellent taste.”
What had already been clear got even clearer. Each person left on stage was a marvelous dancer. In fact, each had significant dance experience. Josh has been dancing since he was 5. He is now a professional Lindy Hop dancer and is known to break out in dance at any time during his shift. Perry did ballet for ten years at Spectrum Dance Theater. And Brian has been performing all his adult life, and a bit before that. He started doing a Rocky Horror shadow cast during high school and went from there to doing nerdy burlesque in Orlando, elements which showed up in his risqué Wrecking Ball.
A minute into the dance off Sasha cut DJ100Proof off. “I hate to do it, but we can’t go all night. Everybody simmer down. We need to have a cheer off,” Sasha said.
Exuberant cheers erupted for both teams.
“There are no losers, but there can only be one winner.” Sasha held the champion belt high. “And the winner is Brian Thompson of the Phone Center.”
Both sides received cash prizes. The smiles and embraces indicated there truly were no losers. Pagliacci’s time at The Crocodile nearly over, Sasha urged folks to head for the doors. Few looked ready to leave. Just another Pagliacci holiday party.