Banking on Holiday Cheer

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Monday, December 3, 2007

After a one-year hiatus -- and a whole lot of water under the bridge since then -- the World Bank is bringing back the office Christmas party.

Last year, bank leadership, under then-President Paul Wolfowitz, pulled the plug on holiday festivities, or at least strongly nudged divisions to do so, arguing that such revelry was inappropriate and wasteful at an organization devoted to fighting world poverty. Staffers were encouraged to volunteer or otherwise devote the money to good causes. Explained one bank source: "It wasn't Grinch-like." Still, many employees groused that the parties had been a rare chance to socialize with colleagues.

But Wolfowitz stepped down last spring after allegations that he engineered a hefty pay raise for girlfriend Shaha Riza. And now, signs of the season are reappearing at the bank, with most units starting to organize parties. Stand back -- those Development of Capital and Risk Markets staffers are wild things!

SORRY, YOU'RE NOT ON THE LIST

One in an occasional series of dispatches from parties you should have crashed.

Event: Saturday's "Hope for Home" fundraiser benefiting New Orleans entertainers whose lives were disrupted by Katrina.

Site: Chevy Chase home of Eric and Sharapat Kessler.

Sponsor: Artists-rights advocates Future of Music Coalition.

Draw: Just a casual little backyard shindig with live music by REM's Mike Mills.

Did he sing "Don't Go Back to Rockville"?: Duh!

Headliner: Al Johnson, blues pianist and singer, also one of the night's beneficiaries (he lost his home to the hurricane), who performed "Blueberry Hill," "The Twist" and his own "Carnival Time," a Mardi Gras tradition.

Moment: Johnson stopped midway through his song about the Ninth Ward, visibly choked up. "I'm sorry, I can't do this."

Cost: $200 a person.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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