Recession, Reshmession! The Party Must Go On, Says Barry Diller, Chocolate Fountains and All!

transom 3 Recession, Reshmession! The Party Must Go On, Says Barry Diller, Chocolate Fountains and All!In November, the employees at Barry Diller’s media conglomerate, IAC, were unsure whether the company would throw a holiday party.

The season, after all, has not been kind to media employees used to a year-end bacchanal on the company dime. In October, the Hearst Corporation canceled its annual party at Tavern on the Green. Then the president of ABC News, David Westin, made a similar announcement. Then came Viacom. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. was rumored to be scaling its party back. By Election Day, even designer Marc Jacobs had announced that his annual holiday masquerade would not happen this year.

But then, on Nov. 11, a blue invitation, printed with multi-size snowflakes, invited staffers to the IAC 2008 Holiday Party on Dec. 18, to be held in the lobby of the company’s Frank Gehry–designed glacier on the West Side Highway. Everyone marked it down in their Outlook calendars.

“It’s not like Christmas should be canceled altogether by economic events,” Mr. Diller told the Transom via email. “We’re going to have our holiday party, in our own space, for our employees and their families, and we’re going to thank everyone for their work during the year and wish them a safe and happy holiday and a productive new year.”

Last year, there was a dance floor installed, a photo booth for silly snapshots, a DJ and cream-colored lounge banquettes brought into the normally barren lobby especially for the occasion. One editorial employee who worked at one of the company’s Web sites—and has since left for News Corp.—recalled a chocolate fountain under which guests stuck wooden spears with strawberries; troupes of hired cater waiters wearing black; and mountainous buffets of food served on “real plates,” not plastic party plates. There was even an exclusive guest list.

“I remember that when I exited the elevators and entered the party, the person running ‘the list’ claimed I didn’t R.S.V.P., which was hysterical because it’s a person I saw every day when I entered the building,” said the former editorial staffer, who was eventually let in as a plus-one of a colleague.

“The IAC party is definitely nicer than others. I used to work at ABC and theirs was just people standing around with food. This one was more like an actual party,” recalled a staffer at 23/6, the comedy news Web site co-owned by the Huffington Post. “I remember a lot of booze, a huge buffet—and it wasn’t just like any other buffet, it was an attended buffet—but I don’t know that it will be the same this year.”

A spokeswoman for IAC (where this reporter was briefly employed) told the Transom that arrangements for this year’s party have not yet been finalized, but will be similar to last year’s event. Bring on the chocolate fountains!

The former IAC editorial employee was not surprised that the holiday party would not be downscaled.

“Diller seems in denial of the current market condition so putting on a big show might be über important to him,” said the former staffer.

(Despite a 10 percent rise in revenue from third quarter 2007, IAC reported a loss of $15 million, or 11 cents a share, in the third quarter. But according to Mr. Diller, the losses were due to costs of the spinoff operation his company underwent to create five new entities—IAC, HSN, Ticketmaster, Interval International, and LendingTree—announced right around this time last year. “This is the last quarter when the costs of our spinoffs will distort the operating performance of the company,” he announced last month.)

Last year, some of the employees were disappointed when Mr. Diller stopped by the party for only a few minutes and didn’t mingle or say a few encouraging words. But the 23/6 staffer didn’t seem to mind, telling the Transom: “I don’t think Barry Diller gives any more of a boost for people than good food and booze.”

ialeksander@observer.com