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Suspicious Package Rocks Italian Embassy

Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, drummer, and deputy assistant US trade representative Christina Sevilla, keyboardist and vocalist, play in the band Suspicious Package. (Betsy Spruill Clarke/Betsy Photography)

The performance of opera pop arias at the Italian Embassy last night - for an event honoring New York Times columnist Tom Friedman - made sense. Less so was the incongruous act that followed: a motley crew of rock 'n roll musicians whose band, Suspicious Package, is made up of journalists and government bureaucrats.

Even the Italian ambassador, Giovanni Castellaneta, hung out late to hear the garage-style band cover tunes by the Beatles, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash and the Rolling Stones.

Having developed quite a cult following among Washington journalists and politicos, the band drew a big crowd last night and held onto the ones who came for Friedman.

Among those spotted were: ABC News' Martha Raddatz; Time magazine reporter Michael Weisskopf; ABC News spokeswoman Emily Lenzner and her husband, Roll Call Newspaper publisher Peter Cherukuri; Brian Danza, who worked in the Bush administration's Commerce Department; and Taylor Griffin, whose most recent incarnation in GOP politics was serving as spinmeister for Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

We wondered how many of them came for the scrumptious food: risotto, homemade fettucini tossed with truffle-infused butter - the chef personally shaved black truffles onto the plates of a few very lucky guests - and Italian beef and fresh bread stuffed with truffles, steeped in a buttery wine sauce.

After that, the band sounded terrific.

They even sang a few originals, including "Mystery Boulevard" by drummer Tom Toles, who, by day, is the Pulitzer-prize winning Washington Post political cartoonist. Another original, "High Maintenance," was co-written by vocalist and keyboardist Christina Sevilla, the deputy assistant U.S. trade representative, and bass player Tim Burger, a reporter for Bloomberg. (A source in the band tells us the song is about Sevilla, who apparently fears she is a high maintenance wife.)

Others in Suspicious Package are Los Angeles Times national security correspondent Josh Meyer (lead guitar and vocals) and deputy assistant secretary of HUD Bryan Greene, guitarist and vocals. Greene belted out the band's best song of the night: "Come Together," with Toles' wife, Gretchen Toles, leading the roadies who boogied in the embassy's atrium.

Earlier in the evening, Friedman, author of best-selling book "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century," was presented the Urbino Press Award. "I'm Jewish but I believe in reincarnation," Friedman said. "I think in a previous life I lived in Urbino."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 21, 2009; 8:10 AM ET
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a good place to be... part of the non-shoe-throwing press's party circuit. My God... if ever there was a journalist in need of a steel-toed boot up side the head that would be Friedman. Head cheerleader for the Iraq war (tag team with Judith Miller) and every other crazy idea the World Jewish Congress could come up with.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | April 21, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I love the new look of WP online! Stylish, modern and larger font types make it easier to read, and you now include more photos to make each page feel more alive. Well done.

Posted by: MikeK3 | April 21, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

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