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AIDSbeat a success despite tough times

|Written By Robert Todd

Tough economic times didn’t stop Bay Street’s legal community from coming out to donate more money than ever at the annual AIDSbeat fundraiser, pulling together a gross total of $263,000 for the cause.

Katie Goldberg Zwick, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP lawyer, and singer for the winning band, The Insecurities, performs at AIDSbeat.

“In difficult times it’s even more remarkable,” says event founder Patricia Olasker of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP. “We did actually have one or two sponsors drop out at the 11th hour. So we were a bit alarmed, and really quite glad that we gelled around this number.”

While an exact total was still being tallied at press time, organizers say the turnout for this year’s event at popular Toronto concert venue Kool Haus was around last year’s result of 1,200. Olasker said she was glad to see the new venue filled throughout the night.

“I think it’s the ideal venue for this event,” she says. “It gives us an opportunity to do interesting things around the room.”

Olasker described this year’s theme as “Rocky Horror meets Bay Street.” The mood was set with an opening routine of “Time Warp” by the AIDSbeat dancers.

Organizers this year worked with a performance art curator in planning the event. Olasker said the aim was to create interactive features throughout the venue - a pair of pole-dance installations, for example, were set up for the crowd. A lingerie fashion shoot also was featured, and Olasker said that element was the topic of much feedback.

Marks Holmes of Mod Club fame hosted the event, which also featured painted body models and music compliments of DJ DaSilva. Olasker noted that most of the performers either donate their time or charge a reduced rate.

This year’s battle of the bands was judged by Miss Universe Canada 2008 Samantha Tajik; recently retired Canadian Football League all-star Damon Allen; and National Post legal writer Jim Middlemiss. The rock show kicked off with a performance by last year’s champs The Gavelheads, who represent Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, and Lamont Law.

Four bands, made up mainly of lawyers representing firms, competed in the event: Hung Jury representing Torys LLP, Gowlings LLP, and Paliare Roland LLP; DisORderly Conduct, representing Ogilvy Renault LLP; The Insecurities, representing Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP; and Nunk Pro Funk, representing Cassels Brock LLP.

The Insecurities came out on top of this year’s competition. The band features Davies lawyers Bill Gula, Gerold Goldlist, Katie Goldberg Zwick, Conrad Druzeta, Robert Druzeta, and Norm Shiner from RBC Capital Markets. The band took the top spot after last year receiving the People’s Choice Award.

This year’s People’s Choice Award went to DisORderly Conduct. Greg Sheahan, Nicole Sigouin, Nicole Dinaut, Barry Segal, Ruth Wahl, Alex Vos, and Richard Scarsbrook headline that band.

The battle of the bands garners much interest from the legal community, prompting event organizers to conduct an audition process before selecting new bands. They even deal with a glut of unsolicited sample recordings from groups interested in competing.

A fresh look is ensured by a rule that filters out bands that have won the competition twice in a row, and organizers aim to attract bands offering different sounds.

The event has come along way since its first go around in 1996, when the hard-working organizers raised $15,000. They now toil away at planning the event throughout the year - Olasker says they’ll take a couple of weeks to relax and tie up loose ends from this year’s event before launching head on into discussions about AIDSbeat 2009.

The continued success of AIDSbeat has now contributed over $1.6 million to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research. Laurel Hill Advisory Group was this year’s presenting sponsor.

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