“I always thought of myself as part of the decor,” says Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP lawyer Patricia Olasker of her epic AIDSbeat costumes. This from the senior corporate-group partner who founded the annual fundraiser — a massive charity event that has since raised nearly $4 million for AIDS research.
“The first year was painful,” she recalls of the event launch in 1996, when Olasker was the managing partner at McMillan LLP. “We raised $15,000, which was about one-tenth of our combined billing rates invested.” Back then, it was hard to secure sponsors: companies didn’t want to have their names attached to the AIDS crisis. But eventually things turned around as young Toronto
lawyers started to catch wind that AIDSbeat was an all-out, costumed, battle-of-thebands rager.
“People love a costume party,” Olasker says. “They love the opportunity to step outside of themselves and be someone else.” And that includes Olasker herself. As chair of the event for the first 18 years, she’s been known to rock the most elaborate costume in the room.
“I had to dress the part,” she says. “It was part of the job. It’s just in my nature to go the whole nine yards. It’s pretty fun to dress up as a showgirl or a ringmaster. When do you get a chance to do that in your life?”
Olasker stepped down from the helm last year. “It was a hard thing to do. It’s like putting your child in the hands of strangers.”
But looking back on what she started — an event that drew 1,750 guests at its peak and raises over $300,000 every year — Olasker has to smile. “I think it’s my best work.”
Precedent looks back at some of AIDSbeat founder Patricia Olasker’s best looks
First photo and bottom two photos by Spencer Xion, remaining photos courtesy of Patricia Olasker.
This story is from our Winter 2015 issue.