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Barenaked Ladies Raise a Glass for a Good Cause

By KATE O'HARE,, November 9th, 2001.

LOS ANGELES — On Nov. 30, Canadian rockers the Barenaked Ladies plan to play some tunes, lift a pint and raise money for a good cause.

That day marks the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Great Guinness Toast, in which consumers 21 and older in participating bars and pubs attempt to break a record by having a huge, simultaneous toast. The current Guinness World Record stands at 450,000 participants.

This year, the event is linked to raising funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as part of a month-long promotion. Guinness has already pledged $100,000 to the cause, and hopes to raise $500,000 more.

The cause is close to the hearts of the Ladies, as one of the band members, keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Hearn, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998. He has battled his way back to health, but he hasn't forgotten the work of the dedicated scientists, doctors and researchers who helped him along the way.

So, on Friday, Nov. 30, the band performs at New York's Roseland Ballroom as part of a live pay-per-view special. Tickets for the show sold out in 22 minutes; it will also be simulcast on radio through Westwood One.

"Do we need a good cause to drink a Guinness?" Hearn asks. "I think if you're going to do a promotional event with Guinness, you need a good cause."

Asked how his leukemia has changed how fans view him, Hearn says, "I think my illness and recovery is definitely a big part of my identity now. I receive a lot of letters and talk to a lot of fans who are dealing with cancer or serious illness in their family or with their friends."

"I guess some of them see me as someone they can look to for courage, to say, 'Well, look at that guy. He got through it, so there's hope.'"

Do you feel brave? "Um, yeah," says Hearn. "I feel tough. It was hard for me to think of myself as a funny person after that happened. I felt very serious. But I feel like I'm getting back to some sort of normalcy. Put a Guinness in me ..."

The band, known for such quirky hits as "One Week" (currently featured in a Mitsubishi car commercial) and "If I Had $1,000,000" (performed by a band on the Oct. 16 episode of the UPN series "Roswell"), recently released "Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991-2001)." Previous releases include "Gordon," "Stunt" and "Maroon."

"We've never really been considered cool in the rock 'n' roll sense," says Hearn, "but to me, that's cool in itself. We're not totally wholesome, Wheaties and juice, but we're not Tommy Lee."

After the New Year, Hearn says the band is planning a break to write some new songs. "We need to experience some real life," he says. "We need to walk through a market. We need to go on public transit or whatever, be normal. We're in this weird traveling caravan that's its own little bubble."