Call for help: SF artist in coma in India


By Molly Freedenberg


My dear friend Hollis Hawthorne, a major force in the San Francisco art and bicycle scene, is in critical condition in India. The 31-year-old dancer, artist, and activist was in a tragic motorcycle accident near Pondicherry last Tuesday, February 24, which left her with severe head injuries and in a coma. As of today, she is at Apollo Hospital in Chennai and still unconscious, though she’s finally breathing on her own. Her prognosis is still unknown.

(For the full dramatic story, including heartbreaking details of how her boyfriend kept her alive for 30 minutes doing CPR, and the freak occurrence that rendered her motorcycle helmet useless, check out the blog For updates on her health status, check out Donations can be collected at both sites.)

Hollis is known in San Francisco as co-founder of the Bay Area Derailleurs , an all-female bicycle dance troupe whose purpose is bike activism and female empowerment; founding member of the Cheese Puffs, a tap-dancing burlesque troupe who’ve performed at Hubba Hubba Revue, BootieSF, and for the Guardian at Maker Faire and the DeYoung Museum; member of Burning Man Organization’s DPW; and as a part of Ron Turner’s Last Gasp operation. Her community of friends, family and collaborators also extends to the Sprockettes in Portland, Oregon; Chicken John; the Yard Dogs Roadshow; Extra Action Marching Band; Cyclecide Bike Rodeo; ArtSF; promoters and owners of 1015 Folsom, the Independent, Rickshaw Stop; Los Angeles performance troupe Lucent Dossier (who starred in a Panic at the Disco video on MTV); and many more art, fashion, and activism groups. She is vibrant, creative, inspiring, and passionate – as are the communities she’s a part of.

Posing with the Derailleurs for a Momentum Magazine photo shoot.

Like many Americans, Hollis doesn’t have health insurance and had no travel insurance. Through miracles and the dedication of her community, including Dr. Susan Bailey of St. Luke’s Hospital, the American consulate is doing what they can to finance her care in India, and Stanford University has offered to take her on as a charity case once she’s back in the States. But it’s up to Hollis’s friends and family to raise the funds to transport her – a cost that could be as much as $200,000.

Her family has re-mortgaged their Tennessee home (which they’d just paid off), but the value is only a drop in the bucket. And thanks to the economy, the Hawthornes can’t seem to secure a loan. The good news is that Hollis has an extensive and loving community who are dedicated to the cause, having raised more than $20,000 in just under a week, with more than 350 individual donors from all over the states. Her friends are organizing fundraisers in Portland, New York, Oakland, and SF.

The Derailleurs performing at Ace Junkyard in September. Hollis not only co-founded the troupe, but choreographed most of the dances. More Derailleurs footage .

Though medical care in India is certainly first rate, the families of Hollis and Harrison have decided the best thing would be to get her to Stanford. She’s also been cleared to fly as soon as funds can be raised. With time of particular essence in cases of brain injury, her community hopes to get the money as soon as possible.

Want to help? First and foremost, spread the word. Second, donate! We need to get Hollis home now. Can you spare $5? $500? Can you guarantee the cost of the flight now, to be reimbursed by the many fundraisers planned in the next few months? Do you have a plane or experienced medical staff you could donate? Every bit helps. Anyone interested in donating money, time, or resources – particularly access to less expensive air travel – should email me at

In the meantime, we’ll continue to blog updates to Hollis’ condition and the status of fundraisers.

Haulin’ Ass for Hollis…

With the Cheese Puffs at the Guardian booth at Maker Faire.

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