A literally blinding eye injury from a festival in South Korea has changed the life or Rabbit in the Moon’s Bunny forever. The dance community is rallying to help him, this Saturday with a benefit dubbed the Bunnyfit, at Giant’s anniversary party in LA on September 6th.
For more than a decade, Rabbit in the Moon has pushed the boundaries of live electronic music through stunning stage antics, theatrical costumery, and a dedication to expressing the best of life through their music. RITM frontman Bunny personifies what the group is all about, and he’s become a sort of icon in the dance community. He is warm and gracious to eager fans who declare their obsession with him after a gig and accessible on stage and off for those who want to share in the love-filled rave or post rave experience.
It’s a cruel irony then that Bunny would fall victim to an act of violence that has caused his near-blindness brought on by an audience member. This past May, Bunny and Rabbit in the Moon were hired to perform at the second Annual World DJ Festival in Seoul, South Korea. Bunny performed the first night and accompanied his friends DJ Dan and Donald Glaude to the festival the second night when they performed, assisting them with some technical and sound issues. It was the second night when a glass bottle, thrown by a member of the festival’s crowd, was launched intentionally and directly at Bunny, hitting him squarely in his left eye, destroying his retina, lens, some skin underneath, and his vision. He talked exclusively to Big Shot about his ordeal and the painful aftermath.
“I was standing next to Dan and I got hit in the chest with like, a coin, and some dude in the crowd was flipping me off and looking at me like ‘yeah, I threw it.’ I didn’t think anything of it, just what happens at festivals and stuff.”
“It went right to my face. I got hit in the eye with a bottle. It went directly into my eye. I immediately collapsed, bleeding. They carried me off and took me to the hospital. I basically thought I lost my eye. I’m a visual artist, so losing an eye would be like… I mean, it’s a big part of my life and livelihood.”
It was 20 minutes later when the second object was thrown. “It went right to my face. I got hit in the eye with a bottle. It went directly into my eye. I immediately collapsed, bleeding. They carried me off and took me to the hospital. I basically thought I lost my eye. I’m a visual artist, so losing an eye would be like… I mean, it’s a big part of my life and livelihood.”
At the hospital, his flesh wound was stitched up, but he was given the option of having an immediate and dramatic surgery on this eye to recover some of the vision there in Seoul, risking complications that would have stranded him overseas, unable to fly for months. Bunny opted to return to the US, with the promoters’ promise that his medical expenses would be paid for. That was not the case.
Although every live music event is contractually obligated to insure themselves for these kind of accidents, and RITM’s contract with the promoters of this event was no different in its stipulations, it has become clear since this incident that any insurance policy on hand was insufficient. Unlike in the US, Korea has no law regulating punitive damages, meaning nobody can be sued for liability. Bunny has no legal recourse in Korea, only in the US, and even if the promoters are sued in a US court, they would have to be extradited to enforce a US court’s penalty of law.
Bunny has paid out of pocket for two surgeries this summer. At this point he has about 20% vision in his left eye, which renders his depth perception and peripheral vision obsolete. From the surgeries, he’s also acquired trauma-induced glaucoma, which creates erratic levels of a painful pressure on his eye. “It’s so extreme I can’t even put sentences together,” he says of the times when the glaucoma flares up.
It’s been four months since the accident. While he’s learned to manage the day-to-day details of his life, it’s understandable still an upsetting ordeal. He describes moments of waking up and thinking that it didn’t really happen, and then—upon looking at anything—realizes it’s all too real.
He estimates his basic monthly expenses for his eye care—including doctor’s visits and eye drops—is about a thousand dollars, and that doesn’t include any extra procedures or surgeries, many of which still loom in the future. Because so many artists like Bunny don’t have healthcare (certainly not group health plans either), and the US has no national healthcare, Bunny’s story has caught the attention of the dance community, which has organized a benefit, the Bunnyfit, to aid and offset his considerable medical expenses.
Naturally, DJ Dan and Donald Glaude are performing at the Bunnyfit, forgoing their fees to help their friend. Other performers include LA-based artists like Sandra Collins and her husband Vello Virkhaus, Quivver, and Freddy Be. Rabbit in the Moon, of course, will also DJ at the event.
This experience has impacted Bunny in ways yet to be seen, not the least of which is his intermittent anxiety about what could happen to him when he’s on stage. “Things I never thought of in fifteen years of interacting with an audience,” he says of these fears.
Luckily for his fans and his own life, he hasn’t let any of this stop him. “I have to trust. I am at the mercy of the audience and they are to me.”
Words: Zel McCarthy
Update: September 6, 2008
Since this story first ran on September 3rd, we’ve received a great deal of feedback from fans and members of the dance music community. Many have asked if there’s a way to help the cause if you’re not in the LA area. Bunny has sent us a link to a page set up specifically to help him out. To make a secure donation, you can visit TheBunnyCoalition.com.