Johnny contacted his agent - Leo Morowski - and told him of his plans. Morowski formerly worked as a clown and magician, but his career was cut short by his lifelong bouts with dyspepsia and alcoholism, so he settled into his role of finding work for others. He was puzzled by Johnny's decision at first, noting what he thought was Johnny's magnetic powers over women, but after listening to the absurd diatribe, he became excited by the "rabbit idea". Morowski had several connections in the birthday party racket and was quickly lining up gigs for the two lagomorphic visionaries. Johnny described the first "rabbit gig" in his notebook:
"...over all, it went pretty well. Raft (sic) and I decided it would be best for me to be the rabbit first. The costume was heavy and very hot inside it...my head was spinning and one of the kids peed on me...he was able to get one picture; I think I looked pretty good..."
In fact, most of the children were horrified by the "scary rabbit", several of the parents there recalled. The costume was quite large, and smelled of smoke, disinfectant, urine and other aromas too vile to mention. They had purchased it from a pawn shop owned by a friend of Morowski's, and when they first were presented with it, it was spotted with black mold. The two diligently scrubbed the threadbare costume, removing most of the material from the neck, but could not remove its horrid stench, only cover it somewhat with disinfectant and cover the neck holes with a large ribbon they had taken from a grocery store opening. This photo, though blurred and damaged, clearly shows the terror and discomfort of the child in the grasp of this large, malodorous invader. Raff had noticed the reaction of some of the party-goers and had discussed an idea with Johnny about getting his own costume. Morowski thought this a great idea, as they could now do twice as many gigs. It went better than could be expected for the three entrepreneurs. Johnny thought himself a "natural entertainer", while Raff's elementary veterinary learning allowed him to espouse his ridiculous theories through the muffling, cloth and wire rabbit-head. Morowski had the pair lined up for weeks and was getting coverage in the local newspaper, (for a drunk-and-disorderly charge) to which he said, "Say anything you want about me, but just spell my name right." The newspaper misspelled his name, but he still felt confident in this new venture. Trouble, however, was on the horizon.
Raff was in touch with several other failed medical students, one of whom was a man named Otto Vanderwerf. "Dr. Otto", as he preferred to be addressed, had contact with several of the recent immigrants from Europe, and came in possession of a mysterious
substance from Switzerland - Lysergic Acid Diethylamide - LSD. The drug was not yet illegal, and Otto was able to obtain a large amount of it with the money that his mother had given him to resume his studies. He had been taking the hallucinogen and was eager to observe its affect on others. Raff, with his now-obvious, harebrained ideas, was the perfect subject. Otto met Raff in a neighborhood bar and told him of this amazing new "potion" and its powers of mind-expansion. They went to Otto's apartment and ingested small portions of the drug. Raff was disappointed at the lack of immediate results and left, headed for Johnny's apartment. When he arrived, Johnny told him that there was a musical gig that he couldn't miss and asked Raff if he would fill in for that evening's birthday party. Raff agreed and sat on the sofa waiting for Johnny to get ready. Raff's head began to spin; his vision blurred with bright colors and he felt as if the walls were moving. The mysterious substance was getting into his bloodstream. He stared silently at Johnny, whose face became distorted and encircled by floating, colored lights, then multi-colored auras pulsated, seemingly coming from near Johnny's right ear. Nervous and sweaty, Raff told Johnny of his "experiment". Johnny walked Raff back to his apartment and assisted him into his rabbit costume. Raff was able to calm down a little and got into the costume. Fortunately, the birthday party was just down the street, so Johnny accompanied his friend to the apartment. Raff seemed better once settled in there, so after fifteen minutes or so, Johnny thought it okay to leave. Raff was able to get through the party pretty well despite the noise and confusion. The sounds and movements kept his brain occupied and alert. Once the time came to eat cake and open presents, Raff was able to relax in a corner. It was this lack of stimulation that allowed his mind to wander again; soon he was seeing and hearing things that were not there. He began watching the lights and sparkles that were floating around inside the stuffy rabbit-head and grew concerned that there was not enough room in there for his glowing friends so he concentrated on shrinking his head. In reality, he sat there in a seemingly catatonic state. The children and parents at the party could not rouse him from his trance. The police were summoned, and to the horror of the children, they removed the head. Beneath the mask was Raff with a silly grin on his face and his eyes closed. There was a disturbingly blissful look about him. Everyone assumed him to be drunk and the police were ready to take him to the station to dry out when a woman intervened. Margaret Stella, Johnny's wife was at the party with her eldest son, John Jr., and recognized Raff once the head was removed. She was not aware of the two men's "rabbit initiative", as her husband spoke only of his musical engagements and inventions. She was quite surprised to see "the doctor" in this embarrassing situation, and offered to take Raff back to her apartment. She found another parent to watch John, Jr. and then walked the stumbling, babbling "doctor" to her apartment and directed him to the couch. Johnny came home a few hours later, and was quite startled to find Raff in his living room, still wearing the rabbit costume. He was even more startled to find his wife sitting across from him in the darkened room. She had a great many questions for him.
©2006 Robert R. Votta