Billy Mccomb – An Off Beat Rabbit Arrival

Columnist:
Billy McComb

An Off-Beat Rabbit Arrival

Somewhere around the early sixties I had a notion for producing a rabbit. It seemed quite logical and I didn’t think it would be much trouble to make up. At the time, I had several Netherland Dwarf rabbits which you know are the smallest breed and, therefore, of great interest to the magical fraternity. It was one of the smallest of the rabbits I managed to breed (weight about 3 pounds) which I finally used to get this caper to work. This was how I figured it should look like.

The magician takes a champagne bottle out of an ice-bucket. He upends the bucket as if he is looking for the ice … no ice. Looking at the label on the bottle he goes to put it back into the icebucket, then he has second thoughts about what he read on the label. As he looks at it again, a rabbit’s ears show over the top of the bucket. Finally, its head pops up into view. The magician takes it out and strokes it before laying it aside.

A large bottle had to be made or picked up at some auction sale at a magic society. The rabbit would be inside the bottle. When the magus went to put the bottle back into the bucket, and thought better of it, and took it out to look at the label a second time … that’s when the rabbit was dropped into the bucket. Whilst he was looking at the label this time, the rabbit would get out of its holder and, like all rabbits do, would look around … that’s when its ears would pop up and he would look over the champagne bucket.

The next problem was how to contain the bun inside the bottle. That depended greatly on the bottle, so the search began. it was right under my nose.

In my six months in the U.S.A. in 1960 I had gathered as a gift a “Rat-Bottle”. Now this was a funny Rat-Bottle – it was like the top bit cut off a bottle just below the rounded shoulder, except it was made in metal. The top bit was closed off enough to put a drink into. Now we could even pour from the champagne bottle. The idea was to stick this fake bottle top over a Mason jar which contained a white rat. Then you could break open the bottle by bashing it with a hammer, release the rat and gain its undying hatred for smashing a glass jar around its ears.

The next hunt was for a tin container which could be soldered onto this top bit where the glass jar went. I found it in the form of two nesting cylinders which came up at a Magic Circle auction under the guise of Organ Pipes. I soldered the big outside one onto the Rat-Bottle Bit, and soldered the lid of a paint tin onto the inside cylinder. With a pair of tin shears I cut down the inside cylinder so that it just nested enough into the big one not to rattle around too much.

The next question was, if I put the rabbit’s backside into the inside cylinder, and pushed him up inside the big cylinder, how could I stop this inside bit from dropping out? Memories of the old Passe bottles prompted me and I drilled a hole in the outside cylinder which was big enough to stick my thumb into and hold the inside cylinder, plus the bun, in position.

Right now, for the “do-it-your selfers”, may I say this boring is a helluva business. If you have ever watched helplessly whilst a tin bottle whirrs around at a vast rate of knots on the end of an electric drill, you’ll know what I mean. Anchor everything, including yourself, and send your family out to visit relatives.

Bore plenty of small holes all over the shoulder of the bottle so the rabbit can breathe. I saw a magician once produce a dead rabbit out of a Dove-pan which held thoughtlessly crammed it into and I’ve been haunted by the memory ever since.

Forgive me at this point if I break off to talk about using living creatures in your act. if you use any animal or bird in your act, PLEASE remember they are living things like you. If, because they can’t complain, they are being used by you to earn fees or, if you are an amateur, to enable you to obtain pleasure by performing your tricks, respect them.

They should be well-housed. They should have plenty of food and drink. Their health is intimately your concern. You MUST treat them as pets. You must fondle them and love them and make them feel that you are a friend and not just an impersonal oaf who slaps them into boxes and other contraptions, according to whim.

Of course, there are accidents. I KNOW they’ve all got to die some day but, realize this, if there is a God in Heaven and by your stupidity or callousness you cause the injury or death of any one of your creatures, you aren’t fit to call yourself a human being.

Sorry for all that but it’s a thing that gets right up my nose, Back to the miracles.

Spray the bottle a shiny DARK GREEN … not black. If it doesn’t seem a dark enough green, a little trick is to then give it a mist spray of black and the two will merge till you get a really dark colour with a greenish bottle tinge. Leave it out in the air for at least a week. This gets rid of all the paint smell which will make a bunny very sick if he gets a whiff of it. Slip him in and out of the bottle till he gets used to it and make sure you give him some little tit-bit every time so that he realizes it’s a rewarding experience. This, allied with gentle handling, will save you having a scratching wild beast inside your bottle. And DON’T bang it about once it’s inside.

The bucket, plus the bottle inside, is on your table. Take out the bottle, upend the bucket and take care to have your thumb holding in the bun container. Look at the bottle label and go to put it back into the ice -bucket. The moment it’s inside, release the bun container, take it out again and, picking up a glass, pour out a drink.

By now, the ears will have shown above the lip of the ice-bucket. If you don’t have an inquisitive rabbit and that doesn’t happen … which is very unlikely … you could go to put the bottle back into the bucket. Just as you do so you see the contents, lay aside the bottle and remove the rabbit.

Another thing here. DON’T put him on a rickety table otherwise the audience will sit petrified for fear that he will fall off. I saw this happen once and some of them actually called out to the performer. It should never occur because as “The Great One”, you are supposed to be in command of all situations.

On a similar theme, if you place any prop on your table, do take care it doesn’t fall off. I remember a Zombie Ball being placed on a table because the magician had lost the stand under all the junk. It fell with the sort of dull thud that told me there was going to be one helluva dent in the thing.

I’m sorry, but I thought this was funny.

TAKE CARE!

Years ago, a magician did the Billiard Balls and lit a cigarette so that he could blow clouds of smoke and produce the balls from the smoke. At the end of the trick, the cigarette was placed in a saucer on his table … and he dumped the celluloid balls on top of it in the same saucer. The result was spectacular, expensive and completely unexpected … to the performer.

Tubes roll. It’s no good going to great lengths to show the correct end of a Ghost Tube to the assembly, dragging yards of thin momme silk out, and then putting it on a table where it rolls off, exposing the fake end to everyone. A good wheeze is to put a thumb-tack onto the table to prevent this. Further, if you rehearse at home, bear in mind your bedroom floor may be level but a lot of stages have a rake which may mean your table is tilted forward … and you don’t know it.

I’ve done a lot of these things myself. I’m not proud of it, but I did try to learn from my mistakes. And now I feel I’ve earned the right to explode into semi-silent mirth when It happens to others. O.K., so I’m a rotten swine, but I still love watch Magic Competitions.

May I have a word on that too. So many folks do a good act in their own sphere. They know it backwards. All the creaks have been ironed out. It may not be a world-beater, but at least it’s semipolished. Come entering for a competition… WOW!! They go mad. They do a new, unrehearsed act of some weird stuff which doesn’t even suit their style. And spend the rest of the Convention apologising to their mates or making excuses for it. I’ve done that too.

D E X T E R I T Y 1

It was the scene of the prize presentation after the Magic Competition. The winner had done fantastic things with flicking and catching cards; the billiard balls had rolled all over his hands; his dexterity was most impressive. The principal judge handed him the cup … and he promptly dropped it ! This will be concluded right here. I’m getting wicked and evil and I mustn’t.