In all of Burbank, London Ruff may be the only high school girl to beg her mom for a tarantula, only to settle for a snake instead.
But then again, her mother Wendy Ruff may be among the few moms in the city — if any — who is adept at securing her daughter in a strait jacket, only to sit back and watch her escape.
The trick is only part of what London Ruff has learned the past two years while participating in the Magic Castle's Junior Society program where she performs with fellow young student magicians and receives coaching from successful professionals.
"Most girls want clothes — mine wanted a snake," she said of her daughter's 16th birthday request. Even so, "I've always told her, just be yourself," Wendy Ruff added. "Don't follow the pack. Be a leader, not a follower."
Another of London Ruff's favorite tricks is one she created and involves taking a Barbie doll apart, putting the limbs and pieces in a blender, turning the blender on, and pulling out a "stitched-together" Barbie doll.
That trick is typically done with London wearing a lab coat and lit-up colander on her head as part of her mad scientist character she performs as on stage.
She is toying with the idea of incorporating Rolling the snake into a trick, but she's concerned how the ball python will hold up.
"You can get up on stage and do whatever you want," she said of performing magic. "Just as long as people find it amazing. And you can be whoever you want."
On March 13, London Ruff will take the stage alongside some of her magician mentors for a fundraiser that will benefit Providence High.
One of the magicians who will perform includes fellow Burbank resident Misty Lee, who often performs at the Magic Castle and who has known the teenager since she was 12-years-old.
"She is well beyond her years in many ways," Lee said of London Ruff."She's ambitious, she's bright and everything she's touching right now is turning into gold."
As a high school junior, London Ruff is dreaming about studying paleontology in college — a career she has wanted to pursue since she was 3 years old.
While she currently considers magic more of a hobby than a potential career, fellow magician Jonathan Pendragon said magic has helped the 17-year old emerge from her shell.
He has also helped her navigate her teen years, and will perform with her in next week's show.
"I was drawn to [her] imagination, [her] intelligence, and the desire to find herself," he said of mentoring her in magic. "I see her trying to understand the world."
Providence High's "Night of Magic" is from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 13 at Providence High. Pre-sale tickets cost $15 or $20 at the door. All proceeds will benefit the high school. To purchase tickets, call (818) 846-8141.
-- Kelly Corrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.