2/6/10; Saturday (continued)
MUSEUM: Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
TIME: 1.5 hr
COST: $35 for both (with 2 for 1 coupon)
+ $15 for 2 booklets and 2 photos made into fridge magnets
Pauline here: Normally Paul “ghost writes” on our blog; i.e. we discuss the museum together and I try to capture both viewpoints and experiences when I write. However, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum hit close to Paul’s interest in side shows (perhaps I should say obsession), and he wished to write this one on his own, so what follows is Paul’s first solo entry to the blog. I should also mention that Paul went through the museum as if he were a carnival barker and recruited several marks, ahem, I mean people, to pose for our blog with programs in front of their faces next to the wax celebrities. Thank you to all of you who were gracious enough to help us out. (No, Paul, I don’t mean gullible.)
Paul here: Our trip to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum on 42nd street in Times Square was different than any other museum we had been to previously. Firstly, it was the first museum located off the museum mile. Hence it was one of first “non-mansion” museums, which in itself was quite different. The building was gaudily lit up, as a museum in the “Great White Way” should be. (That’s “Times Square” to non-New Yorkers.) The second main difference is that Madame Tussaud’s origins were in the sideshow tradition and not as a cultural repository, and is designed to make money. Hence, the museum is a for-profit venture. A single admission is $35.00, making it one of the most expensive museums in the city. We looked online and found a 2-for-1 coupon, which we decided to use.
The sideshow origins of this wax museum are pretty pervasive. The sideshows of old were intended to separate the punters from their money as quickly as possible. Tussaud’s still adheres to this mentality, by offering little services throughout the museum. They offer a “program” for $5.00 that I would not recommend purchasing. There are snack bars on almost every floor, and one could get “professional” photos taken with Johnny Depp, the Obamas, and various other people of note. All of them are available for purchase at the end of the tour as photos, key chains, and refrigerator magnets. We had our photo taken with Johnny Depp holding Oscars, which we had made into magnets. We could have also chosen President Obama, Superman or the Incredible Hulk. Not that you had to buy anything. One of the really cool things they allow you to do is to take you own photos throughout the museum.
We forgot our camera, but luckily, we had my cell phone, which has a pretty nice camera. The Museum is laid out over several different floors. The tour starts at the top of the building and you descend to the bottom floor. There are stairs, but whole thing is handicapped accessible, so it is not too taxing on people who have trouble moving. Each floor has several differently themed rooms. There was a “hall of stars” with movie celebrities, a rap-themed room, a nightclub with famous singers, a historical section with people like Napolean Bonaparte and Abraham Lincoln, a karaoke room where you could be judged by American Idol judges, a “hall of honor” with the Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II, an “Americana” through the decades of the 1900s, and a sports-themed room. There was also a “scare room” where you walked through a near dark maze and people jumped out at you. This had no wax figures in it, and while we were there, very few people hiding to scare us, so I would probably put this down as a “non-room”.
In each room were the wax figurines. These are truly remarkable. They, in general, are pretty realistic, right down to the armpit hair. These ranged from Napoleon to Ru Paul, and included a lot of different stars in between. Some of them, like Julia Roberts, were instantly recognizable. We had trouble identifying some of them, but Pauline and I are not pop culture junkies. Some of the ones we had trouble were due to the stillness of the figures. Selma Hayek and Lou Reed were good examples of this. Both are notable for their animated looks, so when they were perfectly still, it was strange. Other choices were just weird. These included putting FDR in a wheelchair- something he never liked to be shown in a public setting, putting Princess Diana next to the Dali Lama and Albert Einstein in the Hall of Honor, and an apparent obsession with Al Roker.
One of the most “offensive” things we saw was hockey legend Wayne Gretzky decked out in a NY Ranger’s jersey, instead of his Edmonton Oilers jersey. I understand that this is New York, and he technically was a Ranger, but he should be remembered for when he was the Great One in Edmonton. Pele’, who played for the NY Cosmos in the short lived NASL, was shown in his Brazil uniform, and not as a Cosmo. But that is a quibble that we hockey fans can debate about. Also, a lot of the people were thinner than I thought they were/are in real life. But in reality, it was a lot of fun to spend a couple of hours wandering through the galleries and having some harmless fun hanging.
Images in this post, from the top: the Dalai Lama with friends; Patrick Stewart with friend; Marylin Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and friend; Julie Roberts and friend; Neil Armstrong and Johnny Cash; and Pele'.