Lady Gaga (in wax).

House of Wax

When I was younger than I can imagine ever being, my parents took my brother and me to Niagara Falls for vacation. I remember that my dad and my brother were able to take the trip on the “Maid of the Mist” boat that allows you to “Hear the roar of 600,000 gallons of water crashing down around you every second!” I suspect that they went because he was older than me and had disaster struck, at least my mom would be left with someone. Not exactly a bonus, I think in retrospect.

Another place I remember going to was the Tussaud’s wax museum. Instead of being interested in seeing the celebrities that didn’t seem more life-like than the mannequins in the flagship J.L. Hudson’s department store in downtown Detroit (once the tallest department store in the country, at 440 feet; closed in 1986, imploded in 1998, and being turned into a mixed-use building that is to open this year), my brother and I spent our time wide-eyed at the scary exhibits (e.g., the guillotine and related headless individual).

Until I started writing this I had always thought that we were at the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. But my memory was dashed as though 600,000 gallons of water came tumbling down.

Turns out that it was the Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. Louis was a great-grandson of Marie Tussaud (a.k.a., “Madame”). Apparently he saw that great-grandma was doing well, so he opened his own shop in London in 1890. Unfortunately it burned down six months later. But he preserved (obviously) and now there are outlets not only in Canada, but in India, Thailand and elsewhere.

Evidently a global interest in faux people.

Now, my interest in Tussaud’s wasn’t engendered by some sort of nostalgic revery but by an announcement from Madame Tussauds Hong Kong:

“Madame Tussauds Hong Kong never ceases to amaze, and today it brings exciting news to all Lady Gaga’s fans and music enthusiasts. The iconic global superstar, Lady Gaga, makes a jaw-dropping entrance in Hong Kong, showcasing an explosive new look.”

Now that might lead you to think that the star of stage, screen and migraine commercials actually showed up at the venue, which caused utter amazement among the assembled. Which was not the case.

Rather, it was a new wax version of Gaga for the “fans and music enthusiasts” (which gives rise to the question of whether a music enthusiast would actually be interested in an object incapable of making sound, melodic or otherwise).

As Wade Chang, General Manager of Hong Kong Cluster, Merlin Entertainments, put it, “Lady Gaga has always been one of the most popular wax figures at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong. This time, the wax figure made an entrance in a unique and distinctive image, aiming to bring fans around the world an unexpected and innovative wax figure experience.”

What, I wonder, is a “wax figure experience”?

Apparently this version of the musician has her in a “sleek black sheer gown,” and is posed so that she is “blowing a ‘kiss’ to every fan” from her “vibrant red lips.”

The folks at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong noting that March 28 is Lady Gaga’s birthday decided that those who will also have a birthday between now and the end of the year (which evidently puts those who were born in January, February and a good chunk of March out of luck) can, by bringing one friend along, snag two entrance tickets, one VIP digital photo pass, and one celebrity commemorative booklet if they show up within +/- seven days of their birthday for $329HK—which seemed like Ticketmaster pricing until I discovered that it equals about $42US.

Wax figures of musicians is part and parcel of the Madam Tussauds draw in it venues throughout the world.

Go to Nashville and you can see Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, and more. London has likenesses of Leona Lewis, Robbie Williams, Freddie Mercury, and an array of others who may need to consult 23andMe in order to discern a British connection (e.g., Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera).

It is curious as to why someone—even a superfan—would be interested in seeing a wax figure of their fave.

While this, too, seems somewhat odd to me: “over 240 venues (including cafes, hotels, casinos and live music venues) in 69 countries”—not the music venue bit, but the cafes, hotels and casinos–of the Hard Rock organization.

Stay, say, in a Hard Rock hotel and not only will there be photos of musicians on the walls of your room, but in the public spaces there are the bits of bona-fide musical memorabilia that are contained by polycarbonate. These, at least, have something of the aura of the original, so a fan of whomever could see something that was actually touched by the person in question. Should the wax figure of, say, Elton John in Louis Tussauds (both brands have a curious consistency in the people represented) have a pair of platforms on its feet (assuming that they actually sculpt the feet, which is unlikely) or spectacles that John once wore that might be something, but if they’re just costume materials, then the penumbra never formed.

Perhaps the being with the wax figures of musicians is simply fun for people, sort of the way going over Niagara Falls in a barrel is, too, for some. The first successful person to accomplish what is now an illegal feat was Annie Edson Taylor in October 1901; she had tested the viability of the undertaking by trying it with her cat in a barrel two days before she took the plunge. Taylor cleverly took advantage of her success by subsequently positioning herself as “Heroine of Horseshoe Falls,” hoping that it would generate income for her in a way school teaching didn’t. Unfortunately, she apparently died broke. Apparently the gullibility of the public can be overestimated, yet somehow the popularity of sculpted wax figures seems to be evidence to the contrary.

Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to survive Niagara Falls in a barrel, selling her autograph to tourists.

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