Friday, November 30, 2012

World’s Worst Waxworks Goes to the Wall

This attractive couple is world famous. Any idea who they are? Maybe a few clues, then. One is known as Posh and the other as Golden Balls. Look closely and their features slowly become a little more familiar. This is David and Victoria Beckham, as seen in what has become known as the world’s worst waxworks. Based in the English seaside town of Great Yarmouth for over fifty years, Louis Tussaud’s House of Wax is now facing closure.

Strangely, it isn’t because of the dubious verisimilitude of the waxwork models which can be found on display in the museum. People flock to the museum for that very reason. The joy of this particular waxworks is not the expression of astonishment at how very lifelike the featured celebrities such as Starsky and Hutch, The Fonz and Kojak are, but just the opposite.

Many of the waxworks have been on display for decades and there is an added frisson of pleasure for the visitor in taking a walk down memory lane. So, the likely closure of the House of Wax is due not to a decline in its popularity but in the fact that its owners are considering retirement and cannot find anyone to take over.

Husband and wife team Peter and Jane Hayes are now in their eighties and there comes a time in anyone’s life when enough is enough. Even though they have run the museum since the mid-1950s it seems that they now finally have to face up to the reality of retirement. The House of Wax is rather too large an undertaking for a pair of octogenarians.

Just in case there is difficulty in recognizing the models, each comes with its own handy nameplate.  Although the over 150 models are generally categorised sometimes there are some strange juxtapositions, especially when the category is fairly vague.  Abba and The Beatles are next to each other, recognisable from their clothes as much as their faces.

Yet occasionally you have to wonder… although Margaret Thatcher is sat at the same table as Winston Churchill she is also surrounded by some of the more dubious leaders of Europe’s past, such as a permatanned Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini - and there's an American (Eisenhower) thrown in for good measure.

Many of the celebrities haven’t been, well, celebrities for a while. Although Barry Manilow is still performing he hasn’t had a major hit for a year or two – at least. As for Adam Ant…

There is also a section for those whose celebrity is due to their (more than) antisocial behavior. Among the collection of very British murderers, the sharp eyed can spot Charles Manson and Adolf Eichmann.

In fact, the whole collection is very British indeed. Although barely recognizable to many denizens of the United Kingdom, many of the waxworks are of people who only Brits would recognize. So, although you have Mr Bean, Larry Hagman and Sean Connery together, their companions, Rene out of Allo Allo, Jim Davidson, Mr Blobby are little known outside of the UK.

Den and Angie from the long running TV soap Eastenders look just like they did in their 80s heyday. As do Kylie and Jason, imagined in their duet crooning prime.

Yet the very point of Louis Tussaud’s House of Wax is that it doesn’t really have one.  It is an endearing and archetypally British institution which should be preserved, like the famous folk it immortalises, for the nation.

First Image Credit Flickr User brownwidsor

All pictures by brownwindsor unless otherwise stated