As a kid, I remember being fascinated by wax museums. The first one I visited was in Orlando, FL., and I remember being mesmerized by the elaborate sets and the many iconic characters from my favorite films and television series. There was the entire Enterprise bridge from Star Trek – with a realistic representation of every crew member. Around the corner, Fonzie and the entire cast of Happy Days were kicking back at “Arnolds,” and Archie and Edith Bunker reclining in the familiar living room set of All in the Family. So enthralled was I, that I never really cared that I was basically looking at a bunch of human-shaped candles. I just remember that, to a 12-year old, all of it was very cool.
For well over 200 years, people have flocked to see their favorite celebrities and historical figures immortalized in wax, ever since a woman by the name of Marie Tussaud first exhibited her wax likenesses to enthusiastic Paris crowds in 1770. She would later open the first Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London in 1835, and almost two centuries later, tourists still come to see her original representation of Benjamin Franklin and other historical dignitaries.
The trend eventually caught on in America, with places such as the Hollywood Wax Museum and Movieland Wax Museum both becoming popular tourist attractions, and placing their emphasis far more on celebrities than history. Movieland, which opened in 1962, featured 150 sets, containing over 300 wax figures of notable entertainers. Just down the street from Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA., the museum sadly closed its doors in 2005, having been visited by some 10-million tourists over the years. Strangely enough, it’s familiar sign (as seen above) still stands, some five years after the attraction closed.
Today, Madam Tussaud’s remains the leader in wax museums, with locations scattered around the world in 15 major cities. In the United States, you can visit one of these museums in New York, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Washington D.C. Recently, at the London location, rocker Ozzie Osbourne enjoyed a fun day, scaring the pants off of his many admirers by pretending to be a wax figure there.
Now that we’ve watched Ozzie have his fun, let’s hear from you. Did you ever visit Madam Tussaud’s, Movieland, or any of the other wax museums scattered around the world, when you were a kid? Were you enthralled like I was, or did you find the whole experience a bit of a bore? Share your wax museum memories with all of us at Retroland in our comments section, as we take a look back at this enduring form of entertainment.