Right around the time that Barack Obama is getting comfy in his new White House digs, he’ll also be taking up residence a coast away at San Francisco’s famed Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. And, not to be outdone in this election year, joining him will be the “Secretary of Cool” and winner in his own right, Justin Timberlake, who beat out competitors Dale Earnhardt and Tupac Shakur in an online poll.
Also joining the Wax Museum’s collection in 2009 are a new “age-accurate” Queen Elizabeth and the teen TV sensation Miley “Hannah Montana” Cyrus. Earlier this year, a team of Bay Area Celebrity Judges, led by “Mr. San Francisco Nightlife,” Harry Denton of “Starlight Room” fame, voted to include Mother Theresa, Prince William and Mariah Carey who will round out the new “cabinet” for the Wax Museum in 2009.
The new figure of President Obama will take about six months to complete at a cost of between $15,000 — $40,000, dependent upon clothes, jewelry and other accessories.
The process of creating a wax figure begins with a clay head that is sculpted and utilized to construct a plaster mold. The mold is then filled with a mixture of molten bees wax. As the wax begins to harden, excess wax is poured from the center of the mold, creating a hollow wax sculpture. After removing the plaster mold, medical glass eyes are set in place, along with porcelain teeth. Human hair, including eyebrows and facial hair, are inserted one strand at a time. This process can take up to two months to complete. Layers of translucent paint are applied, creating skin tones. Hands, arms and sometimes entire torsos are also manufactured in wax.
The museum started with 150 life-sized figures in front of black curtains on the first floor and opened as one of the largest wax museums in North America. Now the exhibit includes over 200 figures in elaborately staged scenes, with costumes, props and lighting, carefully constructed to authenticate people at the peak of their fame. Many scenes were designed and sculpted by Thomas Fong’s son Ronald, who co-directed the family business in partnership with his father from its inception. Over the years, the Fong family has added a collection of gift shops and attractions adjoining the museum to form the Wax Museum Entertainment Complex. The Haunted Gold Mine fun house opened in 1979, and the Medieval Dungeon, a museum of ancient European history, opened in 1989. These attractions were closed in 1998, when the old building was demolished to make way for the construction of the all new, 100,000 square foot, state-of-the-art building to replace the century old Fisherman’s Wharf structure and house a bigger and better than ever Wax Museum.
As one of the world’s largest wax museums, the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf continues to show all aspects of life from the ignoble Chamber of Horrors to the inspiring Hall of Religion, including the historic Library of U.S. Presidents, the spectacular Recreation of King Tut’s Tomb and the unique Palace of Living Art, where the world’s most famous masters, and their masterpieces come to life through the magic of wax artistry. Among both foreign and domestic visitors, the most popular part of the wax museum tour is The Gallery of Stars. Artisans are busy continually producing a galaxy of brand new stars, such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who will join such classics as Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne.