Wax museum fast-tracks figures

WASHINGTON — Madonna, Tom Cruise, Samuel L. Jackson and Angelina Jolie have arrived in the nation’s capital, where they’ll be among the stars of a big new attraction. One snag — they aren’t wearing any clothes.

Dozens of naked bodies — all made of wax and fiberglass — lined the walls of a studio at the newest Madame Tussauds wax museum as workers prepare for its opening next month. Cruise was only recognizable by a label on his bare shoulder — his head was still in a box — but designers promised to give him a dashing wardrobe soon.

“We fast-tracked all these figures to have them ready for the opening,” said Janine ­DiGioacchino, general manager for Madame Tussauds in New York and Washington.

The entertainment group’s seventh wax museum — its third in the United States — is starting to take shape in the lower level of a historic downtown department store building. The museum opens to the public Oct. 5.

A shipment of 51 figures arrived at the museum this week after months of research and meticulous design at Tussauds’ London headquarters. Many figures, such as Thomas Jefferson and Johnny Depp, have full heads of human hair, inserted strand-by-strand into the wax sculpture.

“We had to bone up on our American history. We want the figures to be spot on,” said Lisa Partridge, a hair color artist. “Jefferson had freckles. He was quite a red head. Not many people knew that.”

The sculptures require touchups every day, after visitors feel the hair or get even more intimate.

“Sometimes we have to remove lipstick marks from some of the more popular figures,” Partridge said. “The George Clooneys get a lot of attention from women who touch them and kiss them.”

Six new figures were made especially for the new, $16 million museum: Jefferson, Harry Truman, Robert E. Lee, J. Edgar Hoover, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.

The four-term mayor, famous for being caught on videotape at a downtown hotel smoking crack cocaine in an FBI sting, did a sitting for museum artists over the summer. Contrary to early talk, Barry won’t be placed in the museum’s “scandal room” with the likes of Hoover and President Richard Nixon. Instead he’ll join George Washington in one of the first rooms, known as the “Spirit of Washington.”

Like so many attractions in Washington, politics and history are at the museum’s core. Abraham Lincoln greets visitors at the entrance. From there, guests will pay the approximately $25 admission to see more.

Each figure has a caption with a quote from the subject, some fun facts and the essential thing to know about that person.

“It’s not like we’re a museum in the fact that we’re worthy and there’s loads of stuff to get through,” said creative director Paul Williams. “It’s more like we’re entertaining people, and we’re giving them the facts, the fun stuff they can take back and say, ‘Hey did you know this?’ “

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