Famous forever

Updated: 2012-03-04 07:51

By Mike Peters (China Daily)

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Famous forever

The waxwork of Hong Kong singer and actor Aaron Kwok is popular among young women visitors at the Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong. [Mike Peters / China Daily]

At Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong, star power shines bright for celebrities and the camera-toting people who love them, Mike Peters joins the queue.

Sometimes life as a journalist means you get to meet fascinating people. On one recent day, for example, I find myself standing with China's President Hu Jintao, who cheerfully waves to an eager crowd that seems to admire my good fortune.

I soon find myself standing with former US president George W. Bush. And then Jackie Chan. And ... suddenly I'm standing on a sidewalk grate with Marilyn Monroe, as a gust from the hot-air vent below tickles our senses. Miss Marilyn, to my great joy, seems thrilled to be with me. Eat your heart out, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio.

Ok, Marilyn isn't real. And my intimate moments with the other famous folks haven't been quite real either, even though I've got the pictures to prove them.

They are the products of a pleasant morning at Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong, where I've whiled away a pleasant hour with hundreds others on Spring Festival holiday who couldn't wait to be seen with the rich and famous.

In December last year, the Hong Kong tourist attraction celebrated the 250th birthday of its founder, Marie Tussaud, with a new wax figure. Born Marie Groshotz, she grew up in the household of Philippe Curtius, a French physician who also owned a waxwork exhibition and tutored the artistic Marie in his craft. Her talent won the attention of the French royal family, the story goes, and Marie came to court as art tutor for King Louis XVI's sister.

Nine years later came revolution, bringing the guillotine for the royals and prison for young Marie. She had to prove her loyalty to the new regime by making death masks from the severed heads of her former employers. Later she inherited the Curtis exhibition of wax figures, married Francois Tussaud, and went on a successful tour in Britain.

The original Madame Tussaud wax museum opened in London's Baker Street in 1835, with some gruesome relics of the French Revolution and figures of the era's most infamous criminals. In that spirit, the modern displays in Hong Kong include a bloody chamber of horrors called "Scream" and a rogue's gallery that includes Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.

Those two fellows are oddly juxtaposed with Mohandas Gandhi, who doesn't attract as many cute Chinese girls with cameras as the grumpy looking dictators do. (Most posers with Hitler, however, capture the moment by giving him the finger.)

Today, there are nine Madame Tussauds, including one in Shanghai as well as Hong Kong. CNN's Anderson Cooper recently joined the cast at the New York venue, while Hong Kong's first addition for 2012 is Asian heartthrob and actor Ethan Juan.

The wax sculptors say they take up to 250 precise measurements of the head and body during a sitting with the celebrity, though figures like those of Chinese political leaders are presumably created without the benefit of a personal sitting.

I smile as a young woman who looks about 12 snuggles up to Aaron Kwok, bare-chested under his tuxedo jacket and poised for one of his hot dance moves.

Across the way, Nicole Kidman looks waxily lifelike while Robert Pattinson looks like a wax dummy. Not one of Madame's successes, I'm thinking, though Twilight Bob may just not be my type. No worries: One can see and be seen with any sort of celebrity - musicians, martial artists, political leaders from many countries, or your favorite big-screen killer.

The effigy museum is perched atop Victoria Peak, competing for tourists' attention with a spectacular view of the harbor and skyline, enticing shops and restaurants.

On the chilly morning of my visit, Madame Tussauds was a fine refuge where many of us lingered, enjoying the warm confines and our celebrity moments as we waited for the sun to do its work on the real world outside.

You may contact the writer at michaelpeters@chinadaily.com.cn.

Famous forever