At Tussauds, Who's Got the Candlepower?

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, March 4, 2007

Another peek into the Washington psyche! Madame Tussauds is opening a branch of the famous wax museum in the nation's capital this fall. The big question: Who gets immortalized in wax? And who ends up as candle shavings?

We inquired, and it turns out the Tussauds folks already have selected 49 historic and contemporary figures to showcase in the D.C. museum, slated for the former Woodies department store building downtown. But it's not too late to lobby for your favorite Washington icon to be rendered into a creepy, quasi-lifelike and temperature-sensitive mannequin -- there's still one slot left.

First, a look at who's already made the wax A-list. By polling locals and tourists, museum officials zeroed in on some obvious picks -- George Washington , of course, as well as Thomas Jefferson , Abe Lincoln and Ben Franklin. Naturally, the museum will also focus heavily on more recent White House occupants: Bill and Hillary Clinton, both George Bushes , John and Jackie Kennedy , Ronald Reagan , LBJ , FDR , Ike , Harry Truman and Richard Nixon .

Also, a salute to civil rights leaders Martin Luther King , Rosa Parks and Malcolm X ; a music room with Duke Ellington , Marvin Gaye and Tupac ; a sports exhibit with Babe Ruth and Tiger Woods ; and media hotties like Bob Woodward and Katie Couric . Plus the requisite Hollywood types: George Clooney , Brangelina , Julia Roberts , Tom Cruise , Beyonce and Will Smith .

We couldn't help but notice some conspicuous absences. Woodward . . . but no Carl Bernstein ? Where's Anacostia's own Frederick Douglass ? Or Cal Ripken ? Monica Lewinsky , anyone?

And of course when we hear "waxworks," we immediately think: Al Gore. But he's not on the list, either! In 2000, designers in the London headquarters of Madame Tussauds started crafting figures of the former veep and his then-opponent George W. Bush, with plans to put the eventual winner on display. "We started both heads," said N.Y.C. and D.C. branch General Manager Janine DiGioacchino . But production stopped when lawyers started debating hanging chads. Eventually Bush was finished, while Gore was put in cold storage . . . well, uh, somewhere.

"We stored Gore's head in our London studio," she said, "and now we're trying to find him."

Meanwhile, DiGioacchino said museum staff will draw up a list of 10 possible contenders for the final spot later this week . . . but there's no reason we can't try to help. Send your nominations for the Washington personality you think deserves to join the wax parade -- and why -- to We'll share the best next Sunday.


One in an occasional series of dispatches from parties you should have crashed.

Event: Friday night's Corcoran Ball, the gallery's annual la-di-dah fundraiser.

Site: The newly scrubbed and gilded beaux-arts building, filled with drop-dead gorgeous floral and table displays by designer Jack Lucky. "It's fabulous," said NBC's David Gregory.

Buzz: Hopeful. After a series of missteps (artistic identity crisis, failed Frank Gehry addition), the gallery is trying to start fresh with donors, lenders and critics. "We're reinventing ourself," said new director Paul Greenhalgh. "We are back in the fold."

VIPs: Jeanne Ruesch, Judith Terra, Lolo Sarnoff, George and Trish Vradenburg.

Stats: 1,100 guests, $600,000 raised, 25,000 exotic flowers, 2 dance bands.

On display: Gowns and jewels, especially designer duds on Aniko Gaal Schott (Cavalli), Sedi Flugelman (Lacroix) and Nini Ferguson (Hermes).

Not on display: The gallery's much anticipated modernism exhibit, which opens later this month. Funny how lenders get nervous if revelers cha-cha next to priceless art.

Menu: Crab Napoleon, beef with pepperberries, bittersweet chocolate marquise.

Bar: Open! Flowing champagne, martinis, wine. No wonder the crowd ignored the horns announcing dinner. "When people have a drink in them, they don't respond to trumpets," sighed Greenhalgh.

Exit strategy: Have yet another drink. One day, some genius will figure out a way to eliminate endless valet lines to retrieve cars.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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