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Madame Tussauds Opens in Washington


The famous Madame Tussauds waxworks museum first opened in London in 1884, and has drawn curiosity seekers from around the world ever since. Over the years the presentation of lifelike wax figures has proven to be so popular that licensed "Madame Tussaud" attractions have now opened at half a dozen other locations around the world - from Shanghai to Las Vegas. In October, it was Washington, D.C.'s turn to open its own Madame Tussauds House of Wax. More from VOA's George Dwyer.

The new "Madame Tussauds" in Washington D.C. features life-like wax replicas of some the world's best known celebrities, including sports figures, movie stars, and world leaders.

The marketing manager for Washington, D.C.'s Madame Tussauds -- the newest in an expanding chain of these establishments -- Shameka Lloydat, says, "We have a total of 50 figures. We have 13 Presidents, we also have famous icons from the civil rights movement, like [social activist] Rosa Parks, like Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X."

She continued, "We have A-list celebrities, so we have a glamour room where you can actually party and rub elbows with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, dance with Beyonce, sit on the couch with Madonna -- so we just have something for everyone."

" Madame Tussauds" is often referred to as a "museum." But the visitor experience here is different from the typical museum encounter.

Lloyd says, "I think a lot of times people have an idea that when they come to a lot of the museums here that there is this attitude of, 'You can look but you cannot touch', and maybe there is no flash photography. And we are 180 degrees [opposite] from that."

Because this is Washington, famous figures here include historically important personalities from Abraham Lincoln right down to President George W. Bush. So, is there a favorite?

Lloyd says, not really. "All of our figures are very popular, but yes, people do love to come and get close to Bill Clinton you know. This is one of the few places (where) you actually get to hug him and, you know, just get close and take a photo with him. So it is fun for everybody," she said.

French-born Marie Tussauds is here as well. Her early wax models launched this attraction into existence. But even she could not have foreseen the innovations in fashion that would follow.

"We want this to be an attraction for everybody, not just tourists to the nation's capital but international visitors and residents alike," Lloyd added.

The firm that operates the Madame Tussauds chain claims more than half a billion people worldwide have visited since the first wax museum opened. Of course, there is always a new face to meet here.