Keeping it real at Madame Tussauds Vegas museum
I saw a woman marry George Clooney, a man pose for a snapshot with his arm wrapped around The Rock, and two teenagers play poker with Ben Affleck.
Or so it appeared.
But appearances aren’t everything, particularly when you’re wandering through Madame Tussauds Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel on the Strip.
Described as an “interactive wax attraction,” Madame Tussauds Las Vegas is a branch of the famous London wax museum of the same name. The original was established in the 1800s in London by Madame Marie Tussaud, who initially gained fame creating wax death masks of aristocrats beheaded during the French Revolution.
The Las Vegas collection is one of the satellite museums around the world; the others are in Amsterdam, Hong Kong and New York.
While there are no death masks in the Las Vegas museum, there are plenty of realistic wax duplicates of famous celebrities and historical figures. And unlike most museums, where look-but-don’t-touch is the house rule, you’re allowed to interact with the exhibits at Tussauds Las Vegas.
So it’s entirely acceptable to sidle up to Affleck (or his doppelganger) at a poker table, play PVC instruments beside the Blue Man Group. Or slip into a wedding dress to pose with groom Clooney.
There are more than 100 wax figures in the museum, most of which are eerily realistic. It’s not uncommon to see a visitor stand in front of one of the life-size wax people waving his or her hand in front of its face to make sure that it’s not alive.
At a half-dozen spots, the wax celebrity has been positioned in a full set in which the visitor is encouraged to pose for photos or interact in some way.
In addition to the “Marry Clooney,” “Blue Man Group” and “Celebrity Poker” exhibits, there is “Speed,” where you can wave a checkered flag beside racer Dale Earnhardt and “Hef: the Experience,” where you can slip on a pair of bunny ears or silk pajamas to join Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner on a round bed.
And, since this is Las Vegas, there is also “Sing with the King,” which recreates an Elvis Presley concert. Join the King on stage and place a scarf around his neck as he performs.
Sports fans can pose for a photo beside 7-foot-tall professional basketball player Shaquille O’Neal as he dunks a ball, or step onto a realistic greens scene with Tiger Woods as he sizes up a putt.
The attraction’s newest exhibit is “Monsters Alive,” a dark maze filled with wax versions of classic Universal Studios’ monsters, including Frankenstein and the Mummy.
To make it a little scarier, live actors dressed as Dracula, the Bride of Frankenstein or other characters jump out and surprise you at any moment.
Of course, the best part about Madame Tussauds is just wandering through the rooms marveling at the uncanny, lifelike quality of the various mannequins.
Stroll into one room, and you’ll find the members of the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. – while in another are illusionists Siegfried and Roy and singer Wayne Newton.
You’ll see astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon, actor John Wayne standing beside President Abraham Lincoln and one-named musicians like Prince, Madonna, Bono and Beyonce.
Just remember not to ask for any autographs.
n Richard Moreno is the author of “Backyard Travels in Northern Nevada” and “The Roadside History of Nevada,” which are available at local bookstores.
If you go
WHAT: Madame Tussauds Las Vegas
WHERE: Venetian Resort, 3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South
HOURS: Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tickets: $22.95 for adults; $17.95 for seniors and Nevada residents and students with valid ID; $12.95, ages 6-12; free for kids under 5.