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Wax celebrities go on the auction block

A Hollywood museum is selling more than 200 hand-sculpted figures in a look-alike shake-up. The life-size replicas made of oil-painted wax are expected to fetch about $3,000 each.

May 01, 2009|Bob Pool

Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford and Elizabeth Taylor are hanging around a Newbury Park warehouse today, waiting for the hammer to drop on their careers as a Hollywood attraction.

They are among more than 200 hand-sculpted figures that will be auctioned off tonight by the Hollywood Wax Museum as part of a celebrity look-alike shake-up.

Some of the life-size replicas made of oil-painted wax are being permanently removed from the Hollywood Boulevard tourist attraction. Others are being replaced with updated figures that visitors can touch and pose with for snapshots, said museum partner Tej Sundher.

The figures are expected to fetch about $3,000 each, said Joseph Maddalena, president of the Profiles in History auction company. Bids can be phoned in or made on the Internet, he said.

Inside the darkened warehouse, replicas of Rodney Dangerfield and Jay Leno stood like propped corpses and seemed to stare at Roslyn Tomlinson and her husband, Peter, as they inspected the wax celebrities Thursday. The couple operate their own wax museum in Surfers Paradise, Australia, and are planning to expand their collection.

"You're not seeing them at their best. You're seeing them at their saddest," Roslyn Tomlinson said, explaining that wax museum figures morph from creepy to creative when displayed in movie-like settings beneath artful lighting.

The couple were quick to pick Australian stars Mel Gibson, Paul Hogan and Nicole Kidman from the crowd of characters.

Peter Tomlinson said he has commissioned a wax replica of President Obama for their museum.

Sundher, meantime, said his museum is phasing out its politicians. Up for auction are depictions of presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Sports figures such as Tiger Woods and singers such as Cyndi Lauper also are being culled as the museum's collection tilts more toward movie and TV personalities, Sundher said.

"We're the Hollywood Wax Museum, and that's what people expect," he said.

The new figures will allow visitors "to interact with the stars -- sit on the bench with Forrest Gump or on the bed with Hugh Hefner," Sundher said.

Although the new figures will be made to be more durable, they will continue to be sculpted from wax and not molded with polyester or plastic.

"The name 'Hollywood Polyester Museum' doesn't sound as good," Sundher said.

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bob.pool@latimes.com

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