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|145 Jefferson St. Suite 600 San Francisco, California 94133
Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf The spirit and energy of San Francisco is manifested in the history of one of its most popular landmarks - The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. Bedecked by colorful waving flags and surrounded by a complex of gifts shops and entertainment sites, the museum welcomes guests to one of the world's most visited spots. Three generations of the Fong family have kept the Wax Museum a vital and changing San Francisco attraction. Thomas Fong opened the Wax Museum in 1963, from a renovated chicken feed warehouse which was across the street from a handful of shops and restaurants which then comprised Fisherman's Wharf. With remarkable vision, Thomas Fong saw the potential of his site to lure San Franciscans and visitors alike to the Fisherman's Wharf area and to see it as a place to spend the day, rather than just passing through for lunch. Inspired by the wax figures at the Seattle World's Fair, he decided to open a Wax Museum. The museum started with 150 life-sized figures in front of black curtains on the first floor and opened as the largest wax museum in North America. Now the exhibits span four floors with over 200 figures in elaborately staged scenes, with costumes, props and lighting, carefully constructed to authenticate people at the peak of their fame. Many scenes were designed and sculpted by Thomas Fong's son Ronald, who co-directed the family business in partnership with his father from its inception. In the late 1960's, Ron and his father created a second floor for the Hall of Religions, which depicts six of the world's greatest faiths. The most popular exhibit continues to be a recreation of Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. The museum added a subterranean Chamber of Horrors and in the late '70's, the Gallery of Stars. The museum debuted a replication of King Tutankamen's tomb soon after, which occupies the top floor of the museum and opened when the National Touring exhibit from Cairo arrived in San Francisco. Over the years, a collection of gift shops and new attractions adjoining the museum were added. This group of Fong operations was known as the Wax Museum Entertainment Complex and at one time included four attractions, four gifts shops and an arcade, as well as a Galleria of rental shops, which were leased to independent specialty retailers. In addition to providing entertainment for San Francisco and its visitors, the Wax Museum supports many of the city's non-profit organizations. Their belief in the importance of giving back to the community inspired the Fong family to establish the Thomas and Eva Fong Foundation, which primarily supports local charities and causes that do not receive national assistance. One favorite charity is On Lok, an organization dedicated to helping Chinese American senior citizens. Rodney Fong, representing the third generation of the Fong family, now runs most of the day to day operations of the family business. Like his father and grandfather, Rodney has the energy and vision to keep the museum a favorite of San Franciscans and visitors. In September 1998, the historic 100 year old San Francisco landmark that was The Wax Museum Entertainment Complex for 35 years, was torn down to make way for a $15 million, 100,000 square foot showplace. As one of the world's largest wax museums, the fully restored San Francisco attraction continues to show all aspects of life from the ignoble Chamber of Horrors to the inspiring Hall of Religion, including the historic Library of U.S. Presidents, the spectacular Recreation of King Tut's Tomb and the unique Palace of Living Art, where the world's most famous masters, and their masterpieces come to life through the magic of wax artistry. Among both foreign and domestic visitors, the most popular part of the wax museum tour is The Gallery of Stars. Artisans are busy continually producing a galaxy of brand new stars, such as Leonardo Di Capiro and Will Smith, who will join such classics as Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. Wax Works (how wax is made) Creating a display in the Wax Museum requires a team of artisans, working in concert. The "star" of the team is the Sculptor, who must posses an artist's critical eye and steady hand, an inventor's imagination and patience, plus a variety of handyman skills. The Sculptor begins this painstaking project armed with photographs and actual measurements of the subject and a common lump of clay. Employing his unique talent for capturing the look and feel of life, a perfectly proportioned likeness begins to emerge. The finished clay head is used to form a plaster mold. A molten mixture of natural and petroleum-based waxes is carefully poured and swirled inside the plaster mold, layer upon layer, until it is evenly coated with a two inch thickness of wax. While the Sculptor anxiously waits for this mixture to thoroughly harden, he sets about creating the accompanying body parts necessary for the completed work....hands, arms and sometimes entire torsos, such as the distinctive muscular body of Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo" character. With the same eye to detail and precise proportion, each part must be a mirror-image of the subject, right down to the fingernails. When the plaster mold encasing the head is carefully opened, a rough waxen image is revealed. Now the Sculptor sets to work on the intricate refinements and enhancements that give the work its uncanny life-like quality. A special needle is used for the tedious, time consuming job of inserting the human hair---one strand at a time., including eye brows, lashes and any facial hair that is required. Next, medical glass eyes are secured in place and porcelain teeth are positioned one by one in an attempt to duplicate the subject's actual dental characteristics. Finally, thin layers of translucent paint are applied, creating skin tone while allowing the wax material to radiate through giving the image the look of life. The finished head is placed onto a life-size body, which has been constructed with precise measurements and any accompanying body parts are finished and attached. At this point in the project, the cost of producing this single wax figure is estimated between $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the complexity, characteristics and research material available on the subject. While the sculpting process was underway, other team members have been busily preparing their part of the show. Normally, a talented seamstress would be hard at work creating a custom-made costume to exact specifications. In some instances, however, contemporary celebrities may donate their own clothing for their wax likeness to wear, such as Joe Montana's '49er uniform. Meanwhile, Craftsmen have been busy designing and building just the right setting to enhance the pose, position and character of the wax figure. Appropriate props and furnishings are added to provide realism and interest to the scene. Great attention is given to placement, color and intensity of the lights in order to show the work to its best advantage. The figure is assembled, dressed and final adjustments are made to bring out the subtle life-like qualities. The finished work is placed in the scene and posed precisely. One final adjustment to the lighting to enhance the overall effect and the display is ready to be unveiled. The Wax Museum endeavors to portray a wide variety of world-renown personalities, immortalized at that time in their lives when their impact was the greatest. As you enjoy our Four Floors of unique exhibits, keep in mind that wax figures do not age as their human counterparts may have done. You are seeing them today, frozen in time, just as they looked at the peak of their notoriety. And now, on with the show! We invite you to mingle with the most fabulous, famous and infamous collection of personalities ever assembled under one roof in the Amazing World of Wax. The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, creates wax figures for San Francisco, and "Movieland Wax Museum" in Buena Park, California.
|Last Tour Update: Feb 20, 2013|