Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

God, I love a regional waxworks museum

Sunday, 15 July 2012

  I’ve left Vegas now, after what I have to say I consider a fairly heroic Day 3 stand in the main event. After a horrible cooler hand at the end of Day 2, I came back with 7100 chips - just four big blinds. Most of my fellow players just laughed and said “Unlucky”, because it’s an unplayable stack - but I was fired up with bulldog spirit. (Unfortunately, the resemblance doesn’t end there). Getting lucky with my first shove, I grinded this 7100 up to a highly playable 85,000 with a series of bluffs and jabs before finally - for the first time in the entire tournament - finding a proper hand (QQ) and magically getting it all in against a player with JJ! Mentally, I wasn’t just stacking the 200k pot, I was telling the story of how I made the WSOP final from four big blinds.... when a jack smashed down on the river and I was free for a holiday.

  So here on holiday I am, touring around in a budget rental car: sun, sea, sand and regional waxworks museums. My favourite. Obviously in the tinier towns of the world, such institutions can be pretty terrible, full of reject waxworks of unrecognisable people. In a big city like San Francisco, however (just 10 hours’ drive from Las Vegas - or 20 minutes if you’re on tilt), you get the good stuff.

Like Michael Jackson here, with comedian Helen Lederer:


  To be honest, I was surprised that Helen Lederer’s fame was such that Americans would put her on a par with the King Of Pop. But it happened with Tracy Ullman, didn’t it, and Craig Ferguson. Sometimes we in Britain are cruelly complacent about performers that America can make huge.

  The genius of this particular waxworks museum is that it didn’t restrict itself to 21st century fame. It had very impressive statuettes of Moses and Marie Antoinette; who could quibble with their accuracy? I have no idea what Moses looked like - although, I admit, I’d always imagined him a little less waxy.

  Leaping forward a few centuries, the sex appeal of Mae West was captured at last for modern generations:



  Gazing at that face, you can see what held a world of men in thrall.

  Hollywood and the Bible exhausted, I came upon a likeness of Her Majesty the Queen - so uncannily lifelike that I practically curtseyed when I saw it:



  Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Queen, of course, (for which waxworks museum would be complete without her?): the unrivalled beauty of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.








  Never looked better.

  I’m going to bed now, to have nightmares.


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The Tim at 12:27 pm on July 15th, 2012

I have to say that the women look more like Jerry Hall, Marilyn Monroe and Jenny Seagrove. The waxwork on the right has captured you perfectly, however.

Donald at 1:53 pm on July 15th, 2012

The Helen Lederer bit was especially funny, though I still think it looks more like someone else we all know. I have the impression that you were alone in there - I think that being in one of these places at a quiet time would freak me out, whether the likenesses of the figures were accurate or not.

fat clown at 10:28 pm on July 15th, 2012

oh be honest !  if there was no such thing as the law you would have killed that donk!
how can you just get rivered and say “oh well” (i hate that phrase) and skip away?

Nick at 1:58 pm on July 16th, 2012

I love dodgy waxworks museums. Hours of fun trying to guess who they’re supposed to be.
Here’s some more classics from a former UK attraction.

Is it me or is Jacko making an offensive gesture?

MJ at 6:49 pm on July 16th, 2012

My god, I think that “Diana” waxwork is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen! It’s like she’s looking right through you!!
As a non poker player I have to say I really enjoyed your tweets from Vegas. Having read your book I could follow what was going on and it was surprisingly exciting following via twitter.
Hope you have a lovely holiday, looking forward to seeing your columns back in the Observer!

MDW at 3:07 pm on July 17th, 2012

Mae West was clearly a mix up in the office - they asked for Mae West but the modelling guys thought they had asked for Rose West.

I’d love a waxwork of me, I could just get into work early, sit it here and then go home and watch bad tv all day (it would be just as productive as I am most days)

palladian at 9:07 pm on July 18th, 2012

...“just 10 hours’ drive from Las Vegas - or 20 minutes if you’re on tilt…”

- A classic of its time!

Scot at 6:17 pm on July 21st, 2012

I’ve recently given up poker because of gut twisting experiences such as yours. When I compare it to golf I think that a well struck drive remains on the fairway - it is highly unlikely that some nasty little freak will come from nowhere and bury your ball in a gorse bush, but this happens all the time in poker. Did you really drive to ‘Frisco from ‘Vegas by yourself in a rental car to go to a cheezy wax museum? I can think of a hundred things I might have done in a similar situation but that wouldn’t have been one of them, was the Grand Canyon closed that week?

Bradstreet at 9:21 pm on July 23rd, 2012

The best dodgy regional waxwork I ever saw was in Wales. It was a Chamber of Horrors which consisted of the sort of dummies that are used in M&S, but tarted up to look like the Frankenstein Monster, Mr Hyde etc. As I looked down at Dracula, who was resting in his coffin, I suddenly realised that he had two left hands. Presumably they had run out of right hands.

Josh at 1:03 pm on July 25th, 2012

Visiting Manorbier Castle in Wales years ago, I noticed an awkwardly posed wax figure. He was dressed in chain mail, winding up the portcullis. He seemed familiar.

Moving on to the kitchens, I spotted what seemed like the same man, this time stirring a pot.

Then I saw him again in another part of the castle - and it dawned on me that these men were all Prince Philip.

I asked a member of staff, who said that, yes, the castle had recently purchased “a job lot” of Philips from Madame Tussauds.

This was all a long time ago. Has the Duke of Edinburgh since been relieved of his duties? Or has he been joined by other job lots? I’d be interested to know.

Victoria Coren

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