New exhibit waxes rhapsodic about colorful Vegas characters

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*logoHollywood has the Walk of Fame, Las Vegas has Madame Tussauds Las Vegas Wax Museum. Everybody who's been anybody in this city -- be they natives or nomads, whether their roots are firm, periodic or tangential -- has had his or her likeness molded in wax.

In commemoration of its 10th anniversary, the museum unveiled the Viva Vegas exhibit, memorializing many of the colorful characters peppered throughout the city's history, including Elton John, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Bugsy Siegel, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace, Judy Garland, Siegfried and Roy, Bette Midler and Lance Burton, among others.

The city's already smallish museum culture continues to struggle to grow against tepid support and a withering economy. The Las Vegas Art Museum closed in February, done in by paltry membership (1,000 people in a county of 2 million) and minimal financial resources (no municipal funds and no endowment). Madame Tussauds is certainly not a replacement for a legitimate, culturally significant museum, but it's no less an important cog in lifting the cultural IQs of the people who live here and, perhaps, of those who visit.

There are historic figures (Martin Luther King, Princess Diana), sports legends (Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhardt), Hollywood royalty (Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp), cultural icons (John Wayne, Elvis Presley), pop and TV stars (Madonna, Simon Cowell) and local staples (Wayne Newton, Blue Man Group). Now there's even a Goodman among them.

"It's awesome to be a part of Las Vegas history and to be enshrined with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Bette Midler and all of the great entertainers here," mob-lawyer-turned-Mayor Oscar Goodman said. "I hope they think of me as more than just an entertainer here. I'm just a character of Las Vegas. With my old clients, there was always the fear of being whacked, and now I am being waxed."

Located at the Venetian resort-casino, Madame Tussauds Las Vegas is open every day starting at 10 a.m. For more information, call (702) 862-7800 or log on to www.madametussauds.com.

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