The dissolution of a marriage — a close to what was once imagined to be unending — is a painful and private affair, and even for stars as massive as Brad and Angelina, we can only hope their humanity is preserved during this difficult time. Humanity, however, is not at stake in another, related celebrity breakup — in fact, a breakup of the very same couple, only this one a union in wax. Madame Tussauds House of Wax announced this week in London that their Brad and Angelina figures would be separating after a very long engagement, and that the changes would be put to effect across the Madame Tussauds franchise.
Having never been to a wax museum, I decided to take a pilgrimage to the New York location in honor of the end of an era and in hopes of finding the dolls in their last precious moments before parting.
Yet when I arrived at Madame Tussauds, Brad and Angelina were nowhere to be found, together or apart. I searched room after room, floor after floor, which were filled with Bob Marleys and John Waynes, *NSyncs and Nelson Mandelas, and yet saw no sign of the world’s most famous couple. So I asked a wax museum tour guide and was informed of the sad truth: Brad and Angie were being kept apart, but they had been traded to another Tussauds location in exchange for Prince and Tupac. They were now spending this crucial, vulnerable start of their separation in Florida.
A waxen retreat to Florida isn’t as distinguished as the chateau in France that awaits the real couple in mourning, but in fairness, the Brad and Angelina wax figures probably aren’t as distinguished as the real ones, either. (My guide noted that the show also had no Justin Bieber because their original model was a much younger Biebs, and, unfortunately, the mortal version had aged out of resemblance.)
I wandered back up the stairs, back past the Spice Girls, reduced from commentator to tourist. I staged a confrontation between Tupac and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
I found an urn of questionable origin — was this also wax, or had the care been taken to create a wax replica of what was once bronze? I looked for guidance from a wax Malcolm X. I paused for a classic-creature triple-feature, then attempted to adequately portray the creepiness of a wax Woody Allen.
I wondered at the consciously still-coupled Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, and the anxious prison of Jimmy Fallon’s empty studio. I decided Anna Wintour in wax was the true Mona Lisa of Madame Tussauds — a figure so complete in her ironic self-reflection, she seemed as alive as the actual flesh-and-blood woman sitting next to her.
But finally, purpose struck from across the room with a sighting of Jennifer Aniston.
There she was, surrounded by little swarms that would disperse only to reconvene a few seconds later with new members. Brad and Angie were gone. Only Jen remained. The crowds kindly parted for my pictures — the guests at Madame Tussauds are an unfailingly friendly bunch, though it was sometimes hard to distinguish them from the product if they stood very still.
Jen’s eyes were blank and unmoving, her smile dead and triumphant.