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Cheer up: There’re bigger freaks

By Alan Blyth
Friday, March 7
The grotesque and the unfortunate, on loan from the St Petersburg Wax Museum

If you’re feeling a little depressed about how other people will think of you now that your good looks are fading, or your hairline is receding, or you have a blemish or two in places you’d rather not, then take ten minutes out of your day and go and see a selection of models from the St Petersburg Wax Museum which are on display in a rather splendid upper room of the State Opera and Ballet Theater.

Shrek’s presence at the theatre entrance might make you think that you’re going to see a bunch of stage and screen characters—and you will see Darth Vader and some others from “Star Wars.” However, the vast majority of the waxworks are examples of what the museum calls “body catastrophes,” and quite frankly it is a real eye opener!

When looking at the wax models, you may have to constantly remind yourself that these are or were fellow human beings who really missed out in the body beautiful stakes. There’s Victor and Gabriel Ramos who had hair on 98 percent of their bodies; John and Greg Rice, the 86 cm dwarfs; Jim Paroli, who could put a video cassette (the longer side) into his mouth; Siamese twins; people with limbs missing; others with nothing below the waist; misplaced eyes; over-sized hands and feet; a man with two faces…in short, a panoply of every imaginable deformity, and some which would probably never come to mind.

For those even slightly disenchanted with their bodies this exhibition can be a cathartic experience, and I suspect that few if any can leave without having a different perception of how lucky they have been to have avoided being blessed with any of these “catastrophes” in life’s lottery.

There are a few other assorted wax models, but there is no obvious common theme. The best of them is Vladimir Putin, a Leningrad lad made good, who amongst his other achievements is a judo black belt—and this is how he is portrayed, ready for his next fight.

Although the St Petersburg Wax Museum website is very impressive with information in both English and Russian, this professionalism does not extend to the exhibition as there is no catalogue and only some of the exhibits have details about the person (but not a lot!) in Russian. This is a pity because this display of deformity is fascinating, and it is likely that visitors would want to know more about these unfortunate people.