If I want to see Donald Trump on Inauguration Day all I have to do is go to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London, not far from the Baker Street home office where Sherlock Holmes played his violin and busted Victorian criminals. Trump has actually been in residence, if backstage, for years, along with Hillary Clinton. As Americans were voting, museum staff were pondering which full size replica would be getting its makeup applied to be made presentable to meet the public.
Marie Tussaud opened her museum in 1835 after years spent on the road with her collection. In addition to the celebrities of the time, including Ben Franklin, it featured a chamber of horrors, which has been popular ever since; even generations weened on a diet of scary movies want a true 3D experience. Having modeled the heads of those guillotined in revolutionary France, the Madame knew a thing or two about horror. Rumours that Clinton’s will find a new home in the Chamber are completely unfounded.
There’s also a Tussauds in Washington D.C., where a Trump clone will be unveiled to the crowds on the 20th. Perhaps he’ll be surrounded by wax secret service agents keeping a sharp eye out for potential assassins wielding lighters.
Donald Trump isn’t the only prominent American on display here. George Washington, whose great-grandfather John crossed the pond (his ship foundering on the Potomac River) in 1656, stands bronzed and imposing atop a pedestal in front of the National Gallery.
Legend has it the first founding father never wanted to set foot on British soil, so authentic colonial dirt was shipped over to be placed underneath.
Would you like to meet the rest of the overseas Oval Office club? Traffic’s always bad, let’s skip the motorcade and walk, like Jimmy Carter did down Pennsylvania Avenue on his big day.
We can wave to the Prime Minister at №10 Downing Street on the way. The real one; I don’t think any statues have been made of Theresa May yet, and Tussauds doesn’t have her in stock.
In front of Parliament you can have an audience with Abraham Lincoln. He doesn’t have his own colonnaded temple as he does in D.C., but he gets a chair he’ll never use even as the pigeons do. The 16th president is within hailing distance of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and other worthies.
It’s a bit of a hike from this seat of power to the next one, but it’s worth it because we can complete most of the rest of the presidential collection in one go. The American Embassy boasts Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan, all looking very alert.
FDR stands tall in superhero-ish cape, his wheelchair perhaps parked under some nearby bushes. It’s easy to imagine him at his first inauguration, intoning “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” into the history books.
As a general during WWII Ike had headquarters here in Grosvenor Square. Hands on hips and ramrod straight, he still seems to say “Don’t tread on me.” Guards at the embassy are armed to the teeth, so I doubt anybody will consider it.
Reagan, all 10 feet of him, looks so formal and stiff you want to offer him Lincoln’s chair to relax and tell a joke or two.
Last stop is John Kennedy, back in the Madame’s neighbourhood. JFK’s bust is outside the official residence of the US ambassador to Britain, the post his father Joe held under Roosevelt. John had some pretty good speechwriters, himself.
The flesh and blood commanders-in-chief have come to the UK often over the years. Though LBJ never made it over, everybody else since Harry Truman has. “The pound stops here,” I like to imagine Queen Elizabeth’s father King George VI telling Give-‘em-hell Harry, perhaps pointing to himself on the banknote.
I saw Bill Clinton on one of his many visits, behind bulletproof glass, on his way to a whirlybird waiting to whisk him out of Hyde Park. I was on my humble bicycle at the time. Security stopped me and asked to look inside my handlebar bag. Though I would’ve liked to pull out a wax head of Hillary, I’m afraid I had nothing to offer to make for a more thrilling anecdote. Perhaps it’s just as well.