Tupac Back–New Figure Unveiled at Madame Tussauds Hollywood
If you’ve been to any other wax museum, you’ve seen nothing. As soon as you see this, you’ll know why.
California knows. In this case, it’s a birthday party thrown posthumously at Madame Tussauds of Hollywood. Tupac’s 41st . I saunter up N. Cherokee Ave to Hollywood Boulevard. The tourists at this intersection say “Dr. Seuss!” whenever they find his star. I hope the same for Tupac.
It takes me past blood and ink parlors, and head shops, star tours, the El Capitan, the Vegas-y mall. I want the velveteen red building sans ropes, partitions or barriers. The public makes Facebooklikes with Shrek and Jamie Foxx, touching the bodies but never the hair or face. A table is set up on the sidewalk. The fascination flows. Inside the likenesses are incredible. Celebrity is just low-hanging fruit to pick at. J.Lo, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé are frozen on the dance floor forever. “Loyal to the Game” plays on the back patio.
DJ Quik, plain as frickin’ day in straight hair and sunglasses, waits near the unveiling area as folks fill in, most between 28 and 44. Very friendly, enthusiastic group. I’d say 150. A gigantic ice sculpture reads “2Pac Madame Tussauds”. Several widescreen monitors have a video queued. People enjoy a variety of appetizers from Rolling Stone/Los Angeles that taste excellent. A red cloak bearing the words “Madame Tussauds of Hollywood” prevents us from seeing anything just yet.
I talk to Colin Thomas, who has run the museum for two years:
MFV: How did you arrive at Tupac? Did the fans write in?
CT: You know what? It’s his birthday, and it’s a big deal. I don’t understand why we didn’t have Tupac here when we opened the attraction three years ago. It’s clearly a figure that’s missing from the attraction. Over the course of the years, we listen to the visitors and who they think is missing. The online support we have for Tupac has been incredible.
MFV: How incredible?
CT: Well, to give you an idea, we put one photo on Facebook and got over 350 likes within the hour. It’s very clear that people want to see Tupac.
MFV: How long does it take to develop a figure?
CT: The figures take between six and twelve months to create from start to finish.
MFV: How much did it cost?
CT: The figure cost $300,000 to create. They are all created in London in exactly the same way Madame Tussaud made the figures over 200 years ago.
MFV: You have a 200 year legacy?
CT: Madame Tussauds has been opened in London for over 200 years. We now have twelve attractions globally. The popularity of Madame Tussauds has been growing and growing. The figures we have are so diverse. We have something for everyone.
MFV: So in your opinion, how good is this likeness?
CT: The figure is…. crazy like him. Some of our figures feel like they even have a spirit. I would say that Tupac… the eyes… the tattoos are spot on. It’s an incredible figure. People who love Tupac, he’s back here in LA. Come and see him. You won’t be disappointed.
There’s no sign of Tupac impersonators today, no Josh Harraway, at least near the ice sculpture. Erica from San Bernardino celebrates with tickets she’d won from KDAY, 93.5. All day, she says, they’ve been playing Tupac. Kaliesha and Ramoneda won their tickets, too, and they’re excited to see his face. Bigger than Elvis. They want everyone to come down and see it.
I talk to Bishop.
MFV: Is that B I S H O P?
Bishop: That’s right.
MFV: Tell me something about Tupac.
Bishop: Tupac is the realest rapper you’ve ever known. He put it down with so much passion, from his heart. He didn’t care what nobody thought. He was a real person that nobody could oppose. He mixed kind of poetry with street, with everyday life…
MFV: How did you feel about this wax statue being made?
Bishop: I thought it was a real good idea because I know they ain’t had one yet.
MFV: Where did you find out about this event?
Bishop: I found out about it on KDAY. I told everybody and me and my cousin were actually talking about it that it’d be real cool if we could go. So we put it together and he called and they gave him tickets, it was really cool.
MFV: Did you see the Coachella hologram?
Bishop: I thought that was awesome. It felt like he was really there in ghost form. I loved it.
MFV: Do you think Tupac is in vogue right now?
Bishop: I think he ain’t never really left, to me. In my life, he never really left. I play him all the time. It’s real. That’s all I play. I don’t play none of that new shit. They don’t have no heart behind it. There’s no point to it.
Bishop’s friend Andrew talks about his death. Shady people… shady world…
MFV: What about his legacy?
Andrew: He’s a poet… people from the streets could relate to what he says ’cause we live this shit every day.
The Tupac tribute on the screens turns out cheers. Bruce Hornsby, perfected into “Changes”.
Come on come on
I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself
Is life worth living should I blast myself?
I’m tired of bein’ poor & even worse I’m black
My stomach hurts so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch
Cheers then for “California Love”. Testimony from Snoop. “When he was there, you enjoyed it. And that’s why you still enjoy it to this day.” A graphic: WITH ALL MY FANS I GOT A FAMILY AGAIN.
Tattoo and CeCe from KDAY: “It’s about damn time we get Tupac up in here.” They have a new morning show 6-10 that early risers cheer for. They give it up for DJ Quik, the legendary talent behind so many grooves Tupac put his mind to. He spoke a while.
DJ Quik: S’up west Coast, S’up, what’s happenin’ out here? Okay, I’ll jump right into it. From the time I met Tupac on tour with Digital Underground back in 1991, watching him do the Humpty Dance onstage around the world, was… it was cool, it was incredible. He was a dancer, he’s background, he fell back and let Digital Underground do their thing. But you could see that something was growing inside this dude because every time he performed, he did the Humpty Dance a little bit harder, he made a little bit more effective. Then he started whipping the other dancers into shape, he just start rocking them out. So… we watched this. I seen him do it at the Indianapolis black expo and he was just taking over, right? So… about the time that he started getting into, you know, rapping and doing his own records and stuff. I was watching him grow and I knew I wanted to work with him at some point. I was on profile records, he was on Interscope records, so… I didn’t have no relationship with him back them but I still respected him. He sampled my stuff. If I die tonight, when I heard him sample my music, I was like, wow, he liked, he get down. So, fast-forward to all the troubles when he shot the police in Atlanta… [makes fast forward noise] to the time where he moved to New York and started working with Biggy and them, and being a part of the underground New York hip hop movement, doing the movies, you know, “Juice”… you know what I’m talking about? Bishop, you all know what it is. Fast forward past THAT… and, you know, just watching him grow, seeing him being more than just the Digital Underground background dancer, or background MC and his one verse on the same song, to see him branch out and make us see that we should be doing more than just rocking the stage. It’s like that. I wanna act! You know what I’m saying. And then you ask him how much money he made and he was like, “You already know, Quik. You already know.” I already know that was like a million dollars. You know what I’m saying. So he helped us step it up. And then if you fast forward past that, to the time where he realized he wanted to make a real impact, he came out of nowhere. I was in the car listening to 92.3 The Beat… I heard “Dear Mama” for the first time. So I knew, I kinda knew what it was. It was like, wow, he reached in, he going deep. This was past “Brenda’s got a baby”… This was past that. He got into that trouble… he got arrested… he spent time on Riker’s. Everybody was faking him. He was doing interviews form there, he was still being an activist. You know what I’m saying? He was still doing his thing, waiting on people like Madonna to come visit him — she flaked on him — you know, whatever… It hurt his spirit. My people would go support him. Niggas would go fuck with him. So… Suge gets him out of jail… I’m in the studio with Kurupt, Young Gotti, Danny Boy… Suge didn’t even tell us. We in the studio, we drinking, we smoking, we banging out. The door opens up. In walks security… and Tupac! Well, if you here, nigga, let’s make history. So he went to the back room, got his hair right back to the front, and we started working on “All Eyes on Me” immediately! Without further ado, y’all… respect to my boy Tupac A Shakur. Happy Birthday.
It took months, $300,000, twenty artists working over 800 hours. Would this full-size famous person appear disproportionately smaller to my parahippocampal ideals? He brought us all together. Three second countdown. DJ Quik hadn’t seen him for sixteen years.
Then they unveiled him.
The tats were right. The bullet holes were right. The eyes. Tupac had his ’lex. The rag was right. The scars. Blue jeans and beige work boots. The bloom of youth. DJ Quik didn’t say anything as he looked at the figure. He walked away, got himself together. He came back appreciating the work, the man, the days they had and all the things they did. By this time the sun was almost down. The patio was like a club. Bone Thugs-in-Harmony was in the house. People began to approach Tupac’s replica, admire it, girls in black dresses toting either a “California Love” (vodka, pineapple juice, lemon juice and Sprite) or “All Eyes On Me” (vodka, rum, tequila, gin, lemon juice and Coca-Cola), concoctions created especially for this event by Rolling Stone/Los Angeles. Tupac was back in da zip.
I took my parting glances with Venessa.
Venessa: I saw it in Las Vegas but I think one’s better for sure.
MFV: What makes it Tupac?
Venessa: I went to Coachella. You know how real they had it at Coachella? It almost emulates it, so it’s like head on.
Photos from Madame Tussauds’s Facebook.