- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

I don’t know about you, but I detest long lines, or queues as they call them overseas. God love those hardy tourists standing in Washington’s unpredictable weather waiting to file into our hometown monuments and museums.

It would have to be something absolutely unavoidable, wildly funny or spectacularly serious — like waiting solemnly to pass a dignitary’s casket — for yours truly to entertain the thought of putting my tired old dogs to the waiting test.

Yet even I would be willing to stand in line to view Marion Barry immortalized in wax at Madame Tussaud’s Museum, slated to open this fall in the old Woodward & Lothrop building on F Street Northwest.

That would be a hoot and holler worth the wait.

The possibilities for the famed museum’s interactive activities with Hizzoner are endless. But dare I go there?

Just imagine: “MB” caught on tape with the “B” who set him up. Hizzoner standing in front of the federal courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue, for, well, fill in the blank. Or “Anwar Amal,” dressed in his kente cloth finery, parting his adoring masses as he parcels out government goodies. The People’s Prodigal Prince at a redemption rally. The Mayor for Life being released yet again from another stay at Howard University Hospital. The D.C. Council member pounding on the dais about the criminal state of the city’s school system while he, ahem, skates around the Internal Revenue Service.

“Some of the most scandal-ridden [figures] are the best-loved,” said Janine DiGioacchino, general manager for Tussaud’s New York and Washington museums, when asked whether past deeds preclude a personality’s inclusion in the lineup.

A confession from my I-can’t-believe-I-did-that-file: My daughter and I stood for hours in a line that slowly snaked through the bowels of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London to touch the rubbery rich and famous. Yep, I have the tacky tourist pictures with Samuel L. Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King to prove it.

When museum officials announced plans to expand to the nation’s capital, they chose 49 figures, primarily those who represent the political leadership and nature of the city. Surely they would include Marion Barry.

“We absolutely try to represent the face of the place,” Ms. DiGioacchino said.

Most of those presidential figures, however, are nationally known. Movie stars and celebrities will be included undoubtedly to carry the $20 price of admission. Only a few have really local ties or are native Washingtonians, such as composer Duke Ellington and singer Marvin Gaye.

There is only one slot left, and “MB” gets my vote.

Surely, there may be others more deserving for their humanitarian contributions such as abolitionist Frederick Douglass, educators Mary Church Terrell and Mary McLeod Bethune, poets Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Sterling Brown, politicians Walter E. Washington and Eleanor Holmes Norton.

“Marion Barry’s name has come across so many times I’m embarrassed to say that we didn’t think of him earlier,” Ms. DiGioacchino said. Mr. Barry’s name has been on a short list of potential candidates for weeks since the opening was disclosed. The original selections were determined after a two-week survey was conducted mainly at Union Station, on the Mall and in front of Woodies.

“The most requested was George Washington, which surprised me. … Very few Hollywood celebrities were mentioned,” she said.

Broadcaster Kojo Nnamdi appeared on News Channel 8 with Mr. Barry yesterday to talk about the rededication of the press room in the John A. Wilson Building in honor of Maurice Williams, the WHUR-FM reporter who was killed when Mr. Barry was shot and seriously wounded when Hanafi Muslims took over the city hall in 1997.

That incident shows that Mr. Barry “is not a one-dimensional institution,” said Mr. Nnamdi, who was Mr. Williams’ editor at the time. “When [Mr. Barry] got shot, his profile rose significantly and arguably contributed to his popularity.” Mr. Nnamdi predicted that even 30 years from now, Mr. Barry is “going to be in that museum, because for whatever reasons, more people are going to want to see what he looks like more than any other politician.”

Why? “He is the most beloved and at the same time the most notorious politician this city has ever known,” Mr. Nnamdi added.

Ms. DiGioacchino said the museum will either post a poll on its Web site, conduct surveys this summer at major tourist attractions or place kiosks across the city where people can vote for a favorite final figure. A selection will be made and the figure will be added to the museum collection after its opening.

“We’re excited; this is a big deal,” Ms. DiGioacchino said. “We’re trying to get it right.”

There also may be an opportunity to “add more relevant” representatives, including other local media icons and sports figures.

Mr. Barry, she said, seems to be “very well-loved and he might be a perfect final figure.”

Indeed, we know that Marion Barry is the type of larger-than-life icon that you either love or hate. Just the mere mention of his name in this city raises passions on both ends of the emotional meter.

If anybody represents the best and worst of Washington, D.C., our tale of two cities — the nation’s capital and the District of Columbia — it is the politician’s politician, Marion Barry, who already appears indestructible.

Whether or not he makes Madame Tussaud’s cut, with Marion Barry, who needs wax?

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