Silicon Valley fixates on wax as Madame Tussauds takes vote

Next tech figure at the San Francisco museum will be selected from shortlist of 10

Will it be Woz? Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is on the shortlist to be immortalised in wax at San Francisco’s Madame Tussauds. Photograph: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg News

Will it be Woz? Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is on the shortlist to be immortalised in wax at San Francisco’s Madame Tussauds. Photograph: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg News

 

Some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent technology figures have been waxing lyrical on Twitter this past week.

Or at least, they’ve been getting excited about wax. The chance, that is, to become the next tech figure modelled in the substance for the San Francisco branch of wax museum Madame Tussauds.

You’d think the opportunity to have crowds of people come along to stare at your rigid, smiling face would not be all that appealing to any of the people on the final shortlist of 10 (drawn from a list compiled by public online nomination).

After all, they’ve all been there and done that when giving keynotes at various conferences. But no. Some of them have already been highlighting their candidacy for waxen commemoration.

Curious shortlist

The finalist group comprises Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla; Pixar president and co-founder Ed Catmull; Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer; film director and producer George Lucas; Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff; Google co-founder and chief executive Larry Page; Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of Lean In; Wired magazine co-founder Jane Metcalfe; and San Francisco Exploratorium museum founder Frank Oppenheimer.

Woz and Metcalfe were highlighting the vote shortly after the shortlist was announced last Friday, with Woz making a direct pitch: “I need your votes. I remember how cool it was when I saw Mark Knopfler’s statue in a wax museum in London.”

Anyone can go vote for their preference figure they most want waxed at the museum’s Facebook page.

The San Francisco Tussauds already has two wax techies on view: Apple’s Steve Jobs (portrayed in his later years, with beard stubble and the trademark jeans and black polo neck) and Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, sitting barefoot and crosslegged.

The shortlist is a curious one.

Why Larry Page, and not Sergey Brin, Google’s other co-founder? Doesn’t he too deserve a future in wax? Could the failure to nominate Brin create an unbridgeable rift between the Googlers? Can Eric Schmidt manage the spin control? Or is the former chief executive and current chairman irked that he won’t get his own waxen moment?

And why Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, but not his frequent verbal sparring partner, Oracle founder Larry Ellison? Perhaps because Salesforce is headquartered in San Francisco itself, and Benioff has donated handsomely to the city’s main children’s hospital, now called the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Assuming the final vote ends up linked to the potential drawing power of the wax figure, which will be connected to how well they – as opposed to their companies and organisations – are known to the general public, the shortlist can be shortened further fairly easily.

While Pixar is adored, Catmull is barely known except to animation aficionados, so he seems unlikely. Metcalfe and Oppenheimer are worthy but unknown.

As two of the most powerful women in business at two major companies, Sandberg and Mayer are definitely public names. But they seem unlikely to win on a public vote. I’d think Sandberg would stand a better chance than Mayer because her book was everywhere, for a while. And they could put Sandberg in there next to Zuckerberg, maybe glaring at her boy boss for not remembering to put on some shoes.

Benioff? Possibly. He’s well known to the tech crowd and has name recognition as a philanthropist, but he’s still not exactly a public figure.

Passing the Page

Larry Page has better general name recognition than Benioff, but I can’t see that translating into a spot in Tussauds. It’s not like you’d walk along, see Page in wax, and think, ‘Wow, it’s Google’s Larry Page! Time for a selfie!’ You’d be more likely to mistake his effigy for some slightly nerdy tourist walking around the museum.

That’s the problem with Elon Musk, too. Fascinating guy, lots of money, gets to play big boy toys (rockets and cool cars). But would you recognise him walking down the street? I didn’t think so.

That leaves Mr Nice Guy, Steve Wozniak. Who doesn’t like Woz? Woz, who unselfconsciously staged the quintessential geek moment, appearing on Dancing with the Stars with his thick glasses taped together. Woz, who pulled clever pranks on everyone in high school and university. Woz, who looks like a big, friendly bear and is so approachable that he often tweets his location when waiting to board flights.

And, as the person who did all the hardcore electronics at the nascent Apple, he deserves to be given an equal nod alongside Jobs. Woz. I’m calling it now. The next waxwork will be Woz.

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