Jack Knox: A basement full of disembodied heads, looking for a home

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Ken Lane has more than 300 disembodied heads in his basement in Saanich – stored away since the Royal London Wax Museum was forced out of the CPR Steamship building in Inner Harbor in 2010.

Ken Lane keeps hundreds of disembodied heads in his Saanich basement.

He forwarded photos of some of them last week – or, at least, photos of the boxes they’re stored in – in response to a column in which I called for the return of the head of the Queen, who has been missing since someone decapitated a bronze bust in Beacon Hill Park last year.

Lane has her own queen head. Two of them, in fact: Elizabeth II and Victoria. It also has the heads of Steve McQueen, the late actor, along with Elvis, JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, Margaret Thatcher, Marilyn Monroe and over 300 other characters that have been wrapped since the Royal London Wax Museum in Lane was kicked out of the CPR Steamship Building in Inner Harbor in 2010.

That the collection includes Anne Boleyn, beheaded by Henry VIII, goes without saying.

It’s just the noggins, not the big chunks, that Lane keeps in his basement. “Fiberglass bodies don’t need to be in a temperature-controlled environment,” he says. “They are in everyday, unremarkable, rat-free storage.”

The buds, however, need special care. I can’t leave them out the window lest they melt in the sun. Outside, they could be blasted by windblown sand. When the museum was open, a hairdresser came once a year to shampoo and put back the real human hair of the female characters.

The heads were works of art. It would take around 60 hours to create them, inserting the hair one strand at a time. Medical glass eyes came from Germany.

It’s this kind of detail that helped make the wax museum a major draw in an era when Victoria featured attractions such as Fable Cottage, Undersea Gardens, Sealand of the Pacific and Olde English Inn.

The museum’s first 60 figures debuted at the Crystal Garden in 1961. They made their way to Belleville Street a decade later.

Has anyone whose likeness was exposed entered yet? “Bob Hope. He and John Wayne used to come fishing all the time,” Lane says. young.”

Who would Lane like to add now? Strange as it may sound, he thinks TV renovation guru Mike Holmes would be a good fit. Lane bows to the Canadians. (However, they can be more expensive: a 2006 story noted that while mass-produced characters such as US presidents cost between $12,000 and $15,000, one-off characters like Terry Fox or Jean Chrétien could top $20. $000.)

“I don’t think Chris Rock would pull it off,” Lane says. Or, if he did, they should get him away from Will Smith.

That’s what they had to do with Prince Charles and Diana after their marriage went sour. “When the separation was announced, we separated them, and when the divorce was announced, we put a portable wall between them.”

Barack Obama was the last figure added. Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was in command when the Royal London Wax Museum lost its lease with the miserable Roundheads of the Provincial Capital Commission, the owner of Lane. “We canceled Kate.”

Not much was seen of the numbers afterwards, although outside media still turned to Lane, a former president of the local Monarchist League of Canada, when a member of the royal family had a child or got married. or buried a corgi, or whatever. In 2016, when Kate and William visited Victoria, the Queens of Lanes made an appearance on global television, with Squire Barnes sitting in an opera chair that Diana – the real one – once perched on.

Then, two years ago, during the Megxit, when Prince Harry and Meghan temporarily took up residence in their North Saanich bolthole, Lane assembled a group of VIPs – Elizabeth II, Victoria, Diana, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and Captain Cook – around his coffee table to sort out the situation.

It is against this painting that the New York Times published an article suggesting that Victoria’s nature was changing.

“Victoria…has long billed itself as the most English-speaking city in Canada,” the article said. “It’s dotted with Tudor Revival architecture, pubs with names like The Churchill and specialty shops selling marmalade jam. Until 1950, its police officers wore bobby-type helmets.

But that image has faded, the story goes. Things change. Some are sad, some are happy.

Lane himself no longer believes that the future of his characters lies in the capital. He thinks that with the tourism industry emerging from its two-year slumber, now is the time for a sharp operator to pick them up and put them on display – but not here. The city has lost its vibrancy and lacks good governance, he says. “Victoria is no longer the place.”

Better to turn your head in another direction.

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