Hollywood Wax Museum Founder Singh Dies
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Spoony Singh, who once said he founded the world famous Hollywood Wax Museum to give tourists who couldn't find any real celebrities in Hollywood the next best thing, has died. He was 83.
Singh died Wednesday at his Malibu home of congestive heart failure, his family announced Friday.
It was while touring Hollywood looking for famous faces in 1964 that Singh thought of the museum. The closest he came to spotting a celebrity was seeing stars' footprints in the courtyard of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.
"So, I thought, let's bring the stars back to Hollywood Boulevard. Let's allow people to get close and look into the eyes of their favorite entertainers," he recalled years later. "Believe me, I didn't know if it would even work."
People lined up for half a mile waiting to get in when the museum opened on Feb. 26, 1965.
The nearly 200 figures of Hollywood stars have changed over the years as their fame has ebbed and flowed. Marilyn Monroe, however, has remained a perennial favorite.
Singh, who handed over day-to-day operation of the museum to family members in 1990, shrugged off critics who called the museum cheesy over the years.
"Look, I know other museums are more stately and artistic," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1970. "But on Hollywood Boulevard, dignity kind of gets lost in the shuffle."
Singh helped develop the Hollywood Guinness World Records Museum, which opened in 1991, and another Hollywood Wax Museum, which opened in Branson, Mo., in 1996.
Singh was born in Punjab, India, in 1922, and moved to Canada with his family at age 3. He operated saw mills and an amusement park in Victoria, British Columbia, when he paid his fateful 1964 visit to Hollywood.
Singh, whose given name was Spoony Singh Sundher, is survived by his wife of 63 years, Chanchil, six children and 11 grandchildren.