induction of legendary wax sculptress,
Katherine Marie Stubergh-Keller: The American Madame Tussaud
For most people there are but two names in the history of wax museums and wax arts that matter. One is obviously Madame Marie Tussaud, but the other is the undisputed Queen of American Wax Art, Katherine Stubergh. As we induct this legendary woman into the annals of honor and gratitude that is bestowed upon all those who will enter this 'Hall of Fame' an appropriate history of her is called for. Now I could list off a plethora of facts and figures that would do nothing more then explain the logistics of this grand and complicated lady or I could give her legacy the credit it deserves. What better way to respect her then to have one that knew her and worked with her tell her story.
David Cellitti is a wonderful man and a talented artist who I have the distinct honor of having an ever deepening friendship with. He is a wealth of information on wax museum history, having a knowledge that is unchangeable, and worked with and for many of of the 'Legends' that this site strives to honor. On top of all that he is a kind man who's brutal honesty and truthfulness I have found unparalleled. It is my personal goal with the 'WAXIEDIA HALL OF FAME' to paint a biography of more then facts about these great people and it is through 1st person recollections (when possible) that I hope to do just that.
So, without further delay or ado that I hand the reins to David...
(publicity photo from the STUBERGH COLLECTION)
Lillian told of a time when she and Art, Katherine’s Uncle, came to the studio to visit shortly after the death of Katherine Senior. There was Katherine blissful smoking a cigarette (something she would NEVER do in front of her mother) remarking how her life was finally her own. Henry Alvarez, years later after the studio had been sold to Ripley’s International, told me of finding an old Black and White snapshot of Katherine sculpting. “But I’d rather be dancing” had been inscribed on the back by Katherine.
The truth is I was really a mess when Katherine knew me. My parents were going through a very violent divorce. By the time I went to work for them after high school (1969) I was a full-blown drugged out Hippie. Who and what I was to become later on in life, Katherine never got to witness. Not getting the love and approval from the people I wanted it from the most is a theme that has followed me through most of my life. I know Katherine never really understood my adulation of her, if anything I think she found it irritating. She HATED horror movies, horror figures and thought they were a waste of time. “Anybody can make something horrible,” she would say with disdain. “It takes a real artist to make something beautiful.”