When I was in St. Petersburg one night in 2005, I stumbled upon the entrance to a dingy building that could have been a theatre or cultural centre. What drew my attention was a six-foot-tall wax figure of Freddie Mercury, fist raised in triumph amidst the chilly Russian air. What could this portend? An animatronic waxwork Queen tribute plunked bizarrely beside a rail yard? Closer inspection revealed the show had more to do with Mercury's fondness for cocaine than his unimpeachable fashion sense.
A sandwich board had been placed in the entrance featuring a lurid illustration of a young beauty, her face split down the middle so that one side revealed the visage of a skeleton, surrounded by roses and hypodermic needles obviously pilfered from a stock photo site. The text on the board read:
The Wax Person Museum
Presents: A Stunning New Project
"On The Verge"
Illustrating the effects of narcotics on the human organism
The bottom of the poster revealed the project was presented in association with a government agency. The pieces fell into place: this was an anti-drug version of the "hell tours" they take to state fairs in the southern US warning teens about the perfidy of heavy petting. I paid a 50 ruble entrance fee (about $2) to be treated to one of the most heavy-handed cautionary tales of my life.