Students breathe life into history

Henry Miller Plaza was a like wax museum with a pulse last week.

Some of the 69 Los Banos High School juniors pulled on knickerbockers or chaps, while others traded in their T-shirt for feathers or a wetsuit during the annual Wax Museum.

Many of the Advanced Placement students embody well-known historical and modern characters like trumpet player Louis Armstrong, Apache leader Geronimo and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Others took the road less traveled.

Author and poet Charles Bukowski got his moment in the sun through 17-year-old Joshua Carlucci.

“Something about him sets him apart from all the different literary geniuses,” Joshua said. “As a writer myself, he’s a huge inspiration to me and my writing.”

Joshua sat in chair with a cigarette in his hand, his button-up shirt untucked and a shot glass on his table.

Bukowski was known for writing style “dirty realism,” which is an American movement that depicted the seamier and mundane parts of life. Joshua said Bukowski wrote about his alcoholism and homelessness in Los Angeles.

“I think he’s really underappreciated,” Joshua said. “A lot of my teachers actually had no idea who he was.”

Alyssa Cunha, 17, wore a feather boa and greeted revelers by saying, “Hello, sucker!” She was Prohibition-era nightclub hostess Mary “Texas” Guinan.

“It mentioned her once in our textbook,” Alyssa said, adding the book included a photo.

“I wanted to learn more about her,” she said. “She ended up being a really interesting character that had a very diverse life.”

Guinan acted on Broadway and in silent films before becoming the keeper of several different saloons. Her clubs were speakeasies but she never admitted to selling booze, Alyssa said.

History teacher Tim McNally organizes the day annually so his students can wind down after taking their Advanced Placement exam. Students who pass an AP test get college credit.

“It’s kind of a fun thing for them,” McNally said, about the museum.

The students have about two months to work on the project, which includes contact with the historical society of their respective figures.

Adam Whitehurst wore a simple sport coat and turtleneck to portray astronomer Carl Sagan.

“He really got me into science,” the 17-year-old said. “I wanted other people to know about his work because a lot of people don’t.”

Sagan was a consultant to NASA, and helped popularize and communicate science to the general public through his books and the television series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.”

Adam said, before the museum kicked off, he was looking forward to visitors but nervous about getting grilled by questioners.

“I expect they’ll have their phones out,” Adam said, “with his Wikipedia page open.”