Raquel Welch has been a household name since the 1960s. Recognized for her flawless, unique beauty and flowing red hair, Welch is the epitome of Hollywood sex symbols. She’s amazing not just for her beautiful, eye-catching looks, but for her talent and strength of character as well. Although Welch is turning 78 later this year, she says she’s not done yet. She’s still got plenty of life left in her to share.
Born September 5, 1940, Welch gets her Latin heritage from her father. She was born in Chicago, Illinois, and she can trace her ancestors all the way back to King Edward I, whom she is the 21st great-granddaughter of. As a girl, Welch liked performing in front of other people and dreamed of becoming a ballerina. Her teacher, however, told her she wasn’t built for the role of a ballerina, so she turned her talents to beauty pageants and acting.
To find out where Welch has been through the years, click “Start Slideshow.”
Married a Few Times
After graduating from high school,
she and her high school sweetheart, James Welch, got married. Welch quickly became pregnant, and by 1961, they had two children, Latanne and Damon. Their marriage was far from perfect, and by 1964 the couple had divorced. Despite the marriage being short and rocky, Welch described it as her best marriage.
She went on to marry three more times. She married Patrick Curtis in 1966 who was her manager and helped her achieve fame as a sex symbol. He also convinced her to use her first husband’s last name because it was less ethnic. After divorcing Curtis, she married Andre Weinfield, whom she was married to for ten years. When that marriage ended, she married Richard Palmer, but that marriage didn’t last either. Welch announced after her marriage ended that she had decided not to get married again.
What different jobs did Welch take on to support herself and her kids? Click ‘Next’ to find out.
Although Welch saw success and fame eventually, it took her several years to get there. She held a variety of positions to keep her busy and making money until her big break. She received a drama scholarship to the San Diego State College and secured herself a job at KFMB as a weather forecaster. The job became too demanding, and she was forced to quit college. She worked as a cocktail waitress for a brief time when she moved to Texas and finally moved back to California where she finally got a break.
She made her debut in 1964 in a movie titled “A House is Not a Home.” The role wasn’t a big role, but it was a start. In 1965, she starred in “A Swingin’ Summer,” thanks to the producer’s wife noticing how talented Welch was. Saul David was the producer, and with the help of Patrick Curtis, the two secured Welch a seven-year contract with 20th Century that included Welch in five films.
What year did Welch get her big break? Click ‘Next’ to see the movie that made her famous.
The Year of the Bikini
1966 turned out to be the year that Welch became famous. She first caught everyone’s attention when she played the leading role in “Fantastic Voyage.” Later that year, she appeared in “One Million Years B.C.” where she wore a provocative deer-skin bikini. This outfit appeared on the cover of the movie and turned her into the sex symbol of every man’s dreams.
In the movie, she only had three lines to speak, and most of the sounds she made were grunting noises. Those noises, however, were not made by her. Welch tried to give her input on the set of the movie, but her ideas were shot down by the director. Welch says the location of the famous bikini is still talked about today, and she says she thinks it is being stored in mothballs, so it can be hung in the Smithsonian Museum.
What movie did Welch star in that turned out to be a huge flop? Click ‘Next’ for the answer.
Success Turned into Failure
Welch was cast in the lead role of “Barbarella,” a 1968 sci-fi movie based in the 41st century. She was eventually replaced by Jane Fonda for that role. She was cast later that same year in “Myra Breckinridge.” The movie was planned to be a huge success because it challenged the norms of sexuality, but the movie failed miserably. It has been called one of the worst movies of all time. Welch says she still enjoyed making the movie, even if it was a flop.
In 1972, Welch appeared in a movie called “Kansas City Bomber,” where she played the role of K.C. Carr, a roller derby roller skater who was trying to balance her personal life and fame. The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, although that didn’t have anything to do with Welch’s performance. During the filming of the movie, Welch broke her wrist during a skating accident while practicing.
What made Welch’s appearance in Playboy so special? Click ‘Next’ to see the answer.
Special Request Granted
Although Welch wasn’t the first Hollywood success to appear in Playboy magazine, there was something special about her that caught everyone’s attention. Welch never appeared nude in the magazine, but always sat in ways that suggested that she was nude. Hugh Hefner stated that he was impressed with Welch’s insistence to not go nude for his magazine. He said she was a classic sex symbol and one of the sexiest women in the world. Hefner said Welch refused to have her picture taken nude, and he agreed.
Not everyone was so agreeable with Welch and her requests. In the 1982 movie “Cannery Row,” Welch was fired from her job and replaced by Debra Winger. Welch felt like she had been used by the studio to garner money for the movie and wanted to be paid for their use of her name. With the help of an attorney, she received a $10 million settlement for compensation for a breach of the contract terms.
Welch didn’t consider herself a classic mother. Click ‘Next’ to find out why.
You Can’t Buy Love
Welch has described herself as not being a classic mother, but she says she also didn’t palm them off to a boarding school. She says she didn’t bake cookies because they can be bought, but you can’t buy love. She has two children from her first marriage, son Damon born in 1959, and daughter Latanne born in 1961. Country singer Loretta Lynn released a song in 1971 called “One’s on the Way” in which she compares stay at home mothers with Hollywood stars like Welch.
Welch’s son Damon is known for working on “Biography” and “Intimate Portrait,” but his sister is the one that has followed more closely in their mother’s famous footsteps. Latanne, now known as Tahnee, began her film career in Italy. She has appeared in several films and even appeared in Playboy in 1995. Unlike her mother who refused to pose nude, Tahnee did appear nude in the magazine. She has also appeared in several magazines including American Vogue, British GQ, French Marie Clair, and Italian Moda.
What other ventures did Welch try on over the years? Click ‘Next’ to see the answer.
One Woman Show
Other than her acting and modeling career, Welch has tried her hand at a variety of ventures. In 1987, Welch tried her luck at singing and released a pop dance single titled “This Girl’s Back in Town.” She also pulled off a one-woman musical act at a nightclub in Las Vegas. Also in 1987, Welch was a shining example of a healthy woman, and she decided to exploit that by trying her had at a fitness video. Those videos can still be found on YouTube.
She has also written and published a book titled “Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage.” The 266-page book has been edited and improved since it was released in 1969 but shares insights into the life of a woman who has every man turning their heads. She also ventured into the wig business for a short time where she had a collection of wigs and alternative hair products. She hoped to give women confidence through their hair.
What movie genre did Welch break down barriers in? Click ‘Next’ to find out the answer.
Western Movie Star
In 1969, Welch starred in the western movie “100 Rifles” alongside Jim Brown. This movie created a lot of controversy because it had one of the first ever interracial love scenes to appear in a movie. Welch said she didn’t really ever understand what the big deal was because she’s always been color blind when it comes to race. She was more concerned about Brown’s acting skills because he was known as a football player. His acting skills turned out to be great, according to Welch.
“100 Rifles” wasn’t the only western movie that Welch broke down barriers in. She played the leading role in the western “Hannie Caulder” in 1971. Her leading role in the movie made her the first woman to play a lead role in a western flick. Before then, women were more commonly seen in femme fatale roles rather than strong roles like the one she played. Director Quentin Tarantino said she was the inspiration for his movie “Kill Bill.”
What did Welch say about turning 50-years-old? Click ‘Next’ to see.
Change is Exciting
As Welch has matured, her roles have shifted. She’s been everything from the beautiful woman in the background to the leading lady. She’s even made guest appearances on television series and acted in her own movies. When Welch turned 50, she said she felt like that was the age that her mind finally caught up with her body and the change excited her.
Although 50 has come and gone and Welch is now 77 years-old, she keeps an active life on social media. She has accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and people still ask her about her life as a sex symbol. They frequently ask her if she’s undergone plastic surgery, but Welch denies it. She says she’d like to offer them the squeeze test to see if she’s telling the truth. She doesn’t know any other way to prove it. At 77-years-old, Welch is far from done. She’s gone from a woman recognized only for her good looks, to a woman with talent, strength, and success.