Raquel Welch – Her Career, Being Difficult & Some Gossip
Raquel Welch is one of the most popular Hollywood sex symbols in the world.
It was her appearance as Luana the Fair One from One Million Years B.C. that electrified the world. The photograph of her standing in a desolate landscape wearing her prehistoric bikini would become emblazoned on the pop culture consciousness. Raquel would instantly become one of the most popular women in the 1960’s and that image would follow her for the rest of her career.
During the height of her fame in the 1960’s and 70’s Raquel was the most photographed woman on the planet. Her image adorned countless posters, magazines and billboards all around the world. She was the ultimate fantasy woman that men dreamed of while lovingly staring at her shapely figure in bikini poses.
Aside from being known for her sexy physique, Raquel also gained a notorious reputation of being one of the most difficult actresses in Hollywood. Horror stories about her temperamental behavior, unprofessional attitude and lack of respect towards others on film sets have become legendary and stuck with her through most of her career.
She has been labeled as one of showbiz’s biggest uptight divas and there’s no shortage of stories and gossip about her behavior that demonstrates it.
I got curious as to how Raquel gained this terrible reputation. So, I started perusing for ‘dirt’ of her difficult behavior and feuds she’s had with those who worked with her. It didn’t take long to find some of the more famous tales, particularly revolving around the production of Myra Breckinridge.
But digging a bit deeper and scouring the darkest corners of the internet, I started to find more and more unflattering stories about her from almost all of her films and projects she’s been involved in. It started to become quite the list!
To put it bluntly, one might like to admire her looking spectacular in a bathing suit, but if you had to work with her – it sounds like it would absolutely be no picnic!
It is kind of strange when I think most casual moviegoers wouldn’t be able to name a movie that Raquel Welch starred in. They probably know who she is and that she was a famous pinup at one point, but after so many years in the spotlight and appearing in over thirty films and doing many television performances and roles, most people’s familiarity with Raquel begins and ends with her playing a cavegirl in that old dinosaur movie.
Their knowledge of her might even only extend to her pinup poster showing up in The Shawshank Redemption or that she has a popular wig line. She really hasn’t had many memorable acting career high points.
Let me say upfront – I can’t confirm any of this stuff! These are stories I culled from internet searching, and we all know (or should know) not to place much stock in what’s floating around out there, no matter how many times it gets repeated.
However, I was enjoying myself so much finding these horror stories about Raquel’s alleged temperamental behavior, trivia about her film productions, the disrespectful attitude she unleashed on sets and quotes from some of her fellow actors and crew about her, I thought it would be fun to just pool all of what I found together, lay them out and let you decide of the validity of some of these stories – or at least be entertained by some of this Hollywood lore.
They come from all different sources, interviews, newspaper articles, excerpts from books. I’m not about to pinpoint where exactly I found each one because I’m too lazy.
Let’s be fair though, there are always two sides to every story (or in some cases more than that, as we will see), so in her defense I’m sure Raquel has a different interpretation as to what’s been written about her in this area.
It’s quite easy to consider that she was unfairly labeled ‘difficult’ for being so outspoken, resisting to go along with how others wanted to pigeonhole her as ‘the sexy bombshell’ and simply wanting to be in more control of her image and the direction of her career.
Still, I think it’s fair to say she has a very long history of her notorious ‘diva-like’ conduct. So much so…it’s pretty hard to ignore it all and not think, ‘there’s gotta be some truth behind at least some of it’.
So, sit back and let’s follow Raquel’s climb to stardom, her career, stories about her various projects, some rumors and gossip, her alleged temperamental behavior and how she managed to get the reputation of being one of Hollywood’s most difficult and worst actresses one could ever work with.
As one studio executive referred to her as being a “ruthless bitch!“
This should be fun!
Because of the tremendous length of this I’m providing a table of contents to make things easier for readers to navigate through this colossal collection of stories. It’s likely most will want to just read about the films they know Raquel from (which probably isn’t many). However, there are a lot of entertaining stories about her working on plenty of films and projects that you’ve probably never seen, let alone even heard of that are very much worth reading about.
In 1985 Barbara Walters interviewed Raquel – “You have a reputation of being difficult.”
“Not really, in some circumstances but not everywhere.”
“Well, why does anybody? You can’t please everybody all the time. I think there are quite a number of people I do please. And I’m very much a perfectionist and quite demanding, but I’m worth it.”
Raquel’s Early Years
She was born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago, Illinois on September 5, 1940. At the age of two her family moved to San Diego California. Even when she was a young girl she took an interest in the performing arts.
She studied ballet from age seven to seventeen. In her teens she had already won a series of beauty contests. She studied acting at San Diego State College. The former Miss La Jolla, Miss San Diego and Maid of California always had a showbiz career in mind.
She played a few parts in local theater productions, played the title role in The Ramona Pageant (now known as The Ramona Outdoor Play) at age 19 and soon landed a job as a weather forecaster at a San Diego television station.
Raquel married her high school sweetheart James Welch in 1959 and they had two children. They separated in 1962 and she moved to Dallas, Texas. By age 22, Raquel was a part-time model and a full-time cocktail waitress living in Dallas.
In 1964 she would divorce Welch, but kept his name to avoid being typecast as a Latina. He would attribute their divorce to Raquel’s focus on her career. “Raquel wanted a career, she wanted Hollywood, she was dead on making good in pictures, and I was quite happy where I was.” She packed up her bags and moved to Hollywood and within a year her life would really change.
She soon met talent agent Patrick Curtis. While along with being her manager, they also eventually became a couple. He would become a major factor in her transformation into a star – along with some rumored plastic surgery. One urban legend that has circulated for decades is that Raquel had some of her lower ribs removed to give her a more statuesque body.
There would be constant speculation about the 5’6 sex symbol and how exactly she achieved her 37-24-36 measurements.
This isn’t to mention all her covergirl work she was doing where she appeared in countless magazines.
She was one of the pinup girls in a Ridgid Tool calendar in 1965. The Ridge Tool Company makes hand tools under the Ridgid brand name, that targets the plumbing and construction industry. They produced a long-running and extremely popular annual pinup calendar featuring gals posing with the company tools.
Running from 1935 to 2016 the calendars were a fixture for the company and it was said folks would specifically goto stores not to buy any tools, but to get a copy of the latest calendar.
They became a common decoration in workshops and garages across the country. Raquel made one appearance in it. After hitting it big she never posed for the company again.
Just before she turned twenty-three, Curtis managed to land Raquel an audition for A House Is Not A Home and the Elvis Presley movie Roustabout. She got both jobs. They were uncredited roles, but she would use them as stepping stones for more work.
It is worth noting that while the world was becoming enamored by her and she was about to become the most popular bombshell on the planet, not many knew she was already a young mother of two. Her being a mother was not promoted and didn’t fit in with the image of her that was being created. Curtis and Raquel would try to downplay the fact that she was mother. They would also deny being a couple for as long as they could, leaving the gossip magazines guessing about their relationship.
“My career started ass backwards.”
A Swingin’ Summer (1966)
Raquel gets her first featured film role in a 1966 silly beach party flick called A Swingin’ Summer. She plays a nerdy girl who buries herself in books – and wears glasses (naturally). By the end of the movie she whips those glasses off, drops her books, lets her hair down and does some serious grooving!
This was a big break for Raquel and one might think she would have been eager to play nice on the set and be on her best behavior, but she didn’t end up endearing herself to all of her co-stars or the crew – a theme that we will see many times during her career.
According to the book ‘Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969′
Co-star Lori Williams remarked, “Raquel Welch was a problem on this movie and she was a major, major bitch. She wanted to have her signature bikini in the film. I had bought my bikinis before we got to Lake Arrowhead and she wouldn’t let me wear any of them. I had to go out and buy new swimsuits. Working with her was not a lot of fun.”
She also added, “She kept trying to get people fired. We lost two cameramen who quit because she was just wretched. For me, she was just the worst person I ever met during the time I worked.”
Another of Raquel’s co-stars of the film Quinn O’Hara added, “I had no trouble with Raquel. But I heard about that bathing suit incident. I didn’t have a hell of lot of choice of what to wear since I barely had time to get a wardrobe together. I thought ‘Raquel is going to like it or lump it’ because I wasn’t getting another swimsuit.”
The headstrong Raquel allegedly did make enemies of the crew.
“She did her own makeup and wouldn’t let the body makeup woman touch her,” recalls O’Hara. “She swatted her hand away. The cameraman told me that she was going to look terrible with those windshield wiper eyelashes because they were so heavy and casting shadows on her face. I don’t think it made her look bad at all.”
Raquel’s male co-star William Wellman Jr. had a different perspective on Raquel. “I don’t think Raquel Welch treated any of them [her female co-stars] badly, she just didn’t pay any attention to them. She kept pretty much to herself throughout the shoot. We shot this on location and a lot of the cast was partying most of the time. Raquel did not want to be a part of that. Her room was next to mine and I could hear her working on her dance routine. She was working all the time. A lot of people who worked on the beach movies were there just for the good time. Raquel really took it seriously. I was married by this time and wasn’t partying either.”
O’Hara did agree with that point about Raquel: “Yes, Raquel did stay to herself. You didn’t really get to know her.”
Patrick Curtis, Raquel’s manager and soon-to-be-husband, was also a presence on the set. Wellman said, “Patrick Curtis was doing everything for Raquel. He was telling her what she should do, what class she should take, who she should talk to, who she should stay away from.” Curtis became such a presence on the set he was offered an associate producer credit.
O’Hara had this to say about Curtis – “He was a nice guy, but a pathological liar.”
A Swingin’ Summer was barely in the can when Curtis contacted the producers. “He called us to get a print of the film before it was released to show the executives of 20th Century-Fox who were interested in Raquel”, recalls Wellman. “You would never hear this from Raquel though. If you ever mention A Swingin’ Summer to her, she’ll run the other way. We sent the print to Richard Zanuck the head of the studio and he signed her to contract as a result of A Swingin’ Summer. She’s wonderful in the film – hell it’s not Shakespeare. She looks beautiful, she’s dancing, she’s singing. Through it all, Patrick Curtis was right there helping her. He doesn’t get enough credit for her success even though he eventually married her.”
Raquel’s exposure began to ignite. She became an in-demand covergirl appearing – on one estimate I read – 92 magazine covers in Europe and 18 in the U.S. during this time. That’s a lot of attention!
It’s funny how quickly Raquel became such a name – despite really not doing anything! Yeah, she looked good in her bikini photos, but already she was being interviewed and labeled a star! It’s pretty amazing.
In December 1965 Hedda Hopper wrote – after getting so much magazine coverage in Europe “she was named ‘Germany’s favorite actress’ before they could have seen her in a film.”
Columnist Earl Wilson also reports that Raquel is “likely to replace Ursula Andress as the World Sex Missile”
Here she is with Dick Clark on American Bandstand in 1965. A Swingin’ Summer has just come out and she’s already begun work on Fantastic Voyage.
American Bandstand 1965
Thanks to her role in A Swingin’ Summer, the persistence of Curtis and being seen by the right people, Raquel was offered a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox. She said the studio wanted to change her name ‘Raquel’ because it was “too foreign sounding, too ethnic, too hard to pronounce, no one will remember it”. They asked her to change her name to ‘Debbie’. She refused and stayed as Raquel.
A bit of trivia – some of her friends refer to her by the nickname ‘Rocky’.
Raquel would become one of the last actresses to find stardom under the old studio system. Fox immediately cast her in what would become one of her best and most popular films.
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
A miniaturized crew gets injected inside the body of an injured diplomat. Their mission is to save his life and avoid unexpected dangers in this fantastic voyage.
It’s a sci-fi film with plenty of dazzling special effects, a big budget and a group of experienced actors that includes Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasance, Edmond O’Brien and Arthur Kennedy. Raquel plays the doctors assistant who goes along for the exciting ride.
Directed by Richard Fleisher, Fantastic Voyage was a huge hit, won some awards and has become a classic sci-fi film.
I couldn’t find any ‘horror stories’ about the production involving Raquel. I imagine she was on good behavior on this one. It probably would not have been wise to have made Fox regret signing her to a contract by being a difficult demanding actress first time out.
There were reports she was intimidated by her co-stars in the film – all of whom were much more seasoned actors than she was at the time.
In a 1972 interview she said, “I was terribly unsure of myself. I remember, when I was doing ‘Fantastic Voyage.’ Every day for five months I’d sit in the commissary at lunch with Stephen Boyd and Edmond O’Brien and Donald Pleasance and I’d hardly know what they were talking about. It wasn’t only things about acting, but words I didn’t know and restaurants and foods I’d never heard of. And I’d try to act sophisticated and knowing, but I wasn’t.”
She also admitted to being infatuated with Boyd.
“My co-star was Stephen Boyd, who was not hard on the eyes. I had a terrible crush on him. I was too scared to say anything about it because it was my first big movie with Fox, and I was in with a lot of heavyweights. I had one really important line to say, and it was something to do with oxygenation, which I had written down on a piece of scenery so I could glance at it before they called me. It was kind of silly.”
One amusing anecdote about the production involves the famous scene of attacking antibodies that wrap themselves around Raquel. In the scene the other actors are meant to try to save her by tearing them off her body.
In the first take, director Fleischer allowed the actors to grab what antibodies they pleased. Being gentlemen, they specifically avoided removing them from Raquel’s breasts, with an end result that the director described as a “Las Vegas showgirl” effect.
Fleischer pointed this out to the cast members — and on the second take, the actors all reached for her breasts. Finally the director realized that he would have to choreograph who removed what from where, and the result is seen in the final cut.
A bit more of a salacious story came out after filming when Raquel was out doing promotion for the film. Her interest in Boyd didn’t simply end after filming and she apparently attempted to make her move on the actor she was so badly crushing on – but her flirtations were ignored by him. She later said she is convinced that Boyd was gay.
In her book ‘Beyond the Cleavage’, Raquel wrote – “He was so hot with his cleft chin and he was so not interested in me. I tried to seduce him one time. I was so smitten with him and I was so excited every time I would come on the set I would see Stephen, and think, ‘Oh God, he’s so cute.’ He had what sounded like a Welsh brogue that was so charming.
For my first trip to New York, when we opened the movie, we were both staying at the Plaza Hotel, so I thought, ‘Here’s my chance!’ So Darryl Zanuck took us all out to dinner at 21 and on the way back to the hotel we shared a cab. I said to him as we were going up in the lift, ‘So Stephen, would you like to come in for a drink?’
“We got out of the lift and he walked me to my room and he said, ‘I’d like to tell you a little story that was told to me by John Gielgud when I was working with the National Theatre. You’ll have to think about it for a moment but I hope you get my drift: An actress is a little bit more than a woman, but an actor is a little bit less than a man.’
I thought, ‘Oh! He’s not interested in me; I am the wrong sex!’
“Honestly, he was such a love and he’s not here anymore. Of course I’m sure a lot of people in the National Theatre knew!”
I have no idea if there is any truth to Raquel’s suggestion about Boyd. If he was gay, he remained in the closet about it. Could it be possible that was simply Raquel’s assumption about him after having her advances being rejected by him? Who knows?
In any case, Raquel and Boyd did work together once more years later. Boyd had a small role in Hannie Caulder.
Shoot Loud, Louder…I Don’t Understand (1966)
This was an Italian crime comedy film. It was the first in a three-picture deal between Marcello Mastroianni and producer/promoter Joe E. Levine, who some have described as a ‘shrewd con artist’ (pretty fascinating guy).
The strange title for the film was one of Levine’s contributions, who said it “was thought up….on the spot…This is an age of titles.”
Mastroianni was paid $600,000, Raquel got $65,000 and was dubbed in Italian in the film.
Raquel supposedly didn’t think much of the film (much like most of the films she appeared in), although she loved working with costar Mastroianni, who, she said, had a penchant for napping between takes. “I think he was a very busy bee,” she hinted, “but he was so charming. I was just enthralled to watch him sleep.”
Mastroianni had nice things to say about Raquel as well. “Raquel has turned out to be very good, especially for comedy. And comedy is much more difficult than drama.”
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
‘Only last week she was simultaneously on the covers of no fewer than eight European magazines. The German Quick has put her on its cover nine times since January, and the French Lui recently ran 14 pages of her photos and hailed her ‘old fashioned, hot, sensual return to the curve’. There is only one flaw in Raquel’s career so far: No one has seen her movies.’ – Time Magazine, June 24, 1966, just prior to the release of One Million Years B.C.
It’s pretty amazing when you look back at the buildup and anticipation that was created for One Million Years B.C. And it all was due to that enduring image of Raquel in her cavegirl bikini.
20th Century-Fox loaned her out to Hammer Films for its remake of One Million Years B.C. It would be the studios most expensive production and most profitable, thanks in large part to Raquel in her deer-skin bikini and Ray Harrhausen’s dinosaurs.
Filmed before Fantastic Voyage, One Million Years B.C. would be released after it due to the time consuming stop-motion effects work by Harryhausen, but that iconic image of Raquel would be heavily promoted before both films’ releases, would create huge buzz about her and launch Raquel into the stratosphere.
There would be millions of photos taken of her throughout her career, but none would come close to matching the excitement and buzz that was created by her prehistoric pose. It would become the most indelible image of her entire career.
Raquel was reluctant to take the role of cavegirl Loana. She finally relented, commenting at the time, “Oh well, you know Steve McQueen got away with The Blob. Maybe I can get away with One Million Years B.C. Nobody will remember this thing. I can shove it under the carpet.”
Oh, how wrong she was.
She was fitted in her fur bikini. Costume designer Carl Toms draped her in doe-skin and then cut the material with scissors while she was wearing it. It was promoted as ‘mankind’s first bikini’. She was also given a harsh dye job. It was said the blonde dye actually turned her hair bright orange and some of her hair fell out due to it.
From an interview in Rolling Stone in 1974 she thought back on the production.
”We filmed in the Canary Islands on the side of this volcano, and one of the first days I went up to the director and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this scene and I think . . .’”The director said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve been thinking about this scene? See that rock over there? You just start from that rock and run across to that other rock, and that’s all we want from you today.’
“I said, ‘Well, don’t you think that the girl, now that she’s fallen in love with Tumak . . .’
”He said, ‘Listen, if you want something to do, there’s going to be a giant turtle coming over that mountain, and when you get in the middle of the two rocks, you can go ”Oh!” and do a take like you’re frightened.’
”I realized then that it really was a bad monster movie I was in, no way out of it. I had sold my soul to get to the Canary Islands.”
While they were still filming, that publicly photo of her was already creating quite the stir.
“There was this [bikini] picture that came out that caused all the stir. I had been away shooting the film in the Canary Islands, and it was very remote. By the time I got back, everybody seemed to know who I was. I couldn’t have been happier, really, or more surprised. How was this possible?
She was already being promoted as America’s answer to Ursula Andress long before the film would come out. Everyone had already christened her the ‘next big thing’.
With all the publicity she had already achieved, added with her cavegirl image would help to make the movie a hit, make Raquel wearing her deerskin garb into a best-selling poster and turn her into a sexy icon of the 1960’s.
Raquel recalled, “When the bikini would get wet, it would stretch, so you’d be coming up and out of the water and there were a lot of strange things going on with it.”
To this day Raquel says she gets asked to sign photos of her in that ‘fur bikini’. She refers to One Million Years B.C. as that “silly dinosaur movie”, but has accepted it for what it did for her career.
“That was the crazy, wonderful silly but still classic film that made me into Raquel Welch. And gave me the opportunity to make over 30 films I made in my career. It started me off. Dick Zanuck was right to put me into it.”
In 2011, Raquel’s deer-skin bikini was included in Time Magazine’s list of ‘Top Ten Bikinis in Pop Culture’. The fur bikini also has its own Wikipedia page by the way.
How did this all happen? “Excellent timing, good management, and hard work,” said Raquel. “I created my own zap and socko.”
“If you have physical attractiveness you don’t have to act.”
She later said, “When I was at 20th Century Fox, they’d take thousands of photos for every movie. And I’d always say, when I saw the results, ‘But where are the portraits? Where are the head shots?’ Everything was the body. Honestly, I think I could have walked around by myself and nobody would have known me – unless I was wearing a bikini.”
It’s strange. Despite Fox signing her to a contract and seeing the popularity she was gaining they clearly were still skeptical and unsure as to how to use her. They didn’t put her right to work and did not ask her her to return to Hollywood. She remained in Europe being loaned out to other productions.
During this time Raquel appeared in two mostly forgotten films, The Queens and The Oldest Profession, both European anthology films with Raquel making brief appearances in them. Her voice was dubbed in The Queens. Neither did anything for her, other than getting her an easy paycheck. These are films that are not often talked about or watched.
Meeting The Queen of England & Sly Promotion
Raquel and Curtis together did know how to get her attention and they were quite cunning at keeping the spotlight on her, even when meeting the Queen of England!
She was told to appear at the Royal Command Film Performance in London in March, 1966. Many international stars of film and theatre would be in attendance.
Curtis explained how they manipulated her appearance to draw all the focus on her: “She decided, with my help, to wear a modest white dress with just a little cleavage, but it did make her stand out. With all the other big names at the that even, it was Raquel who was photographed by, I think every photographer in London while shaking hands with the Queen of England.”
The following day Raquel wearing her simple white dress appeared in every London and provincial newspaper. Curtis was accused of manipulating the photograph and arranging it to be printed at the exclusion of everyone else who attended that evening. You would have thought Raquel was the sole big star there.
Curtis admitted the photo had been manipulated, but by Raquel herself. They had both worked out a plan of action prior to the event. She maneuvered herself into the line of stars to the area where she would be closest to the photographers in an unobstructed view.
“She instinctively knew that it would be her picture which would be used in the papers. Her dark skin on that white dress really made her stand out in that crowd.”
“It was that picture, thanks to the London press, which ‘made’ Raquel an international celebrity – being photographed with the Queen of England. It didn’t hurt her in the States, either. One of the wire services picked it up and it appeared in practically every major newspaper at home!”
The Oldest Profession (1967)
Despite Fox now having the most popular female in the world under contract, they would continually loan Raquel out to foreign productions. Most of these films were forgettable excursions. Her roles would mainly consist of being the bombshell and show off her figure in bikinis and sexy outfits. The films would simply capitalize on her burst of stardom.
They weren’t very demanding roles, most of them didn’t require a lot of time, but they did very little for her acting career in the long run.
The Oldest Profession was an anthology comedy that had six different vignettes about prostitution through the centuries. Raquel is featured in the segment ‘The Gay Nineties’.
The film is notorious for its awful dubbing of Raquel.
I wasn’t able to find much information about the production, but I did come across a story from photographer Mark B. Anstendig who was hired briefly on the set to take stills during filming. Raquel’s segment was being filmed in Berlin and the thinking was with an American star why not hire an American photographer.
Anstendig was hesitant at first, not really interested in spending time on a film that “was really a vehicle for a big-busted sex symbol”. After being made a very nice offer and the agreement that he could photograph the production any way he wanted and was allowed to use the photos for his own use he accepted the job.
He said he was mostly bored on the set with nothing exciting happening while setups took place interrupted by quick scenes of actual filming. There was a lot of standing around. Then he met Raquel.
“But I did take my work seriously and considered Welch a fellow American, for whom I wanted to do the best. So when she appeared in her first costume, with a big bu-bu (a red irritation) on her bosom, I felt I should alert her to have it covered. So when she was brought to me to portraits and I started to shoot, I gently pointed to the abrasion and thought I was doing her a favor. She became very difficult and then distant. I shot some more scenes that morning and then, at lunch, the producer came over to me, very upset, and said Miss Welch refused to work with me anymore and insisted they fire me. He gave me a check for my whole contract and that was that. And I kept all my film….what few rolls there were.”
You can visit Anstendig’s website to read his story and see the photographs he shot of Raquel on the set of The Oldest Profession here:
Now such an international star thanks to One Million Years B.C. and Fantastic Voyage, 20th Century Fox decided to give Raquel her first starring role in Fathom.
It’s a silly spy spoof with Raquel playing the title character who is an American skydiving champion/dental assistant who gets embroiled in an espionage adventure in exotic Spain.
Raquel described Fathom as “the world’s most uncovered undercover agent.”
Raquel faced quite a bit of skepticism in her first lead role. Second unit director Peter Medak said Welch,
According to screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., there was a bit of a conflict between her and director Leslie H. Martinson during filming. They had a fight on Day One and never spoke to each other again throughout the rest of the shoot.
I’ve also read that she did not get along with co-star Tony Franciosa and she had a bit of a feud with him.
Like Raquel, Franciosa also had a reputation for being difficult and unreliable. It was said he was notoriously short-tempered and had served short terms of imprisonment for kicking a photographer and marijuana possession. His volatile temper, erratic behavior and off-screen antics derailed a promising Hollywood career and eventually his appearances were limited to television and Italian thrillers.
Which is how I imagine he got cast in Fathom and received second billing behind Raquel.
I haven’t been able to find any specific details about their ‘alleged feud’ or specific drama of the production or the two stars, but if history is any indication I’d guess there was some definite tension between the two personalities and it’s not surprising that they clashed.
Raquel referred to her role in Fathom as being “a blown up Barbie doll”.
Raquel appeared in the Dudley Moore/Peter Cook comedy Bedazzled. She played one of the seven deadly sins – Lillian Lust. While the marketing might have played up her role, she was onscreen for about seven minutes in the movie.
She commented about Bedazzled, “I’m doomed to be a sex goddess in a generation of flower children…It’s necessary at some point to destroy your beauty. It’s a distraction or it creates resentment.”
On February 14, 1967, Raquel marries Curtis in Paris, France at Paris’s City Hall.
The day becomes a whirlwind of photographers and reporters who descended on the ceremony. Reportedly, paparazzi follow Raquel as she is shopping for a wedding dress. Even going so far as trying to get photos of her in the changing room. Becoming upset, Raquel races back to her hotel.
In a private ceremony in City Hall, photographers also allegedly try to gain entry into the room to snap as many photos as they can.
Danny Kaye throws a wedding reception for her. Among the guests are Peter O’Toole, Mia Farrow and Christopher Plummer.
Here’s an old newsreel of the chaos with dozens of reporters and photographers that followed her into City Hall. It wasn’t exactly a quiet, private ceremony. It certainly gives you an idea of how popular Raquel was during this time.
In Demand, Raquel Memorabilia & Performing With Bob Hope
September 22, 1966: The Washington Post reports that director Mark Robson “is angling Raquel Welch for the role of ‘Jennifer’ in his new film Valley of the Dolls, based on the 1966 best selling book.
‘Jennifer’ is the ill-fated actress “whose luscious body on display in European nudies makes her famous”
Producer Richard Zanuck at 20th Century Fox sends director Mark Robson to test Raquel in London. Zanuck is keen on Raquel playing the part of ‘Jennifer’, but the director doesn’t want her and she also refuses, not wanting to play a “sexpot” role. She requests to play the part of Neely O’Hara, but the studio refuses.
Some suspect the role of Jennifer – a character who finds fame by going to Europe where she becomes a big film sex symbol – hits a little too close to home for Raquel.
Sharon Tate gets the role of ‘Jennifer’. Patty Duke lands the part of ‘Neely’. Raquel later said her passing on Valley of the Dolls was a mistake.
In November 1967 The Saturday Evening Post catches up with Raquel and Curtis and reports on their life as her star continues to rise.
“If you want to deal with Raquel, you have to deal with me,” Curtis says. “Because I push the buttons. I’m the guy who’s in control of the situation. And I make damned good deals.”
The article describes the deals Curtis has accomplished for his wife:
‘Under his guidance Raquel’s earnings have soared from $500 a week for a bit role in A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME to as high as $20,000 a day for a two-week stint on a German production.
The contracts he masterminded in Europe required film companies to provide her with chauffeured limousines, air-cooled dressing trailers, personal hairdressers, makeup men, wardrobe attendants, lavish living quarters and the right to veto any photographs of herself that she deemed unflattering.
She has rejected a $500,000 bid, Curtis claims, for her services in a sequel to ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. and several lucrative offers to do a television series. “I don’t see anybody becoming a big star from TV,” he says. “Certainly not a girl.”’
Raquel adds: “There have been lots and lots of people who have tried to manufacture stars. But it’s never worked unless the person has something. And there’s a certain pretentiousness about me that kind of lends itself to the business I’m in.”
At this time Raquel became the most photographed woman on the planet. Her continued exposure from appearing on magazine covers all around the world is staggering! If you want an indication of just how many she adorned just do a quick Google search of ‘Raquel Welch magazine covers 1960s’ and you’ll get an endless barrage of them.
There was an offer of one million lire for a photograph of her children, and photographers were willing to goto great lengths to get it. While she was staying in Rome, there were reports that the paparazzi staked out her home. Unable to scale the walls of her villa, they tried to bribe the help. Raquel ended up dousing photographers with a water gun.
Around this time there was an unusual ad for the weight gain product Wate-On featuring Raquel. The purpose being that women around this time were worried about looking too skinny and wanted the more full-figured, shapely look that became the trend to have. Cue Raquel and the magic of Wate-On!
I’m not sure how many women were tricked into buying this product or if any of them experienced ‘Raquel-type’ of results. I would wager, Raquel’s body was not from the benefits of Wate-On. The idea of promoting it was probably from the mind of Curtis who saw it as some easy cash to make for his wife.
Raquel actually mentioned the ad in a 1965 interview with Esquire, and even then it seems she knew it was silly. “My most embarrassing thing has been that ‘Don’t Let Them Call You Skinny’ as you probably saw….the truth is I started to look like a girl very early – at fourteen – and never had skinny problems, although come to think of it there was a time I was called ‘Birdlegs’.”
Another more amusing piece of Raquel memorabilia came out around this time. While reading their comic books, alongside X-ray glasses, chattering teeth and trick onion gum, kids would discover an advertisement for a ‘Raquel Welch Pillow’.
The ad states: ‘What man wouldn’t enjoy spending the night with Raquel Welch? Well, we can’t deliver her, but we can deliver the next best thing – a 12″ x 24″ inflatable pillow of Raquel made of rugged vinyl to serve as your headrest. Keep her for yourself or show her to your friends. Livens up a party when everyone sees and feels this great gag item.’
It cost $1.98.
I’m not sure whether this was licensed item by Raquel or a deal that Curtis cooked up for her. I’d be really curious to know how many of these ‘Raquel Pillows’ sold and how much money, if any, Raquel got from it.
I imagine these pillows were cheaply made, popped, got discarded and today maybe a few survivors can be found in attics that were originally bought by kids back in the 1960s.
It’s a strange novelty product from the era. You don’t see many stars today allowing their images to be put on a inflatable plastic pillows.
Like sex goddess Marilyn Monroe did before her, Raquel went overseas to entertain the troops. She traveled to Vietnam to perform alongside Bob Hope for the soldiers. One of their shows was filmed for the television special Bob Hope’s 1967 Christmas Special.
Bob Hope had this one liner – “Raquel Welch is my favorite double feature.”
The soldiers looked very excited to see her as she sang ‘Different Drum’ and did some dancing.
The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968)
A wacky caper comedy, where a mobster and a gang of inept crooks try to steal $5 million worth of platinum from a train in Naples Italy. Robert Wagner is the head crook and Raquel plays his main squeeze.
The marketing power of Raquel in a bikini is already reaching absurd levels. She is prominently featured on the movie poster. What am I talking about prominently….she’s the entire poster! There’s also the added tagline “This is the world’s sexiest robbery!’
The studio marketing were well aware of how best to sell a film starring Raquel. Forget the comedy or the caper or that we have Edward G. Robinson in this, just put an image of Raquel in a bikini and audiences will come.
Actor Victor Spinetti had an interesting story about an encounter he had with Raquel during his two weeks time on the production. In his autobiography Up Front His Strictly Confidential Autobiography, he recounted arriving in Marseilles for his role.
As I walked towards reception, I glanced sideways and there, sitting at the bar, was Raquel Welch.
She was wearing something straight from One Million Years B.C., an early film of hers, the mini-est mini skirt I’d ever seen. ‘Hallo! she called out.
‘Oh Hallo,’ I answered, ‘I’m just checking in.’
‘Great!’ she said, ‘What are you doing this evening? Will you have dinner with me?’
‘How marvelous,’ I thought, ‘I’m hardly through the door and I’m being taken to dinner by one of the most beautiful women in the world. What a welcome to my two weeks on the picture.’
We ate at the hotel. Over dinner, Raquel talked about her life, her early days in amateur dramatics, painting the scenery and waiting for a break. She was enchanting and we talked away happily for the rest of the evening. We were still talking as the waiters were putting the chairs up on the tables. ‘I’ll show you to you your suite,’ I said and upstairs we went. As we reached her door, she turned and gave me a long, lingering kiss. ‘I can’t invite you in,’ she said, ‘My husband, Patrick, is with me and he’s doing a deal, some damn new car he wants, but thank you for a wonderful evening,’ and silently she closed the door.
The next morning, I walked onto the set and there she was. ‘Hallo!’ I called out, grinning from ear to ear, almost as though we’d spent the night together.
‘What the fuck are doing here?’ she said and turning, called out: ‘Someone please! Get this man off the set! Fuck you, how dare you fucking follow me here?’
‘But I’m in the film,’ I said.
‘Oh my God, I’m so terribly sorry,’ she said. ‘Please forgive me. I didn’t realize. I thought you looked so friendly and I was so lonely.’
That’s a kind of odd huh? Here’s some very brief and to the point thoughts by another one of her co-stars, Robert Wagner. After working with Raquel, Wagner allegedly called her a ‘bitch’.
In his 2016 memoir he talked about many of the Hollywood ladies he worked with throughout his long career. He was quite complimentary to all of them, except for two – Raquel and Shelley Winters.
Wagner described how Raquel was constantly late on the set and would keep the cast and crew waiting on her for hours while she had her hair and makeup done.
On one occasion, Robinson had enough of her unprofessional behavior and went off on a full ten-minute tirade on her that left Raquel in tears.
After Robinson was done admonishing her she apologized for her tardiness and behavior. Wagner wrote, despite her apology the very next day she was late to the set again.
According to Wikipedia, Robinson gave a much more diplomatic account of his time spent working with Raquel – at least publicly – “I didn’t get to know Raquel Welch too well – we didn’t have too many scenes together,” said Robinson. “I must say she has quite a body. She has been the product of a good publicity campaign. I hope she lives up to it because a body will only take you so far.”
One very amusing quote Robinson supposedly said regarding Raquel – “I pity any actor who gets second billing to Raquel Welch. He’s really getting third billing to her breasts.” I hope he really said that. It’s a pretty funny line.
Of working with Raquel, Wagner wrote in his 2016 book ‘I Loved Her in the Movies: Working With The Legendary Actressess of Hollywood’, “While I worked with a lot of actresses during this era, most of whom were special ladies, I wasn’t crazy about my experience with Raquel Welch.“
Despite his apparent distaste working with Raquel, they did work together again almost fifty years later in the 2017 television show ‘Date My Dad’.
Reuniting with Wagner Raquel said, “There wasn’t a particular rapport [in the movie] except, of course, he’s Robert Wagner and what’s not to like?” she explained. “We had a really good time… It seemed like a perfect match in a sense… I had no objection. What possibly could I object to? We had a lot of fun. And people seem to enjoy our interaction. It’s all been very enjoyable, I have to say.”
Raquel gets a great opportunity to star alongside some major stars in Bandolero!, a western starring James Stewart, Dean Martin and George Kennedy.
It appears Stewart and Welch got along quite well during production. They would later appear together in some television variety shows down the road. There doesn’t seem like she alienated herself from him or anyone else on the set.
There is one story that is kind of interesting from the production of Bandolero!
During filming Welch naturally drew attention from fans. One day on the set Stewart heard her complaining about signing autographs and talking to fans who had been waiting for her.
As Raquel remembered, “And I was so green when I first started, and would get so shy with fans. And Jimmy came over and said, [imiitating Stewart’s voice] “Now, now, now…..Raquel. Now there’s something you have to understand here. It’s really simple. Now these are the people that BUY the TICKETS. And they’ve been waiting a LONG time to talk to ya’, and you should go right ahead and that’s because that is part of the job.” And I thought, if he says that, it’s gotta be true, because he’s the best.”
“And I never — I never forgot. I thought, you know, he is so right. You should be gracious, you should accept that. That is part of the thing.”
It was said from then on Welch willingly signed autographs for fans.
Interestingly, if you’re an autograph collector, Welch was said to have been one of the few dependable celebrities to answer her fanmail and regularly sign photos for fans. It’s only been in the last several years, she has refused autograph requests through the mail, saying it has become too difficult to keep up with the demand.
That is understandable. After so many decades of signing, perhaps she wants to alleviate the burden. The amount of fanmail she receives is probably still quite a large amount.
To her credit it is nice to hear of a celebrity that answers their fan mail and signs autographs for fans. That is becoming a bit of an ‘old school’ trait of celebrities. Most current celebrities probably get more requests to pose for ‘selfies’ with fans than actually signing autographs today.
So, this is kind of a good story about Raquel. Nothing sordid here!
So, she did get some long term career advice out of the experience. Stewart must of taken a liking to Raquel. He was earlier photographed with her at the UK premiere of his 1965 film Flight of the Phoenix.
This photo is funny. You can clearly see Jimmy unable to help himself from getting an eyeful of Raquel.
As for what Raquel thought of her performance in Bandolero! she said, “No one is going to shout, ‘Wow it’s Anne Bancroft all over again’, but at least I’m not Miss Sexpot running around half naked all the time.”
In February 1968 Raquel confirms she will not appear nude in the upcoming The Lady in Cement.
She declined the title role of Barbarella. Jane Fonda got the role and the film would go on to become a cult classic.
The Lady in Cement (1968)
A sequel to 1967’s Tony Rome, where Frank Sinatra returns as a Miami, swinging detective.
Raquel gets to act with another mega-star. The Chairman of the Board’s allure was so distracting, Raquel admits to not being very focused during filming and admits she is “awful” in the movie.
It was only years later when she happened to catch the movie on television she learned of a key component of her character that she had been unaware of – that her character was an alcoholic.
“I’m watching this movie and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell has she got on?’ At one point I had this epiphany: ‘Oh, she’s an alcoholic!’ I didn’t know that. How could I miss that?
“I think I was just so enamoured with Frank Sinatra, you know. He’s hypnotic.”
During the production, Sinatra was performing at the Fontainebleau in Miami. Raquel got so inspired watching him, it made her determined to continue to perform live in front of audiences during her career.
100 Rifles (1969)
With 100 Rifles we start to get into some heavy duty, public feuding!
Raquel stars alongside Burt Reynolds and Jim Brown in a western. There are press reports Raquel and Brown clashed on the set. Reynolds said he spent most of his time refereeing fights between them.
The press seized on rumors, usually the most tantalizing ones, about the ‘feud’ between Raquel and Brown.
Some of the rumors – Raquel thought Brown was insupportable and she was upset he was top-billed. Brown thought she was prejudiced against black people and had expected him to behave like an Uncle Tom who was prepared to kiss her feet.
Issues erupted during the filming of their ‘torrid love scene’ and it created friction between the two. There’s also theories the ‘feud’ between the two was manufactured and cooked up by press agents.
As you’ll see EVERYONE has a different account of exactly what went down behind the scenes.
None of what the press reported was the truth according to Brown. Make no mistake, Brown and Raquel didn’t get along, but it was due to less sensationalized reasons than what the press stirred up.
As Brown later explained – “Raquel Welch is a creation of publicity. She is not the greatest actress, but she continues to work due to her ‘sex symbol’ image, which she and her husband Curtis are very conscious of.”
“So, on a Raquel Welch movie the focus is around protecting that image. Her hair, her wardrobe, the camera angles, the amount of skin shown, the publicity photographs. It’s all carefully planned for the best possible results.”
After some time with these ‘Raquel Rules’ dominating the day-to-day production and trying to endure them, Brown simply got fed up.
“When I’m on a picture,” he said, “I have two bosses, the director and the producer. My co-star is not my boss. But she had all her people around; setting up shots, telling the rest of us when publicity photos would be permitted and when they wouldn’t and all of that.
“I realized the only way to save myself was to just get out of that, to withdraw from any contact. I did my job. But I completely withdrew from all of the b.s. that was going on involving Raquel’s image. It was either that, or the picture would have been hurt. What I don’t see is why she doesn’t relax. The real sex symbols are the ones who don’t mind getting a little sweaty, Sophia Loren, say. But Raquel always has to look perfect…”
However, in his autobiography My Life, Reynolds offered further details of what he saw that contradicts Brown’s account. According to Burt, he ‘traced the source of their friction to an on-set incident in which Welch – who was traveling in a full Land Rover with Brown, Reynolds, and others on the way to the film’s remote set – and she refused to stop and pick up a black stuntman who was walking along the blistering hot road to the shoot.
Brown then told the driver to stop, picked Welch up bodily, deposited her beside the side of the road, and ordered the stuntman to take her seat. ‘From then on Raquel would have preferred to be some place else, and I can’t say that I blamed her.”
In the book Tales of Hollywood Bizarre by John Austin, Curtis offered his recollection of 100 Rifles – “This was Brown’s first film outside the United States and it all started when we arrived at the Madrid airport. Because of other films shooting in Spain at the time, there were hundreds of photographers milling around and we had incredible problems.”
“But again, Raquel, with that intuitive sense of design to be in the front row of everything – especially around cameras – was the center of attention. Reynolds and Jim Brown stepped off the plane behind us and were completely ignored by the photographers, even though they knew they were featured in the film.”
According to Curtis, Brown was really “pissed off about that. Being ignored by the press, he declined our invitation to join us on our private charter for the flight to Almeria. After that, things went from bad to worse between he and Raquel. On the other hand, Burt accepted our invitation and came with us on the flight and everything was okay between us.”
“While shooting the film, all Jim Brown would talk about was Black Power….and all that palaver for ten or twelve weeks. Who needs eight to ten hours a day of political and racial dissertations?
“Raquel completely ignored him…so much so that he really was getting more annoyed with her every day.”
“When we were among the reporters visiting the set in Almeria, we noticed that Brown used to stand behind the camera, a building, or anything else handy during his off-camera dialogue and spit at Raquel. This was not the type of conduct to endear yourself to your co-worker.”
“When we tried to get publicity stills of Raquel with Brown, she refused to pose with him, even though she was required to under the terms of her contract. Although not the instigator of the problem, she bore the brunt and the bad publicity.”
In her autobiography, Raquel Welch, wrote of her experience of working with Brown – “nobody could possibly top Jim Brown. It was just awful.”
One piece of unconfirmed gossip that came out from Raquel and Brown’s feud, was that Raquel was so outraged by him when shooting publicity photos, she insisted a towel be placed between them, out of sight from the camera.
Raquel also had a bad time with husband Curtis, who once again was constantly on the set. His presence was purportedly due to his suspicions that Raquel was having an affair with one of the Spanish extras, who was subsequently fired.
Director Tom Gries tried to convince Raquel of going topless for a scene of her showering under a water tower. Raquel flatly refused, being one of the many times she refused to do a nude scene. Even with her wearing a t-shirt, it is still a pretty good scene – even though it makes little sense why she would be showering in a t-shirt.
Raquel – “I have never appeared in the nude. It is a very personal thing to take off your clothes. I refused to do a nude scene in 100 Rifles, and for weeks the telegrams flew back and forth, arguing about who was going to get me to do it. Finally, they gave up and [had] some other girl strip.”
With the film being one of the first movies to feature a sex scene between different races, Raquel did say it broke new ground, but didn’t think much of her role describing it as “baloney in a cheesecake factory”. (chalk up another film role she dismisses)
According to IMDB (let’s remember how ‘trusted’ the internet is), Reynolds and Raquel also ‘fell out whilst making this movie’. Burt and Raquel will have an odd back and forth relationship through the years as we will see.
Yet, the majority of her problems with most of her colleagues on film sets didn’t see much forgiveness. She didn’t hide her dismissive opinion about her co-stars, “When you’re in something with Jim Brown or Burt Reynolds, who is going to approach that as a serious acting situation?”
Let’s momentarily dovetail into some salacious gossip surrounding Raquel and the production of 100 Rifles. Between all this drama that was happening on set, it was rumored that Raquel had engaged in an affair with a Spanish actor on the film Sancho Gracia who was playing the Mexican leader.
Gracia died in 2012. In several of his Spanish obituaries this affair with Raquel was written about. One rumored story (again no confirmation with this) was that Raquel’s husband Curtis found out about the affair she was having. He discovered Raquel and Gracia together in a caravan kissing. When questioned as to what they were doing Gracia said they were rehearsing a love scene they were to shoot the next day.
Curtis didn’t buy this story. He went to a drawer and pulled out a pistol. As the Spanish article says, ‘Gracia ran among the other caravans as he heard the bullets whistling around him’.
I found a variation to this story, where Curtis didn’t find them in a caravan, but in a hotel and chased Gracia through the corridors and stairs of the hotel with the pistol in his hand.
The press at the time didn’t report on this scandalous activity, but it was said they alluded to Gracia’s enchantment with Raquel in subtle ways. Gracia had always had a reputation for being a ladies man. Gracia was subsequently fired from 100 Rifles – for some reason. He still appears in the film, but goes uncredited. Coincidence? Curtis was said to have been a constant presence on set like he was on most of Raquel’s films. on set and he could have had the clout to get Gracia fired.
Is any of this true or just made up Hollywood gossip – you be the judge.
Despite racking up appearances in mostly forgettable films up to this point, Raquel was rated the top female box office attraction for three years in the late 60’s
“I hate for people to think that I selected all that crappy material. I simply had no control. It was frightening, a huge botch-up even though it made me some kind of household word. Everyone thought I should go around in a bikini even if it happened to be snowing outside.”
According to Screen World, Raquel was listed number 21 as a box-office draw in 1968; number 15 in 1969; number 15 in 1970; and number 19 in 1972.
Raquel plays a sexy Las Vegas dancer who discovers there’s a psycho who wants to kill her.
Flareup sounds like ‘a-made-to-order’ box office hit. You have the hook of Raquel appearing in sexy dance numbers, wearing revealing outfits and throw in a thriller story where she has to defend herself against this killer.
It sounds like the perfect ‘guilty pleasure’ type of movie. But Flareup barely made a ripple and has since fallen into the cinematic cracks of forgotten movies.
While Flareup wasn’t a big hit, Raquel did get a few positive notices for her performance. The Los Angeles Times stated, “This modest, diverting little movie proves the lady can act as well as look sexy. Miss Welch has perhaps never before had a role so tailored not just to the dimensions, but her ability and personality as well.”
In a very funny clip, Raquel’s co-star the late James Stacy recalled filming a scene with Raquel in Flareup. According to him he was filming a scene and was meant to kiss her. He did and Raquel spit his kiss out in disgust. He continued with his recollection of Raquel inviting him into her trailer. He went in, and another girl was in there. They began beating him up.
We may never know if there might be some exaggeration and humor to this story, but his one quote about her is amusing – “She was just awful.”
You can watch the clip of James’ story below.
Raquel expressed her career disappointment: “I’m ambitious, but it’s not the money that drives me. I want to do solid work that will win the respect of my peers. Like all actresses, I’m a shattered personality, with lots and lots of people inside me crying to get out.”
Around this time her reported salary called for $330,000 per film, plus a percentage of the gross receipts.
The 1960s Come To An End & Raquel Leaves Her Mark
As the 1960s came to a close, Raquel would find herself yet again being featured on another magazine cover. This time Time Magazine gave her their cover – well, technically a sculpture of her.
Time commissioned renowned sculptor Frank Gallo to create a sculpture statue of Raquel to be photographed for their November 28, 1969 cover. After appearing on countless magazines all around the world in the last several years and being the most photographed woman on the planet, it would be an ironic twist a photograph of an epoxy sculpture of her would be her final farewell to the decade that made her a star.
Gallo’s Raquel sculpture would become critically acclaimed, along with it winning the ‘Cover of the Year’ award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Gallo donated his sculpture of Raquel to the Smithsonian’s Institute’s National Portrait Gallery, where it currently resides. There visitors can marvel at the talent that went into its creation and reflect on the impact Raquel left on pop culture in the 1960s.
Gallo died on March 22, 2019 at the age of 86.
In the spring 1970 her big TV special Raquel! is filmed entirely on location in London, Paris, Mexico, the Big Sur and Sun Valley. It costs $735,000 and it takes 90 days to film.
She had to take a break filming her TV special in order to film Myra Breckinridge and when finished with that she completed production on the TV Special.
This CBS TV-special was an attempt to show off more of her talents, notably her singing and dancing and prove to people she was more than just a sexy cavegirl in a fur bikini.
The special did provide a platform for Raquel to sing, perform dance numbers, tell jokes and read poetry, but there was something viewers weren’t told at the time – Raquel’s singing voice was dubbed in certain segments.
The story goes that the special was almost finished when its director David Winters discovered some technical problems with Raquel’s pre-recorded vocal tracks. Needing a fast fix, he approached Tina Cole and her musical group The Four King Cousins to re-record Raquel’s singing vocals.
During an overnight session they re-recorded nine of the twelve singing tracks featured in the special. Cole was faced with the precarious task of singing and trying to match Raquel’s mouth movements.
You won’t find Cole’s name anywhere on the special since she agreed to go uncredited. It is believed neither Winters, the producers or anyone involved in the production ever told Raquel that she was re-dubbed in her first television special.
Raquel! would air only a few months before the release of Myra Breckinridge. On the day of its premiere, the show received a 51% share on the National ARB Ratings and an impressive overnight New York Nielsen Rating of 58% share – a very good number. It ended up being one of the highest television specials of the year.
Raquel finishes out 1969 by appearing in a cameo role in the British black comedy The Magic Christian. It has an all-star cast that include appearances by Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, John Cleese, Christopher Lee, Laurence Harvey Richard Attenborough, Roman Polanski and Yul Bryner.
The strange, surreal movie tanks very badly. Raquel’s role as the sexy Priestess of the whip who’s in charge of a slaveship of nude women rowing is one of the most notable things from it.
Myra Breckinridge (1970)
While filming her TV special, Raquel filmed one of her most famous roles – a man who undergoes a sex change operation and becomes the beautiful Myra Breckinridge.
Based on Gore Vidal’s 1968 novel, Myra Breckinridge was controversial right from the start. The themes of feminism, transsexuality, gender roles and sexual explicitness struck a nerve when it came out. While many labeled the book pornographic it became a worldwide bestseller.
The film rights were bought by 20th Century Fox. Some said the book could never be filmed, but Fox and director Michael Sarne were about to give it a shot.
The 28-year-old Raquel envisioned the lead role of the transgendered Myra to be her acting breakthrough. When she heard Anne Bancroft had turned down the role she eagerly went after it.
She told producer Richard Zanuck, “I don’t know exactly what kind of actress you’re looking for in this role, but I was thinking if a guy was going to change his sex and wanted to be like a movie star-type of girl, don’t you think he might want to look like me?”
Myra Breckinridge was made during the period when Hollywood studios were taking risky moves of investing a lot of money into big, absurd and bizarre projects. The final result with Myra Breckinridge was exactly that.
The production was stressful, chaotic and out of control. The final film would become one of Hollywood’s most notorious flops and is often cited as one of the worst films ever made.
One of the most infamous stories revolving around Myra Breckinridge is the feud that erupted between Raquel and Mae West.
When they first met Raquel did try to be respectful to the Hollywood icon. “I found her surreal. Here was the star from the ’30’s who had this unbelievably different way of doing things. Now she’s doing the movie in 1969-70, and she’s never made a color movie before in her life. I wouldn’t want to undertake that at 77. I thought she’s got a lot of chutzpah and she’s completely bonkers. Mae was one of those people I always felt had a distinctively masculine vibration about her. I have often ventured the opinion that she was a man in drag.”
It was West’s first film in twenty-seven years – and she somehow believed she was the star of the film and instilled her demands on the production.
As Curtis remembered, “Raquel had been working everyday for two or three weeks when Mae West arrived. The first day she arrived Raquel sent her a huge bouquet of roses to try to smooth the way for both of them to work together; Mae was the sex symbol of the thirties, Raquel the symbol of the seventies.”
“It didn’t work.”
Famed costume designer Theodore von Runkle worked on Myra Breckinridge. One of the dresses made for Raquel was totally black with a white ruffle around the neck and sleeves. It was specifically designed to be worn by Raquel in her first scene with Mae.
Some say Sarne (who some claim had a sadistic streak) informed Mae that Raquel would be wearing a black and white dress only minutes before she was due on set. Mae then made it clear she would not work if Raquel wore it.
Mae was adamant that she be the only one who wore black and white in the film. She supposedly had this exclusive clause written in her contract that she was the only person permitted to wear black or white. She was steadfast that if Raquel showed up in that black and white dress she would leave.
Raquel also said she was not going to work unless she was allowed to wear that specific dress.
A bit of a standoff commenced over this piece of wardrobe.
When Raquel returned the following day her black and white dress had been ‘confiscated’. Raquel was quite irate. “That’s the dress that everybody ok’d months ago and approved for the scene. It’s a lovely dress and I’m going to wear it. I’m going home until it’s returned or Mae West can shove the dress and contract up her ass.”
Raquel became so incensed over West’s wardrobe demands, she shredded a red dress that she was asked to wear as a replacement.
The black and white dress was eventually returned. Raquel agreed to have the white portions of the dress be dyed a very light blue. Regardless of the dye job, the way it was photographed it appeared to be pure white in the film. So, both actresses felt they had won that battle over the dress.
The scene was filmed and the two never appeared in a two-shot together. Mae refused to be filmed alongside Raquel. According to Raquel, “She left after she did her lines and I had someone off-camera reading her lines and I had to pretend she was there.”
Mae didn’t make any attempts to get along with Raquel. She allegedly said about Raquel, “She’s cute enough. But no real actress would ever play this part.”
With all this animosity she had towards Raquel, it was more likely she was worried about being upstaged by her. So, rather than trying to get along with her co-star, Mae was said to be more concerned with getting her musical numbers into the film – something else she was sure to have written into her contract.
Supposedly, at a certain point West walked out of the film for three days – I can’t find the reasons as to why. She did eventually return, commenting optimistically, “There’s no way that this is not going to be a good movie.”
Patrick Curtis explained: “It just so happened that Mae, as ancient as she was at the time, considered herself the star of the film, even though she was murdered by the critics after it was released.”
According to Curtis, the real blame for the ‘Raquel/Mae Feud’ lay at the feet of neophyte British director Michael Sarne. “He was a miserable, sadistic bastard, in my opinion, who delighted in stirring things up between the performers.”
Curtis might not be wrong in his description of Sarne. Sarne had only one directing credit to him when he was hired for Myra. He had never worked on a Hollywood production before and did not ingratiate himself to anyone.
That was supposedly one thing Raquel and Mae West agreed upon – that the studio should have dumped Sarne and give the direction over to someone more experienced.
Sarne was given complete control over the production and his unorthodox ways of working soon spiraled the film over budget. One technique Sarne used was to spend hours at a time “thinking” while the cast and crew were left waiting for him. He also spent an entire day filming a table full of food that ended up lasting for seconds in the final movie.
It was said he encouraged bickering among the cast members. Some reports say he consistently belittled the entire cast.
According to IMDB, he called Raquel an “old raccoon” and told her she was so ugly he could barely look at her. Along with the actors not getting along, an unconventional director and an abundance of drug use on the set, all combined to make the production hell.
As production crept along, word soon hit the press about the out of control production. Myra Breckinridge was already getting ridiculed and it was deemed a disaster would be hitting movie screens before filming was even completed.
The production of the film and the stories that came out from it is much more interesting than anything in the actual final film itself.
With the 20th Century-Fox film library at his disposal, Sarne used classic film clips interspersed in sex scenes. This prompted some problems and litigation.
A lot of older stars didn’t appreciate their faces being used alongside explicit sex acts. Shirley Temple threatened to sue over the use of a film clip of her milking a goat. The clip was eventually removed by order of President Nixon, since Temple was at the time the American ambassador to the United Nations. Loretta Young did sue the studio and was awarded $100,000 for them using ann old film clip of her in the movie.
Myra Breckinridge would mark Farrah Fawcett’s film debut (also along with a young Tom Selleck). Fawcett did not enjoy working on the film. In a 1977 interview she said, “I experienced so much pain making that movie. Raquel Welch and Mae West did not like each other and, in turn, neither of them liked me. They would not talk to me, and I spent most of my day in the dressing room, crying, afraid to come out.”
Fawcett continued: “The first day Mae West saw me, she turned to Michael Sarne, the director, and said ‘told you I’m not working with any other blondes.’ So they zipped me over to the beauty shop and put brown streaks in my hair. But Raquel Welch was evidently tired of her dark hair, and she had blonde streaks put in. Then, when she saw my streaked hair she walked off the set.”
“Late one evening, I flubbed a line and Raquel threw down her script and said, ‘I can’t work with that dummy! She doesn’t even know her lines.’ When I look back on Myra Breckinridge now, it’s one big joke. I just wouldn’t put up with that sort of thing today.”
Fawcett would later tell Howard Stern that Raquel was not nice to her.
While the soon-to-be 1970’s megastar sex symbol Fawcett didn’t enjoy her time working with Raquel, her other co-star Rex Reed had nice things to say about her.
The film critic making his film debut (an odd choice of casting) was welcomed aboard by Raquel. She even acted in his screen test with him, something major stars don’t typically do.
Rex Reed spoke of the dilemma Raquel has faced in her career: ”I don’t know any contemporary actress who has made more enemies than Raquel. In one respect she wants to be a serious actress, to be taken seriously, work with people like Nichols and Kazan. On the other hand she’s still trying to live up to the movie star image, be what Raquel Welch is. These two things create a tremendous struggle within her.”
Justin Smith, her drama coach: ”She has the potential to be the best actress in this country.”
Jack Thibeau, poet and fan: ”I think Raquel Welch is something like Amelia Earhart. Amelia Earhart flew a lot of miles, but she didn’t care about anything but taking off and landing.”
The X-rated Breckinridge ended up a huge disaster. Author Gore Vidal disowned it, calling it “an awful joke”. It quickly became an embarrassing punchline.
The reviews were not kind to it. They were funny though.
“Myra Breckinridge is about as funny as a child molester. It is an insult to intelligence, an affront to sensibility and an abomination to the eye.” – Time Magazine
“I now nominate Myra Breckinridge as the worst movie ever made…nothing can touch it for tastelessness and boredom” – The Miami News
“This film tastelessly exploits many old Hollywood favorites through film clips…it’s as bad as any movie ever made.” – Leonard Maltin
Raquel wasn’t the sole problem during the production of Myra Breckinridge. In fact, she seemed to be the least of the issues that had to be dealt with. She might have instigated a bit of tension, but it was a drop in the bucket in comparison to all the other problems that rained down on Myra Breckinridge.
As for what the film did for Raquel – well, nothing good. If she had difficulty shaking her ‘bombshell’ image before, now she had the added burden of starring in one of the most notorious movie disasters ever made. She was essentially the face of the movie! She played the main character! Any hope that Myra would be a leap forward for her quickly disappeared.
“I’ve had the strangest career! I was a sex symbol in the age of flower children. Nobody knew what to do with me. Of course, I wanted to be Roz Russell. Listen, that’s why I did Myra Breckinridge. I thought, ‘Ooooh…I get a chance to be articulate and sharp in a movie.’ It didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped!”
On the dvd commentary for Myra Breckinridge she recorded decades later, Raquel had a good natured attitude about her Myra experience and was self deprecating.. At one point she states, “I can’t believe I was in this.”
“All I ever fought for was quality in my films,” she was quoted as saying in The Ladies Home Journal. “I really felt I was being penalized for being the sex symbol they had created, and that made my Spanish blood boil.”
She completed work on her television special Raquel! and it would air on CBS on April 26, 1970 – a few months before Myra Breckinridge would hit theaters. She stated to the press – “I consider all the roles that I have done as camp. They have not been things of my choice. They’ve been things the studios have put me in. So I guess the best way to survive them is to play them to the hilt.”
Backstory Myra Breckinridge – a show that aired on AMC in 2001 about the making of Myra Breckinridge
Raquel faced a major problem that continued through most of her career. She was certainly a star and a household name. Everyone knew who she was, yet few people ever went to see her movies. Folks loved looking at her in magazines and admiring what she wore and how she looked at award shows and on television, but when it came to buying a ticket to the newest ‘Raquel Welch movie’ it didn’t happen.
Even today, I was asking someone if they knew who Raquel Welch was. They replied in the affirmative. I then asked, “What movies has she been in? What is she famous for?” They stared with a perplexed look – and could not think of one single movie they knew her from. Finally they said, “I think she’s just famous for looking pretty.”
During the 1970’s Raquel would bounce between movies, television and stage appearances. She would be a guest star on numerous variety shows.
This was the era of the ‘variety show’, so it would provide the perfect platform for her to try to prove her talents for singing, dancing and comedy – something that she wasn’t able to do in her film offers.
She would make guest appearances, on several Bob Hope specials, Laugh In, The Mac Davis Christmas Special, Donny and Marie, The McLean Stevenson Show, The Muppets and the special Funny Papers, a satiric series of sketches based on comic strip characters that was filmed at The Ed Sullivan Theater in 1971.
Her television appearances would end up being more successful than her movie roles.
The Beloved aka Sin aka Restless (1971)
Raquel plays a beautiful housewife who begins an affair with her former childhood friend. Her husband becomes suspicious of their relationship and soon Raquel and her paramour plot to murder him.
The film is known by several names – The Beloved, Sin, Restless. I do know it is another one of Raquel’s films that is not easy to find and most people aren’t aware of it.
It was produced by Curtis and the film went unreleased for many years. Raquel didn’t take a salary and her deal was to only get a share of the profits. She probably didn’t make much from it, if anything.
This was yet another film starring Raquel that despite the sexy sounding story, was ignored by most everyone.
More than anything else The Beloved/Sin/Restless is most remembered for being the first Hollywood movie filmed in Cyprus. A 2015 documentary Beloved Days recounts the immense excitement for the small island country when movie star Raquel arrived and it was going to be used in a Hollywood production.
Hannie Caulder (1971)
Raquel is a frontier wife who’s out for revenge for the gang that murdered her husband, raped her, burnt her house down and left her for dead.
Hannie Caulder has got quite a good cast – Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Christopher Lee, Jack Elam, Strother Martin and Raquel’s old Fantastic Voyage co-star Stephen Boyd makes a cameo.
Production took place in Almeria, Spain. The film was made by Raquel’s production company Curtwell Enterprises who her husband Patrick Curtis created. Curtis was also a producer on the film. Neither of them took a salary and only took profit participation in the making of Hannie Caulder.
You might think because this was a bit of a passion project and she was in need of a movie that would be a hit with audiences that Raquel would be focused on making the best possible film and perhaps go to extra lengths to avoid difficulties on the set. Wrong!
Director Burt Kennedy said at the time, “The stories you could tell about this production. One of these days I may, but the things will seem funny a year from now have just been annoyances when they happened.”
Raquel was said to have an entourage on set that would rudely chase away Spanish photographers. As a newspaper at the time described Raquel’s bodyguards as being, ‘loud and strong, especially in a country known for its courtesy and awe of visiting celebrities.’
This created – what do you know – tension on the set. It also added even more frustration that there were problems paying the actors and director.
Hollywood columnist Joyce Haber wrote in May of 1971, “There’s a scandal brewing over ‘Hannie Caulder,’ the Raquel Welch starrer recently finished in Spain. Few, if any, collected their salaries beyond the first two weeks after shooting started. Certainly not Burt Kennedy, the director, or the cast which co-starred Ernest Borgnine and Robert Culp. ‘Hannie’ is a co-production of David Haft’s Tigon and Raquel “Pat Curtis” Curtwell. But Kennedy has spoken to his lawyer.”
I can’t trace this problem specifically back Raquel and Curtis, but it was their production company running this show. It might have been an innocent oversight. Not finding any further information about the salary dispute, I suspect it was ultimately settled and everyone got paid.
However, one thing that Raquel clearly was responsible for, which had become her pattern, she did not ingratiate herself to the crew. As one crew member was quoted as saying at the time, “Ernie Borgnine’s a better actor in a bathtub than Raquel Welch is out of one.”
The group of actors split up into two camps during production, Raquel and her publicity people on one side and all the other actors and director on the other.
Director Burt Kennedy tried to maintain a level of optimism saying, “It’s like a circus sometimes, but you know, I think, or hope, that we will have a good movie.”
Once again, the film was a bust for Raquel both financially and critically. Critics seemed to have plenty of fun targeting Raquel and making snide remarks towards her acting abilities and that her appearance was her sole talent.
Norman Dresser of the Toledo Blade wasn’t thrilled much with Hannie Caulder, commenting that “Miss Welch wears a sack-like poncho throughout the movie, which hides 90 percent of her screen personality.”
Stefanie Pettit of the Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) didn’t pull any punches either. “Bland at best, this film has simply nothing at all to recommend it” and “if by some chance, (Welch) should become flat-chested later in life, all her talent will be gone.”
Pretty rough, huh?
Raquel divorces Curtis soon after production of Hannie Caulder ends.
Along with problems with her career, she was also dealing with issues in her personal life. The escalating strain of Raquel and Curtis’ marriage finally snapped during the filming of Hannie Caulder. After a six-year marriage they would divorce.
One ludicrous story a gossip magazine wrote at the time is worth mentioning, just because it’s so ridiculous it’s worth a chuckle.
Weekend magazine, one of the many gossip rags that were published at the time, speculated on Raquel and Curtis’ breakup and the alleged final straw that ended their marriage – which was a mole on Raquel’s thigh.
According to the article in Weekend – ‘Raquel’s part required her to wear a poncho with nothing underneath but a gun in a holster. Each time Curtis asked her to reach inside and draw the gun she showed a mole on her hip.’
This mole was just too much for Curtis to take, and he and Raquel argued for days over it. After filming ended and the couple arrived back home in Beverly Hills the ‘mole argument’ spiraled into a break-up. Curtis drove off and they divorced soon after.
The inclusion of this news item is not to give it any credibility, but to demonstrate how the press being wrong with their reporting and putting out sensationalized reports is nothing at all new. ‘A mole ended Raquel’s second marriage’. Believe that if you want.
Anyway, whatever the reasons, in January 1972, Raquel is granted an interlocutory divorce decree from Curtis in a Santa Monica court. She burst into tears while testifying of her ‘irreconcilable differences’. The judge grants the decree after a hearing less than ten minutes in her case and awards her a token $1-a-month “spouse support”. Curtis doesn’t attend the hearing.
Around the time of her second divorce, Raquel explained: I couldn’t stand that my husband was being unfaithful. I am a Raquel Welch – understand?”
In later interviews Raquel acknowledged that being the husband of ‘Raquel Welch’ would have been hard on any man, but from her perspective, she was happy to be free from his control. It seemed like Curtis was more manipulative than what she described earlier in their marriage and her career.
In an interview in 1984 Raquel said about her marriage to Curtis, “My life with was far too restricted. I couldn’t drink socially and lighting a cigarette in public was a cardinal sin.”
She also allegedly told a friend Curtis’ conversations with her had come to be dominated by the single phrase, “Shut up, Raquel.”
After their divorce Raquel felt lost for a period of time without Curtis’ constant presence over her. “I was so terrified for a while that I couldn’t leave the house. I was not the strong and aggressive person people usually thought i was. When you have someone around who tells you how to look, how to act, what to do and what not to do, your natural impulses become sifted and you become very insecure.”
After their break up with Curtis Raquel had a long series of sessions with a psychiatrist to help her get over the influence he had over her.
In 1995 Raquel reflected again on her marriage to Curtis. “I don’t think in terms of mistakes – life is a learning process. But Patrick Curtis now he was a real mistake.”
The article continues: ‘Patrick was the one who kissed and told about their membership of the Mile High Club and of Raquel’s alleged envy of actress Linda Evans’ body. “It was disillusioning to wake up to someone who I didn’t really know. That never happened again.”
In this action/comedy, Boston police detectives Burt Reynolds and Jack Weston are on the hunt for crime lord Yul Brynner. Raquel plays one of their fellow detectives.
Raquel worked nine days and received 100 grand for her role in Fuzz.
A scene was planned to have her in a bra and panties, but she refused to film it. They tried to shoot the scene different ways, but as producer Ed Feldman tried to explain to her, “…it just didn’t work. We promised United Artists we’d deliver a certain picture and we haven’t got it.”
Raquel was adamant with her refusal over appearing in only bra and panties, so the scene was never filmed as it was originally written in the script.
Bra and panties wasn’t the only thing to create problems during filming with Raquel. She hadn’t liked some of Burt’s comments he made after their last film together 100 Rifles. What exactly he said that angered her I’m not sure. Whatever remarks he made that caused such heated issues between them Burt was aware of her disapproval when he made them and later admitted, “She had every right to never speak to me again.”
So, with Fuzz Raquel insisted that she would not act in any scenes with Burt. When it was absolutely necessary for their characters be in a scene together a double for Welch was used in the wide shots. After the shots with Burt were completed and he was long gone from the set, Raquel would come in and film her close-ups.
This was much the same temperamental demands that Mae West made when working with Raquel. Maybe Raquel learned them from her.
According to Burt’s memoir he talked about the conflict with Raquel. He wrote – “When I made the movie Fuzz — a police action comedy — with Raquel Welch in 1972, I had the top billing — and that pissed her off. She told the producer: ‘I will not work with him. I will not be on the same stage.'”
“So I’d come to work, and Raquel’s double would be there instead, with her back to the camera. I’d say my lines to her and the director would say: ‘Cut.’ As I was driving out of the studio gate, the guard would pick up the phone and say, ‘He’s leaving now’ — and then Raquel would go in and say her lines to my double. We made the whole movie like that, never together in the same scene. Put it this way: we don’t send each other Christmas cards.”
Why they even bothered teaming up the pair for a movie when this decree came down is a mystery to me. The closest fans got to see them together was on the movie poster.
Ok, so we know at this point Burt and Raquel weren’t getting along. About a decade after Fuzz is where their relationship gets more confusing.
Years later when Raquel would sue the producers of Cannery Row (we’ll get to that later) Burt testified on her behalf defending her professionalism, saying she “was always on time, well prepared and thoroughly professional.”
She would later make a guest appearance on his show Evening Shade in the 1990’s. She would even star alongside him in the 2006 film Forget About It.
After Burt died in September 2018 she spoke very eloquently about him and the tumultuous feelings she had during Fuzz seemed to have faded away.
She recounted how he asked her for advice in 1972 after he posed for his famed naked photo on a bearskin rug in Cosmopolitan. I suppose the logic being that she was a famous pinup in her cavegirl bikini and she could share some words of wisdom to him. She said, “He used to come up to me and say, ‘So, what do you think? You had your poster, and now, look at this.'”
There were headlines that said ‘Raquel Welch Remembers Co-Star and Friend Burt Reynolds’.
Something doesn’t seem to jive here. I haven’t been able to find any latter mention of the filming of Fuzz by Raquel herself discussing her refusal to work with Burt on the set. With Burt describing her demands in his own memoirs it seems like there was a definite difference of perspective between the two.
So, perhaps they smoothed out their relationship somewhere along the lines – much like she appeared to have done with Robert Wagner. It’s just too bad that it wasn’t sooner. Had they been friendlier during Burt’s peak of popularity, maybe he could have gotten her cast in one of the Cannonball Run movies. Around that time she really could have used the work. She would have been perfect to have been one of the gals in the Lamborghini!
“You have to work with people, whatever assholes they might be.” Raquel in Rolling Stone 1974
Kansas City Bomber (1972)
A veteran roller girl for the Kansas City Bombers gets traded to the Portland Loggers. She has to adapt to a new city, a new boss, rivals on the track, all the while being a single mother.
Kansas City Bomber would be the first time Raquel would play a mother onscreen (her daughter in the film would be played by a young Jodie Foster).
Her character would be tough, athletic and it would give her an opportunity to play a more fully fleshed character rather than being the sexy bombshell. It would also capitalize on the popular sport of roller derby, which was at its height of trendiness in the 1970’s.
One thing I never understood was why they called the movie ‘Kansas City Bomber’, since Raquel gets traded from the Bombers in Kansas City at the start of the film. So, through most of the movie she skates as a ‘Portland Logger’. Wouldn’t that have been a more appropriate title?
In a March 31, 1971 Daily Variety article repotted that San Francisco roller derby promoter Jerry Seltzer attempted to get a court order to block production on the film and sought 15 million dollars in damages, alleging that the film violated the Roller Derby trademark and made unauthorized use of the “Bomber” name used in Seltzer’s Roller Derby League.
Raquel produced the film, A UCLA student dropped a script he wrote on her doorstep. She liked the idea and thought it would be a project that could help change her image and give her a better role than the ones she has playing.
“I thought it would be a way of shaking up my image. I was playing a mother for the first time, and I was playing somebody who had struggled against a lot of adversity. It was a bit of a breakthrough for me, because people suddenly realized there was another dimension to me.”
Although the company name Curtwell Productions was used for Raquel’s film Hannie Caulder, screen credits and other post-production sources for Kansas City Bomber list her company’s name as Raquel Welch Productions, Inc. It is possible that the name Curtwell was dropped following Welch’s and Curtis’ divorce in 1972.
Reports from the set said Raquel didn’t get to know anyone on the crew personally. She also kept newsman at arms length. One Oregonian photographer was trying to snap a photo of her before filming began one day and she allegedly snapped at him, “That’s very distracting – I’m trying to put on my makeup!”
Raquel’s co-star Judy Arnold said from filming with her she discovered that being a movie star isn’t such a great deal. “I saw Raquel Welch, this beautiful, famous, talented movie star, someone who had it all, and yet, she wasn’t happy.”
Raquel said this was the first film that she had done that she actually liked. I think it also ranks as one of her few movies more people would be familiar with. It certainly made more of an impact for her than her most recent films had. It even landed her on a Life magazine cover story.
While the film wasn’t the huge hit she hoped for, it did get her some of her best reviews up to that point.
Kevin Thomas of the The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that “Kansas City Bomber, a well observed slice of contemporary Americana, marks Raquel Welch’s coming of age as an actress and is a personal triumph for her after surviving more rotten movies than anyone would care to remember.”
The Village Voice said the film was “worth seeing if only because its central character marks a return to the kind of independent, self-aware professional woman that has practically disappeared from contemporary movies.”
Here’s Raquel with Dick Cavett talking as she made the rounds to promote Kansas City Bomber
Raquel practiced on roller skates five-hours-a-day for three months to prepare for the film. Subsequently she broke her wrist during pre-production and filming was delayed for six weeks. During that shutdown it allowed her to leave and film…..
Richard Burton is an admired WWI pilot who beds a lot of women. Unbeknownst to anyone he then murders them.
Because of her injury on Kansas City Bomber and the delay it resulted with her filming on roller skates, it allowed Raquel to travel to Budapest to film Bluebeard. As she said, [the producers], “didn’t care if my arm was broke.”
Her nun costume she wore in the film was enough to satisfy her fans, broken arm or not.
She is second-billed behind Richard Burton, despite only having eight-full-minutes of screen time in the two-hour film.
We get into tabloid-y territory here, as we delve into the rumors that Burton and Welch had an affair during filming.
The rumors go, that they were both quite taken by one another. Burton had a famous reputation for being a real hound. He was currently in his famous second marriage to Elizabeth Taylor and promised her he would remain faithful – he wasn’t.
When the production moved to California for some studio shooting, Burton and Welch disappeared together – reportedly to Burt Reynolds’ remote ranch house in Hollywood’s Benedict Canyon. (Again, Burt’s name comes up when he and Raquel are supposedly ‘feuding’. I don’t know what to say. This is all very rumored based reports afterall).
Director Edward Dmytyk ordered a three-day break in filming, during that time no one knew where Burton and Welch had gone to. Welch’s two young children also had no idea where their mother were.
For all you gossip lovers out there, it is said Welch has hinted at her short, but torrid affair with Burton publicly. Folks have seized upon her saying, “When you have had the love of a lifetime it’s hard to settle for anything less.”
Of course she doesn’t mention Burton by name, but supposedly Hollywood insiders know exactly who she’s referring to and what kind of relationship they did have.
When asked about working with Burton she said, “Big, bad Burton was just fabulous! He flirted with anything in a skirt. He has a twinkle in his eye and knew he was good looking. We had fun.”
It’s probably not even worth mentioning this tawdry unconfirmed bit of Hollywood gossip, so take it for what it is. Bluebeard might have been easy work and no one could blame her for taking the part while on a break from Kansas City Bomber, but the movie tanked. It was once again, a movie that did nothing for her. She did look good in that nun costume in the movie though.
“You have to stand up for yourself in Hollywood or you’ll be stepped on. I used to do what everybody told me to do. But no more. When I first complained about something I didn’t like I was surprised by the response and respect I got.”
RAQUEL LANDS ON MR BLACKWELL’S WORST DRESSED LIST OF 1972!
Raquel might have been a beloved sex symbol with men worldwide who adored her in that fur bikini, but one person was unimpressed with her style choices – the fashion maven and journalist Mr. Blackwell.
For those who don’t know, Mr. Blackwell began a yearly ‘Best and Worst Dressed List’ in 1960. Decades before entertainment shows and magazines would exclusively talk about ‘what the stars wear’, Blackwell was the main fashion critic who pointed out the top and the bottom delicious style disasters of the year.
He would only do this once a year! Can you imagine that happening today? We get shows daily about fashion faux pas’ now!
It was Blackwell’s ‘Worst Dressed List’ that really caught people’s attention – folks always loved to point and laugh at stars looking ridiculous. By 1963 every television, radio station and news services worldwide began to cover his list. Folks would eagerly wait to see who landed on it – and the stars would hope they avoided it!
The guy was like the groundhog, only popping up once a year. This went on for 48 years, until his death in 2008.
With a photo of the wardrobe offender by his side he also added acerbic, supposed humorous jabs at the ones who he deemed wardrobe disasters and who made it on his list.
These ‘one-liners’ – I suppose we could call them, always sounded so bad, unfunny and uncreative to me. I never understood how the guy couldn’t come up with more witty lines. He only had a year to work on them, and he just needed ten!
Anyway, Raquel was a frequent member on his annual lists during the height of her popularity.
She made her debut on Mr. Blackwell’s Worst Dressed List in 1967 coming in at Number Seven. He said about her, “A Dresden reproduction of Charles Atlas wearing Band-Aids”.
I told you he had unfunny lines.
In 1968, she stuck at Number Seven. “She may have a heavenly body, but her clothes look like they were designed by the man in the moon – a real luna-tic.”
Yes! Newspapers would actually waste space and print this!
In 1969, Raquel moved up to Number Three! “From Welch – you could belch!”
Blackwell would have been a hit on Twitter.
In 1972 she finally skyrocketed to the Number One spot on his Worst Dressed List!
“But, how do you dress a Sherman tank?” he said about Miss Welch.
I have no idea what that tart remark means. It’s supposed to be comically insulting I think.
The following year Raquel dropped out of the top spot to Number Three again. In 1974 she fell to number eight and she never made it on Blackwell’s Worst Dressed List again.
Blackwell wasn’t completely done with her however – but this time he had more positive things to say.
In January of 1985 he bequeathed her on his ‘Fashion Independents’ of the year, which he said, “It means they are wonderfully looking in spite of fashion. They take their own look on.”
I guess that was kind of a redemption for Raquel.
In her autobiography Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage, Raquel wrote of receiving Blackwell’s wrath for her outfit at the Academy Awards in 1970. “I was described by the fashion critic Mr. Blackwell as a ‘barbecue queen at a bar mitzvah.” Not quite the reaction I had hoped for, but it was fun!
The Last of Sheila (1973)
After a movie producers wife dies in a hit-and-run accident, he invites a group of Hollywood friends onboard his yacht to play a week-long ‘who-done-it mystery game’ – or is it just a game?
Once again, Raquel finds herself with another stellar cast! James Coburn, Richard Benjamin, James Mason, Dyan Cannon, Joan Hackett, and Ian McShane. Herbert Ross directs a story written by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim.
These production stories are a doozy! If Raquel wasn’t pegged as ‘difficult’ before, her antics on The Last of Sheila surely cemented that reputation.
The production on The Last of Sheila was loaded with problems – filming delays, the first yacht sinking, the production receiving terrorist threats, problems with the weather, some seasickness of the cast and crew, and reports that props were thrown across the set. To add to all of that, there was reportedly frightening diva-like behavior unleashed by Raquel.
McShane would say about her, “She isn’t the most friendly creature. She seems to set out with the impression that no one is going to like her.”
The film involves insider jabs at Hollywood personalities. The characters are all composites based on real-life counterparts. For example, Mason’s old washed up director is said to be inspired by Orson Welles. Cannon’s mega-agent is based on real life agent Sue Mengers and so on.
Raquel plays a vapid, prima donna movie starlet and McShane is her talent manager husband. When offering the part to her Sondheim said the characters were based on Ann-Margaret and her husband Roger Smith. Later he admitted that was untrue and the characters were based on Welch herself and her ex-husband Patrick Curtis.
I doubt Raquel would have accepted the role had Sondheim informed her of that.
I’ve even read some critics believing Raquel’s unglamorous and bland-sounding character name of ‘Alice Wood’ was Perkins and Sondheim’s sly allusion as to what their opinion of Raquel’s acting talents genuinely were. Could that be true?
Costume designer for the film Joel Schumacher (yes, that Joel Schumacher, this was his first film work) was immediately annoyed by Raquel, who refused to wear anything he designed for her. He was shocked when Raquel’s boyfriend, Ron Talsky, arrived to the set with all new wardrobe already designed and fitted for her. Talsky had just created her wardrobe for Kansas City Bomber as well.
Photographer Eva Sereny was onset to take photos. When she started snapping away Raquel shouted at her, “Who the hell are you?”
Ross came to Sereny’s side and told Raquel that it was alright she was here. Raquel responded, “I don’t want her here. I don’t want her here.” At which point Sereny said she, “disappeared. So that was my first encounter with Raquel.”
Years later Sereny was slated to work with Raquel again. “I was very worried that she would remember me. But she didn’t remember me and I never told her.”
Serena now says they are now great work friends and has since photographed Raquel many times since.
Problems really hit their stride on set when an incident occurred in Raquel’s dressing room between her and Ross. Raquel would go on to sue Ross for assault and battery. She said she had to flee to London from the production in the South of France because she had to “escape physical harm”.
She finally returned to finish the film after Warner Brothers assigned her a bodyguard. The studio later issued a statement saying they supported Ross in the incident and criticized Raquel for her ‘public utterances.’
Some reports conflict with Raquel’s assault story, arguing the real reason she walked off The Last of Sheila was in order to publicize her newest film Kansas City Bomber.
Perkins made the sarcastic comment about the assault allegations she claimed happened, “She really should have done it closer to when the picture [Kansas City Bomber] actually opens” to garner the most publicity she could for it.
There’s one tantalizing rumored tale that happened during the production of The Last Night of Sheila. As you can see Raquel did not endear herself to her co-stars or the crew during filming. So, allegedly the crew decided to get a bit of revenge on the diva actress.
The story goes, that for one scene Raquel was meant to swim alongside the anchored yacht. While they were filming the scene with her outside the boat, inside the boat the crew opened up the sewage port on the side where Raquel was swimming. As a result she ended up having to swim through human waste.
I would love this story to be true, just because it is so funny and must have been very satisfying payback by the beaten down crew!
Benjamin, offered this opinion on Raquel: ”In movies it’s important that some people be able to act. For some other people it’s only necessary that they show up.”
The distinguished Mason was later quoted by a newspaper saying, Raquel was “the most selfish, ill-mannered, inconsiderate actress that I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with.”
Raquel confessed that for a long time she didn’t understand the script for the Last of Sheila. Later she decided, “It’s like Agatha Christie.” She later said she was “good” in the film “but being good in a bad movie doesn’t do anything for your career.”
Here’s an interesting bit, when the The Last of Sheila got a dvd release it included an audio commentary by Benjamin, Cannon and Welch. Listening to it, one can clearly tell Benjamin and Cannon are sitting together watching the film and having a good time talking about it together, while Raquel recorded her commentary separately and by herself.
Cannon did attend Raquel’s 1999 wedding to fourth husband Richard Palmer. So, perhaps there weren’t any lasting problems between them and they have had a friendship that has endured.
“I needed to be a little tough to break through. But at one point I found myself being just a little too much. I told a few people off, and that wasn’t at all what I should have done. Eventually I realized that I had to be quiet.”
Raquel was a presenter at the 1973 Academy Award ceremony – the one where a Native American sent by Marlon Brando delivered a protest speech when he won Best Actor for The Godfather. Later that night, Raquel opened the envelope before presenting the Best Actress award and said wryly, “I hope they haven’t got a cause.”
The Three Musketeers & The Four Musketeers (1973/1974)
A big-budget, lavish production of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Produced by Alexander Salkind, directed by Richard Lester and starring Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, Richard Chamberlain, Geraldine Chaplin, Charlton Heston, Christoper Lee, and Faye Dunaway
Raquel plays the beautiful, but clumsy Constance Bonacieux.
After having been announced at being cast there were soon reports Raquel had dropped out of the film due to ‘creative differences’, but then she later rejoined the production. She said the initial conflict was because of disagreements with her costuming. She found the authentic period gowns constricting and distorting.
Raquel brought her own gowns to the set and eventually was allowed to proceed with filming using her own private designer.
According to a magazine at the time, when she first arrived in Madrid for filming, Raquel held a press conference that greatly disturbed the conservative Spanish government.
She said, “I’m for women fighting to get their rights – legalized abortion, divorce, full equality.” Worried reporters took down what she said despite being nervous, since just recently a Spanish magazine had to suspend publication after the government took offense to an article it had published regarding the advantages (and disadvantages) of divorce.
She then upset them further by saying, “I’m very easily influenced by the man I happen to be with at the time. You see, I like to discuss lots of things with my lover!”
Work on the Musketeers set was said to be incredibly rough for the actors. Involving a lot of fights, sword duels and stunt work, Lester was determined to make it all look as authentic as possible. Almost every cast member suffered injuries during filming.
In the film, Raquel has a fight scene with Dunway (an actress who also has a famed reputation of being difficult). It’s alleged that Dunaway gave a very realistic performance as she was meant to strangle Raquel with a heavy wooden rosary. It was reported that while filming their fist-to-cuffs scene she actually punched Welch in the face.
This could all very well be exaggerated reports at the time and just made for juicy gossip. Years later, Raquel talked about working on the film and with Dunaway in very positive terms. She described it as “really great and fun.” So, there doesn’t appear to be any lasting animosity between her and Faye.
The big controversy surrounding The Three Musketeers was when the producers made the decision to split the film into two separate parts. This was due to practical reasons when Lester realized the length of the film would be too long for one single movie. So, what better solution than to cut it into two separate films! That’s a good idea. Unfortunately, no one informed any of the actors of this.
The actors discovered they had made two movies while attending the premiere of the film. When they saw the trailer for The Four Musketeers tagged at the end of The Three Musketeers, they were quite surprised and angry. After all, the cast were paid for appearing in only one movie.
This prompted some lawsuits by the actors who felt they were not being compensated fairly for now appearing in two films. A settlement was eventually reached wherein the actors received a percentage share of the sequel’s profits proportionate to their original salary.
Both Salkind and Raquel later acknowledged that it was her attorney who led the way in the lawsuits that resulted in the settlement.
Because of the legal dispute, the Screen Actors Guild created what became known as ‘The Salkind Clause’, (named after the Musketeers producer), which is intended to guarantee that an acting contract for one film cannot be extended into two films without the consent of the actor.
Raquel won a Golden Globe as Best Actress for her performance. When she made her acceptance speech she cried and said, “There are a lot of people for really good reasons who kind of don’t like to take awards because – well that’s for them – I’ve been waiting for this one since One Million Years B.C.”
At the time she felt like she was successfully moving into PHASE II of her career, that she was accomplishing her ‘I-want-to-be-taken-seriously’ goals and that she was escaping “this American fetish with my mammary glands.”
Really, Raquel – TV Special (1974)
Raquel continued to focus on her television performances.
On March 8, 1974 her second prime-time variety show on CBS titled ‘Really, Raquel’ aired. produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. Her production company ‘Raquel Welch Productions’ is also listed.
Yes, it’s Raquel performing in the world of Sid and Marty Krofft!
To promote her special Raquel appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on March 5, 1974. Before she came out to the couch, Ed McMahon revealed to Johnny that he had rented Sammy Davis Jr.’s home in the summer of ’72 and he only later learned that he was neighbors with Raquel.
Carson joked, “Weren’t you ever over there to borrow a cup of….anything?”
Raquel came out, took her seat next to Carson. He asked her if her home was on the Star Maps that they sold to tourists.
She answered, “Yes, I am on the map. It’s kind of nice because it’s very reassuring in a way to know these fans are so interested in film personalities that they would like to come. And even just look at your house and your shrubs. That sometimes is rather embarrassing.”
Carson then retorted, “I’d love to see your shrubs.”
As Raquel laughed, Carson then apologized for his naughty remark. “I’m sorry for that. Any opening at all, I jump right in.”
Raquel exclaimed, “Uh oh!” and the audience erupted in laughter. Carson tried to calm everyone down. “Now wait a minute. Now look….you folks are reading far more than I intended.”
But back to Really, Raquel. It was adapted from Raquel’s highly successful supper club show with which she rang in the 1973 New Year at a Las Vegas show room and continued to draw record audiences for almost a month.
“That show marked her debut as a “live” stage entertainer and began a new dimension in her career. ‘I am weary of being a curiosity,” declares the star with disarming frankness. ‘This show gives me a chance to do something – to sing and dance and perform as a professional entertainer, which is what I am.'”
The show opens with Raquel in a slinky black satin dress bursting into a rendition of ‘Let Me Entertain You’.
From there Raquel sings and dances. She reveals her ‘true story’ with an autobiographical monologue. She traces her life and career and debunks a plethora of published myths about her. She dispels the legend that she became an ‘overnight sensation’ in show business due to her physical attributes, pokes fun at her dialogue in One Million Years B.C. and that she’s a ‘temperamental prima donna’.
Raquel is the only live performer on the stage throughout the special, except for one number where she’s assisted by a pair of specialty dancers. For the rest of the time she performs with Krofft puppets and puppeteers.
She performs a salute to her movie career in a medley of numbers based on her starring roles in the films Fantastic Voyage, One Million Years B.C. and Kansas City Bomber. She goes from a variety of costumes based on her film roles, while being backed by the Krofft puppets.
Her gowns are designed by Ron Talsky, who was Raquel’s boyfriend at the time. As we’ve seen, he had already appeared to be put in charge of her wardrobe for The Last of Sheila and The Three Musketeers. Talsky also served as executive producer on Really, Raquel. It was said Raquel wears “an estimated half-million dollars worth of such ‘baubles’ in the show.”
The New York Times wasn’t very impressed with Really, Raquel. It wrote about the special: “As for Raquel Welch this evening, she uses a modest singing voice and some elementary choreography in an attempt to prove that she is more than what Rona Barrett, the gossip columnist, refers to as ‘the two and only’. She fails. She slinks, she purrs, she bumps, she grinds, but it all comes out looking like a bad imitation of Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl. The Sid and Marty Krofft puppets are attractive, Joe Layton’s ‘conception’ is energetic, but the act still can’t get beyond the two and only.”
It is a strange show. Raquel performing alongside Krofft puppets, the use of a stiff sounding laugh track – you don’t see television specials like this anymore. This could have only occurred in the 1970’s. It is a very unique artifact. It’s an interesting time capsule of television programming that is now long gone.
Raquel’s nightclub act ended up playing to sold out shows in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and concert halls in London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Toronto.
Friends With Cher, Then Feeling Betrayed
After the demise of the popular Sonny & Cher Show, Cher and Sonny Bono were going solo and each were starting their own variety show. Cher’s was simply titled Cher on CBS. She would have her newest friend Raquel guest star on an episode that aired on February 16, 1975.
While it looked to the television audience like two Hollywood friends enjoying performing together, Raquel’s appearance on Cher’s show would ultimately put an end to their friendship.
Raquel and Cher became friendly after meeting at the 1973 Academy Awards where they were both presenters. They began to take exercise classes together. Cher invited Raquel to be a guest on her show and she accepted. It was to be a great opportunity for her to further show off her singing and dancing talents to a large audience, while also getting to work with her new friend.
After filming her appearance on Cher’s show Raquel had only positive things to say about it. While being invited to Cher’s exclusive 1974 Christmas Eve party Raquel said, “Cher is without a doubt, one of the most professional ladies I’ve ever worked with. I’m so impressed with her and I had a really wonderful time working with her.”
Sounds like a nice time was had huh? Keep in mind, the episode Raquel was on hadn’t aired yet when she said that. So, let’s backtrack a bit and see how the taping of Cher’s variety show went down from some other perspectives.
Wayne Rogers who was also guest-starring on Raquel’s episode was forced to help producer George Schlatter deal with a very difficult Raquel. As he later reflected:
“Raquel was a very insecure performer. She didn’t want to sing, she wanted to lip-synch – she didn’t want to perform live, that whole thing,” recalls Rogers. “She was also very pretentious. So George comes up to me during one of our rehearsals and says, ‘Raquel says that her dressing room isn’t big enough.‘ He said, ‘I just can’t deal with this Wayne – you’ve gotta help me out.’ I sad, ‘Jesus, George, I’m not the producer; who am I to tell her anything?’ And he said ‘I know but I just can’t deal with her; help me.'”
In an attempt to keep the peace Rogers took Raquel around to all the other CBS dressing rooms to show her they were all basically the same size. The largest dressing room at the time was Carol Burnett’s, who wasn’t shooting that week. Raquel was still unimpressed.
Rogers continues, “Finally I said, ‘You know what Raquel, I’ll tell you where the next biggest dressing room is. It’s on the Warner Bros. lot. If you want, they can take a truck and bring you over there. It’ll take a half-hour to get there and a half hour to get back. The decision is yours.’ Finally she said ‘Okay, I guess I’ll take this one.’ So while she was appearing on Cher’s show she got dressed in Carol Burnett’s dressing room! When I went back and told George that everything was okay he said, ‘What did you do?’ I said, ‘She’s going to use Carol Burnett’s dressing room.’ And he said, ‘Holy shit! That’s going to cause me even more problems.’ I just said, ‘I can’t handle everything for you George, she’s all yours now!”
Rogers also recalled he had a showdown with Raquel, Tatum O’Neal and Cher who all would consistently show up late to rehearsals. After his speech about how disrespectful he felt they were being he said they all showed up on time and there were no more problems with that.
At least it wasn’t just Raquel who was the tardy culprit this time.
Filming the show went on. Schlatter remembers Raquel and Cher’s duet of ‘I’m a Woman.’ “Cher and Raquel were in competition to see who was going to wear the least. I don’t remember who the winner was, but when the two of them came out under the bright lights, it just took everyone’s breath away. The entire crew was staring at them open-mouthed!”
Here’s where Raquel and Cher’s friendship ended from this show. Raquel had agreed to appear on ‘Cher’ with the expressed stipulation that she be given a solo musical number. But like Bette Midler before her, Welch’s solo – a cover of Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” – never aired.
Cher explained what happened to Playboy: “CBS pulled Raquel’s number and I’m real pissed off about it. Raquel and I were becoming really good friends.”
“We did ‘I’m a Woman’ together’. We came out in dresses and sang a song – no horrible gyrations, no anything. And she did a solo number, which was really nice. Well, first we got a call that they were cutting our duet because the program director said it was too suggestive. Then they said we could keep the duet, but her solo number had to go because she was singing a suggestive song and she placed her hand, God forbid, on parts of her anatomy.”
“Well, when she found out about it, God, she just freaked. She called the network and got some guy that didn’t have the guts to tell her that it was their idea; he told her it was mine. Then she called me me up and she was furious. She read me up one side and down the other. I said, ‘Raquel, I swear to God on my daughter’s life, I had nothing to do with it,’ and she hung up on me. Then I got really angry. I called up Freddie Silverman, CBS’s programming director, and said, ‘You guys have just ruined a friendship for me.’ So he said, ‘I’ll call her myself and tell her it was because she touched herself,’ and blah-blah-blah. He called her, but she was into such a role by then that it didn’t pierce. Maybe she thought they were just trying to cover up for me. I don’t know, but we haven’t spoken since.”
So, apparently Raquel and Cher’s friendship didn’t last. The dresses they wore on the show left an indelible impression on those who saw it. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by how glamourous and sexy both ladies looked!
Both dresses were designed by Bob Mackie and went up for auction in November 2018. Cher’s dress sold for $5,100 and Raquel’s went for 2,880.
I suppose we could say Cher ultimately came out on top in that dress competition.
Two years later Welch made her feelings about the entertainment industry and its inhabitants crystal clear. “Look, this industry is a hard, rotten business, full of the toughest, most unscrupulous, insensitive, low-life people you will ever come across. Anybody who makes it anywhere near the top, like myself, has worked extremely hard and ought to be proud of it, which I am. I consider myself triumphant.”
She was hot for Alice Cooper, but he rejected her.
According to Alice Cooper, he and Raquel had casually dated for a short time, but their relationship was never consummated.
“When I first met Raquel it was back when it was very trendy for movie stars to go out with rock stars. I was very complimented that she was even interested in me. But the problem was I’d just fallen in love with Sheryl (Sheryl Goddard, now his wife of more than 40 years). The more I tried to move away from Raquel, the more she pursued me. Nobody ever said no to Raquel, but I just wasn’t interested. I was in love with this other girl.”
“Of course, any other time I would’ve been all over her. Are you kidding?! Raquel was the greatest sex-symbol bombshell on the planet. But I was in love. And that made Raquel a little bit crazy, to the point where she became obsessed. People used to say to me: ‘You had Raquel Welch locked in a bedroom and you didn’t do anything?’ And I’d go, ‘Nope.’ It was just one of those crazy things.”
The Wild Party (1975)
“She was a nightmare. She didn’t like me. At one point she left the film and had to be forced to come back.” – James Ivory
James Coco is an aging silent comedy star of 1920’s silent movies with a failing career. He attempts a comeback by financing a movie on his own. With no one in Hollywood interested in him, he holds a party to show his film to as many big shots he can get to come in the hopes that someone will want to release it. Raquel plays Coco’s sultry mistress.
James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant were hired to make The Wild Party, a story inspired by Fatty Arbuckle. So, yes it really could be said that Raquel Welch appeared in a Merchant-Ivory film.
Director Ivory had this to say about his experience working with Raquel – “Raquel Welch was a very, very difficult actress to work with. She fired the cameraman, she fired Ismail, she would have fired [co-star] Perry King….and it was our film!….I did not enjoy making The Wild Party.
Ivory directed a scene in which she was to be in bed with co-star Perry King. The bed accidentally collapsed; Ivory’s good natured remark after the accident was: “A bit flat.” Raquel didn’t see the humor and her response was: “Flat? Flat? You don’t say ‘flat’ to someone like me!”
According to Ivory, he wanted King to throw her down on a bed for an intense love scene, but Raquel was against it for fear of mussing up her hair. So Ivory told King to just go ahead and do it, thus surprising Raquel. She stormed off the set and the film.
The next thing they knew they received a solicitor’s letter demanding the firing of certain individuals.
First, Welch demanded that the cinematographer Walter Lassally be fired after he made an “impertinent” remark to her. Then she wanted producer Merchant and director Ivory fired. She wanted her then boyfriend Ron Talsky to replace him as director on the film.
Since this was a Merchant-Ivory film, that certainly wasn’t certainly going to happen. The Directors Guild became involved and threatening letters were sent to Welch.
Filming continued only after Raquel finally settled for a formal apology from Ivory in front of the cast and crew.
Producer Edgar Lansbury said, “She’s very insecure when she’s working.”
Along with her outrageous behavior, Ivory also spoke of Raquel’s entourage being problematic.
Ivory had no shortage of words to describe his experience working with Raquel, “Her real problem seems to be that she’s delusional. Unlike Lauren Bacall, who knows she’s no singer, Welch seems to think she is one and she’s not, kind of like her acting ability as well.
In her autobiography Raquel: Beyond the Clevage, Raquel describes Ivory being an extremely testy director who asked her to do a nude scene in the last week of filming. Ivory felt it was necessary, but Raquel was steadfast, refused and shot the bedroom scene with her clothes on.
On the upside Raquel’s co-star James Coco said he got along famously with her.
When later questioned about her professional behavior on earlier projects, Raquel admitted refusing to re-shoot a scene in The Wild Party a few years earlier when the director found it boring. “He thought it was boring because I had my clothes on. He wanted me to them off!”
According to her ex-husband Curtis – “She is a very demanding woman and knows what she wants. She generally gets it by fair means or foul!”
March 1975 -Raquel turns down a part in Columbia’s upcoming adaptation of The Fan Club. She publicly referred to the film as a piece of sleaze. and gets some bad press from its author, Irving Wallace: “I think the reason Raquel doesn’t want to be in The Fan Club is that if she were to play the role of Sharon Fields she would have to learn to be an actress. And I am sure that challenge would be too much for her to face.”
The movie is never made.
September 1975, People Magazine reports: “Raquel Welch’s on-again, off-again flick Chu Chu and the Philly Flash is off again. Her man, dress designer Ron Talsky, is supposed to make his debut as a film producer on it—and Columbia is acting nervously, especially since Talsky, as Raquel’s wardrobe warden, has managed to land her on Mr. Blackwell’s “Ten Worst Dressed Women” list. While studio brass rethink the project…”
The film is later made in 1981 starring Alan Arkin and Carol Burnett.
Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)
Los Angeles makes the offer that whichever ambulance company arrives at accident scenes the fastest will get a sweet contract with the city.
It’s a strange proposal. Raquel plays a switchboard operator, and Bill Cosby and Harvey Keitel are a pair of ambulance drivers at an independent ambulance service. They’re willing to get fast and frantic to make it to the scenes of fender benders in order to win that juicy city contract in this black comedy.
Raquel plays Jugs in case you were wondering.
The film was the brainchild of animation giant Joseph Barbera, who enlisted Tom Mankiewicz to construct the screenplay. Director Peter Yates planned to stage wilder chase scenes for the film than those he had done for Bullitt.
There’s really nothing monumental here. The only thing I could find about the production is according to IMDB that states Raquel had five women who worked for her – make-up, hair, public relations and wardrobe. Screenwriter Tom Manchiewicz called them the ‘Raquettes’.
Raquel tells People Magazine that movie people consider her to be just “a cash register with glands.”
Hosting Saturday Night Live
During the first year of Saturday Night Live Raquel was scheduled to be the host of the show on April 24, 1976.
This was a TV Urban Legend for years until it was finally confirmed it was true.
Tom Davis and Al Franken were early writers on Saturday Night Live. They were working on the show during the 18th episode of the first season when Raquel was hosting the show.
Welch spent much of the week turning down breast jokes the writers were churning out for her.
Almost all the hosts were ”kept out of the family business,” as Neil Levy, Lorne`s cousin who worked on the show, put it, and often they were consigned to baby sitters to keep them out of Lorne`s hair. Raquel Welch was one of these.
According to Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s book, Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live – ‘Franken and Davis wrote a sketch called Planet of the Enormous Hooters, which would be a take-off a Twilight Zone episode where a beautiful woman is ostracized because everyone else on the planet is hideous.
In the sketch, Raquel Welch’s breasts would be considered puny to the people of the Planet of the Enormous Hooters and she would be labeled an outcast because of her tiny bosom. Costumer designer Franne Lee got so far as actually designing huge fake breasts for the buxom aliens before it was cut from the show by Raquel.
Michael O`Donoghue also wrote a parody of the famous radio narrative of the Hindenburg disaster in which Raquel’s breasts (with the help of special effects) would be turned into twin zeppelins bursting into flames. The sketch ran at dress rehearsal, but Welch did not like it, so it was dropped.’
Fourteen years later, Davis and Franken had returned to the show after leaving for a period. When Dolly Parton was hosting the show in 1989, they again suggested this Big Boobed Alien sketch idea to her. Dolly was more than happy to do it. Planet of the Enormous Hooters aired and Dolly had a good time poking fun at her famous ‘attributes’.
The most memorable thing that came out of the Saturday Night Live episode Raquel hosted was the famous bit where Lorne Michaels made his “offer” to the Beatles to reunite for $3,000.
Raquel only hosted the show that one time.
People Magazine Interview, 1976
In 1976 People Magazine did a cover story on Raquel. They wrote, “Her latest boob-trap, Mother Jugs and Speed, has critics reeling all over the U.S. – though as usual the turnstiles seem to be spinning.”
The article describes how Raquel is about to attempt live performances. I imagine they meant more of a focus on them, since she had done live performances previously.
Show businessman are doubtful at this career move, but her reputation as one of the Hollywood’s toughest negotiators and her determination make some believe she can be a success at whatever she tries. One of her unnamed directors is quoted as saying, “There are plenty of actresses with big jugs in this town and plenty of them have more talent than Raquel. But how many have gone as far as she has? There’s a lot more to this woman than meets the brassiere.”
The article goes on to describe how Raquel spent three months and spent about $200,000 putting an act together. Her opening night in Acapulco wasn’t exactly a triumph, so she began to take singing lessons by phone from a New York coach and continually practiced dancing.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love being a world-famous sex object. But if you’re an artist, you like to use your whole instrument. Since I’ve had a lot of stupid parts, the reviewers have decided I’m stupid. That hurts. I’ve always thought I had a real talent for musical comedy, but when I tried to sell the idea of a Raquel Welch musical people laughed. So, I decided to do a live-show and show everybody I was more than a cash register with glands.”
‘Her performance in Paris broke house records set by Frank Sinatra at the Palais de Congrés. During a show in Philadelphia she ran off a darkened stage, crashed into a piece of scenery and knocked herself cold – revived in time to change costume and make her entrance. More recently, her father Armand Tejada, a Bolivian-born aeronautical engineer, died just after her new act opened. Absorbing a heavy financial loss, she closed the show and spent five days with her family, then gamely went back on tour.’
After a New York performance Raquel receives a standing ovation and gets a positive, but somewhat backhanded compliment by the New York Times with them saying, “Surprisingly stylish…not at all the empty-headed charmer.” I suppose that’s a positive review.
Of course she’s also asked about her personal life. At this point she has broken up with Talsky and has a new man in her life.
During her official reign as queen of the 1976 Carnival in Rio she met and fell for Brazilian manager Paulo Pilla.
As the article describes, ‘They rushed off to a seaside hideaway; they fled to the mountains. Tabloids chronicled every move and, with Rio brio, a local flu epidemic was dubbed Influenza P. Pilla – “It strikes like lightning and puts you to bed.”‘
But back to her career – When asked what she plans to do when she loses her looks she answers, “I’ll get out of this racket! You think I want to bust my ass like this for the rest of my life?”
The Prince and the Pauper aka Crossed Swords (1977)
Raquel reunited with her Musketeers co-star Oliver Reed in an adaptation of Mark Twain’s novel.
There are alleged stories that Oliver Reed rebuffed Raquel’s advances. One story was that he spurned her at a party during production by refusing to dance with her, preferring to dance with her hairdresser.
Oliver Reed apparently didn’t care for Raquel. He’s quoted as saying “Raquel Welch is someone I can also live without. We’ve got some love scenes together and I am dreading them! I cabled Richard Harris to see if he wanted to be my stand-in for those scenes. With his toupee and her falsies they would be perfect for each other…”
He allegedly described Raquel as “a fat old crone”.
This pair had a rocky relationship on 1977’s Crossed Swords but she now says: “Oliver was so mischievous and crazy. I had the best time. He was a wild man, he was wicked and delicious.”
That’s really all I can find. So, you can make your own judgement on Raquel and Reed’s feelings about one another.
A French action/comedy about dating stunt professionals while working on a movie in France.
Jean-Paul Belmondo is an incompetent stuntman who continually goofs up his stunt work. His stuntwoman girlfriend (Raquel) wants marriage, which puts more pressure on Belmondo.
Raquel gets to look terrific, she gets wet, she does some physical comedy and an opportunity to stretch her comedic muscles.
Have you ever seen it? Have you ever even heard of it??? Did you know it existed? It wasn’t released in the U.S. at the time and I still have trouble finding it.
This film would be most notable for two things: It would mark Raquel’s final film work until 1994’s Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult where she did an uncredited cameo.
It was also while working on this L’animal where she would meet André Weinfeld who worked as her translator on the set. They would begin dating and in 1980 Weinfeld would become her third husband.
Raquel really made some strange choices with her film work. She was internationally known, but many of the European film roles she accepted came and went so fast, were very quickly forgotten and did little if anything to help her career.
She can’t blame all of the decisions on Curtis pushing her or Fox making her do all of these films. Both of them were well out of the picture at this point.
Perhaps, it was because these were the only type of films that were being offered to her. Maybe when they were originally pitched to her they sounded much better than what they ended up being.
Whatever the reason, they certainly didn’t add to her market value or help her attain her dream of shaking her ‘bombshell’ image and being taken seriously as an actress.
It’s unfortunate she never found her niche and got to star in quality films that were able to balance her beautiful physical appearance – which was, whether she liked it or not what she was best known for – and also roles that allowed her to demonstrate she possessed more talent than just that, while also being a big success with audiences.
Decades before it would become the trendy desire for Hollywood to create strong women characters in leading roles and audiences would rave about this new breakthrough idea, Raquel was doing it.
Ok, they might not have all been great or even good movies Raquel made, but she should still get some credit for what she was trying to do. She played quite a few independent capable women in several of her films.
Fathom – a beautiful skydiving/dental assistant who ends up doing spy work when she’s hired to retrieve a stolen atomic device. She’s basically a female James Bond.
100 Rifles – a beautiful, dangerous Indian revolutionary
Flareup – a beautiful Vegas dancer being stalked who relies on herself to stop and kill her attacker
Myra Breckinridge – a transsexual man
Hannie Caulder – a victimized and resilient frontierswoman who sets out on revenge against the bandits that attacked her
Kansas City Bomber – a single working-class woman trying to raise two children while making a living in the manipulative and cutthroat world of the roller derby sport
I would wager, had these films been released today, they would be treated in a much kinder way than they were were received originally. Raquel would probably have been given more credit than she was at the time, rather than receiving the easy goto remarks of her being a pinup bimbo and her only talent of looking good she got time and time again.
Despite her best intentions with some of her film roles, the majority of them were not big hits. Audiences were just not interested in going to see ‘A Raquel Welch Movie’. For all the exposure she had, she just could not maintain a long-term, successful big-screen career.
It might have been the timing as to why some of Raquel’s film roles were dismissed. Raquel reigned during the ignition of the woman’s liberation era. Bra burning, marching for women’s rights, fighting against the oppression of woman, protesting the Miss America Pageant.
This was an atmosphere where Raquel, who was still pegged as the ‘sexy cavegirl pinup’ did not fit easily into. She was simply regarded as an eye candy, lightweight actress. At the time she wasn’t given any credit beyond that.
In their 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards, film critics Harry and Michael Medved proclaimed Raquel as ‘the worst actress of all time’. They said “her presence in any movie is a virtual guarantee of its low quality.”
It would be decades later when some of Raquel’s films would be reevaluated, they would be looked at with a new perspective and a new appreciation of the trail she blazed would be acknowledged.
We could generalize the legacy of Raquel’s filmwork – a popular sci-fi classic (Fantastic Voyage), an enjoyable hit (The Three/Four Musketeers), a few average films (Kansas City Bomber, Hannie Caulder), some cult classics (Myra Breckinridge, One Million Years B.C.) and a lot of forgettable movies.
Mork and Mindy (1979)
Mork and Mindy had become a surprise television hit, but by his second season it was already running on fumes. ABC decided to try to boost its ratings by trying to add a popular ‘jiggle’ factor to it that were making shows like Three’s Company and Charlie’s Angels such hits.
What better way to add a bit of ‘jiggle’ than to have Raquel guest star as a sexy alien queen who captures Robin Williams’ Mork.
According to director Howard Storm, Raquel was, guess what – difficult during the shoot.
Raquel played Captain Nirvana from the planet Necroton. For her introduction, Raquel would have two pretty lieutenants (played by a broadway dancer and a Playboy bunny) that would both walk in first, then Raquel would come in behind them making her big entrance.
Raquel didn’t like this idea. “You can’t have them come in before me”.
The producers tried to explain that it was meant to be a build up to her entrance and if the girls came in after her it would be too distracting. Raquel made an alternative suggestion. “How about if they wear dog masks and I lead them in on leashes.”
Williams tried talking her out of this idea. Pam Dawber reiterated Williams argument saying, “You know, Raquel, he’s right.” At which point Raquel responded, “Honey, please” stepped in front of Dawber and blocked her out of the conversation she was having with Williams.
Raquel got under Dawber’s skin so much, any time Dawber was standing behind her she’d act as though she was punching Raquel in the head. This amused the crew to no end. She continued to do this joke throughout the time Raquel was there filming her guest spot.
Years later Dawber was asked about the differences between being an assertive actress and a queen bee star. “I remember Raquel Welch going into Mork & Mindy. You wouldn’t believe the things that were done for her. These women are terrors.”
Raquel has always prided herself by never doing nude scenes or posing au naturel. If you’ve been reading along you can plainly see that the requests of dropping her clothes was a constant throughout her career – but she always refused.
Welch said that it’s all down to how she has been raised: “I am my father’s daughter and that’s just not the way you behave. You don’t do that if you are a certain kind of a woman and that’s the kind of woman I was raised to be.”
“He was a tough customer. He was complicated. He was very intense. He was a strict father.
“He used to say ‘You are not leaving the house dressed like that, what is happening with your hair?’ I was terrified of him.”
“There were times when I disliked him quite a lot, but I wanted to please him. He was the one that was so hard to please and the one I wanted to please.”
She also said that her repeated refusal to film nude scenes became the root of the ‘difficult’ reputation she earned through the years. “People used to come knocking on my door saying, ‘Your trouble is that you’re a sex symbol who doesn’t do enough sexy things. I’d say to myself, ‘You think if you pressure me I’ll fold.’ But if I did, all it would mean is that I sold out.”
So, if you’re out there looking for naked photos of Raquel you’re going to come up empty. You might find some risqué ones, perhaps some bad photoshopped ones, but her fans have never truly seen her nude.
Despite her ‘no nudity vow’ and famously rejecting offers to pose or perform nude in movies, she was constantly under pressure to do so and was persistently asked. It might not be that much of a shock to learn that Raquel was at the top of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner wish list to get her to pose for his magazine.
Some reports say Hefner had requested her to pose for Playboy fifty-seven times! There’s really no surprise there. She was the most famous, beautiful pinup bombshells around, of course Hefner hoped to get her to pose for his mag.
Hefner had said, “She was the single woman that I most wanted to have in the magazine.”
Raquel did eventually pose for Playboy magazine in 1979. She wore a high-cut red swimsuit on the cover. Her photographs were certainly sexy and she looked incredible. Now at age 39, she remained a strikingly gorgeous figure and maintained her bombshell image. However, she made sure she was never photographed fully nude.
She recalled: “I got called into the front office to speak with Hugh in his bathrobe. I went over to the mansion and I brought my lawyer with me and I sat there in front of him and I said, ‘What’s the problem Hugh?’ and he said, ‘Well there’s no tits and there’s no ass’.”
“I said, ‘Isn’t that the deal we made?’ He said ‘Yes, but it’s boring’.'”
Boring or not, Raquel refused to reveal all. She received her full payment from Hefner even without doing a full nude photo shoot.
Hefner later said, “Raquel Welch, one of the last of the classic sex symbols, came from the era when you could be considered the sexiest woman in the world without taking your clothes off. She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully. The pictures prove her point.”
Ironically, Raquel’s daughter Tahnee Welch would later appear in Playboy in 1995. Unlike her mother, Tahnee did agree to pose completely nude.
Marries Third Husband André Weinfeld
“I said ‘Never again’. But André must have sent out the right signals, because ‘never’ didn’t last.”
On July 5, 1980 Raquel marries André Weinfeld. She had met Weinfeld in 1977 on the set of the 1977 French film L’Animal. He worked as her translator.
Their wedding ceremony is held on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. She signs Weinfeld as writer-producer with her production company, and his first assignment is her upcoming ABC variety special.
Raquel said at the time, “He may not be good looking, but I’m in love with him.” Not exactly the nicest remark, but she was being honest.
During their marriage Weinfeld’s plain looks was seized upon, which led the press to dub the pair “Beauty and the Beast”.
Raquel and Weinfeld would be married for ten years, until their divorce in 1990. Weinfeld would later feel their decade-long marriage was a success compared to all her others which none reached that milestone. He referred to himself as ‘the champion’.
“Today, Hollywood marriages last three months and that’s considered long.”
He didn’t have any hard feelings toward Raquel. “We had a very happy marriage.” But did add, “She promised me she would sail into the sunset, and I can see she hasn’t. She married after me.”
Here’s a 1980 television commercial Raquel did for Vic Tanny Health Clubs, It almost seems to be a bit of foreshadowing to her own exercise ventures a few year later.
From Raquel With Love (1980)
Raquel’s third television special airs on November 23, 1980 on ABC.
Rather than a variety show with random musical and dance numbers, this one has a story running through it. Raquel plays a star yearning to escape her agent played by James Coco (her co-star from The Wild Party – I guess he really did like her)
Mickey Rooney is an angel who makes her dream come true by taking her around New York City in a taxicab. She’s stops at random stops around the city and fantasy-type of production numbers commence.
There’s a dance sequence in a subway, a duet in Central Park, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. shows up, Raquel belts out ‘Nobody’s Gonna Rain On My Parade’ while wearing a strait jacket and running down the city street.
There are plenty of costume changes for Raquel.
Here’s a behind the scenes clip of Raquel filming a number on the NYC street – it’s the only clip I could find of the show
The Cannery Row Debacle, The Lawsuit & Being Blackballed (1980)
Raquel hadn’t appeared in a movie for three years. She really wanted to play some heavier film roles and prove she could act. She remained persistent with that goal.
She’d been holding out for the perfect role and now at age 40, she believed it finally came along with the film Cannery Row.
Unfortunately, Cannery Row would be yet another disaster for her. This time however the project would be worse than simply providing salacious stories to the press, negative reviews from critics or being an embarrassing box office bomb. Cannery Row would result in a notorious lawsuit, get Raquel unofficially blackballed by Hollywood and ultimately derail her film career completely.
Academy Award winners Michael Phillips and David Ward were developing a film based on two John Steinbeck novellas, ‘Cannery Row’ and ‘Sweet Thursday’. Phillips would produce and Ward would direct for the first time. Nick Nolte was cast as the lead and they were seeking a strong actress to play the female lead, Suzy the prostitute.
Many well-known actresses were considered for the part. Raquel was anxious to land the juicy role, even going so far as doing a screen-test for the part, something big stars were not accustomed to do.
She was even prepared to do something she consistently refused to do to do get the part of Suzy – she agreed to do a nude scene in the film. It would be the first in her career! Raquel fans had been waiting for that since she fought off dinosaurs!
She would later say she felt the part of Suzy was “her big chance as an actress”. Her determination and tenacity paid off and she got the role in October 1980.
Principal photography began on December 1, 1980. Issues arose with Raquel’s makeup and the trailer she was given. She requested three hours for her makeup and hair, a larger trailer and a later start time to the set. Her requests were ok’d and the scenes she was scheduled to shoot would take place in the afternoon rather than mornings.
When her new replacement trailer was still not adequate enough, she then asked if she could do her makeup at home until the trailer situation was fixed. Again, that was agreed to.
Very quickly the film started to fall behind schedule and over budget in just a week. MGM were unhappy with the dailies they were seeing (none of which included Raquel by the way). She had been on the film for little more than three weeks and she was only asked to act seven of those days. She was never late for her call times to the set.
Rather than Ward taking responsibility for the problems with the production, he blamed Raquel’s makeup demands and later afternoon arrivals to the set for the problems.
After only working on the film for less than four weeks, on December 22, 1980 Raquel received a letter from MGM informing her that they were terminating her for breach of contract.
Debra Winger, who had earlier read for the role, almost instantly replaced Raquel as Suzy the prostitute in the film – for a much lower fee too. She reshot the few scenes Raquel had done.
The speed in which Winger came in as a replacement for Raquel was suspicious. It appeared the studio had negotiated with her before Raquel was fired from the movie. Executives denied this, saying they had no discussions with Winger before they officially terminated Raquel, but evidence at the trial eventually contradicted that.
Raquel sued MGM. She argued that the studio and Ward tried to make her look like the scapegoat for the cause of the film’s budget problems, that they conspired to replace her with a younger and cheaper actress. She asked for punitive damages, claimed they damaged her reputation, slandered her and conspired to set her up specifically so they could replace her. They also refused to make good on her ‘pay or play’ contract, saying since she was fired it invalidated any obligation for them to pay her.
She said, “All I shot during the movie was long shots and walk-bys. The main reason they fired me was to shift me out to pasture and cover up for their mistakes.”
After five years, the trial finally got underway in 1986. On the stand, Raquel wept as she recalled being fired, saying she feared her acting career was finished.
“It was very upsetting to me,” she said. “It was devastating to me. I was just in a state of shock. I felt my professional life was over … I was not wanted as part of the movie-making community.” She wept while testifying.
She also stated: “Whether people in this town like or dislike me, I think they acknowledge me as a consummate professional. I never show up late or not knowing my lines and I’ve never held up production.”
MGM attorneys tried to show that her firing did not hinder Raquel’s show business career, citing her health book, exercise video and her starring role in Broadway’s Woman of the Year earned her more in the six years since her firing than she earned in the seven years before.
Raquel ended up winning the case and was awarded $25 million, which was lowered to $11 million when MGM appealed. The judge believed Raquel was unquestionably fired without any reason except to make her a scapegoat for cost overruns.
“I never expected such an overwhelming victory.” she said after the verdict.
“To be able to have on record at City Hall the real truth of the story come out, the fact that these people behaved in an unscrupulous manner when they terminated my contract.”
“I have no sour grapes against Hollywood or movie producers in general, but it’s important to stand up for yourself when you feel you’ve been wronged.”
You can read a much more detailed account of Raquel’s suit against MGM here. It’s quite a fascinating story with how things escalated so quickly and the slimy way MGM tried to manipulate the situation:
There was no evidence that Debra Winger was ever aware of what MGM was up to when they hired her or that she was privy to how they were orchestrating Welch’s firing. Winger seemed to be just an innocent in this mess.
Cannery Row didn’t end up being worth any of the trouble for anyone. It was released in February 1982 flopped and received mainly negative reviews. When reviewing the film, Variety and The New York Times stated that Raquel should feel happy she had been fired from it. MGM ended up losing $16 million on it.
Raquel remarked at the time: “I think my judgement amounted to more money than the movie actually grossed.”
Winger would bounce back and soon after star in the hits An Officer and a Gentleman and Terms of Endearment receiving Oscar nominations for both. Gradually her career would peter out. Ironically, Winger has also gained a reputation as a ‘difficult’ and ‘demanding’ actress.
Raquel might have won her court case against MGM, but the damage to her career and reputation was severe – and permanent.
Although, the court ruled in her favor and she won the case and was vindicated, in the eyes of Hollywood she was now an actress to avoid.
While she had been labeled as a ‘difficult actress’ before, now she became known as a contract breaker who had been fired from a film for not showing up for work.
“My movie career came to a screeching halt. Hollywood is a small town. It’s a small industry in many ways, and there is a small network of people….and once they think you’ve breached your contract, then who wants you, no matter who you are?”
It might of been unfair, but her being unofficially blacklisted might have also been helped along with her infamous reputation she earned through the years up to that point.
She had always been regarded as one of the most temperamental, demanding actresses in Hollywood. There was no shortage of people that told of horror stories working with her. She already was faced with a tremendous amount of baggage when she was hired. To put it plainly – she was not one of the best liked actresses in the industry long before the MGM lawsuit took place.
Add to that, her ‘bombshell’ years were over. Despite her attempts to carve out a different niche for herself being a singer and dancer, Hollywood never knew how to use her, other than putting her in bikinis.
New younger women arrived on the scene that filled the pinup category – Farrah Fawcett, Loni Anderson, Suzanne Sommers, Lynda Carter, Adrienne Barbeau, Brooke Shields,
Raquel was now a forty-year-old actress. That alone could be a career ender for most actresses in Hollywood. She was no longer a twenty-something cavegirl, which is what she was continually known as. So, what kind of film roles would call for a mature ‘Raquel Welch’?
Hollywood didn’t know and they were hesitant to take the risk of hiring her. She just seemed like she would be too much trouble.
“I don’t want to use the term ‘blackball’, but it was obvious I wasn’t getting the offers that someone with my credits in the business would be receiving. I only got two firm offers during that time. One was to play in a vampire movie and the other was the role of a Nazi anti-Semite. It was obvious that I was not on anyone’s prime list for work.”
Here’s Raquel talking with CNN after winning her case against MGM
Raquel would continue to appear on stage and television throughout the 1980’s. She still looked amazing. She would now use her famous body and good looks to market lifestyle and exercise videotapes, which became very profitable.
This would become her PHASE III. The over-40 bombshell sharing her beauty and health secrets to women.
As for her film career, it was over. She would never get to achieve her objective of being a serious film actress – at least not on the silver screen. Aside from her uncredited cameo appearance in 1994’s Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, her next credited role in a feature film would be in the 1998 Carrot Top comedy Chairman of the Board.
Raquel Stars In Broadway’s ‘Woman of the Year’ & She’s A Hit!
Legendary Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall had been headlining the Broadway musical Woman of the Year. The show opened on March 29, 1981 at the Palace Theatre and was a huge success. Bacall would win a Tony award for her performance in the lead role of television news personality Tess Harding.
The then 57-year-old Bacall was due to take a two-week vacation in December. She earned it, but you know the old saying ‘the show must go on!’. So, while Bacall took a break from the musical, a temporary replacement was needed for her to fill in while she was away.
To find someone a temporary replacement for the popular Bacall was a tall order. Someone who could sing, dance and bring some of the star power that Bacall carried. Debbie Reynolds, Angela Lansbury, Alexis Smith, Dinah Shore and Mary Tyler Moore were all said to have been offered the opportunity. And all turned it down, mostly because they didn’t want to follow Bacall.
Bacall lobbied for her friend Dina Merrill to fill in. Merrill was only one year younger than Bacall.
Then 41-year old Raquel’s name came up.
Thanks in large part to her popular stature, her continued singing and dancing performances on her television specials and her night club act, Raquel seemed like a perfect fit. She had all the necessities to fill in for a two-week run.
Like Raquel, Bacall also carried a diva-like reputation. It was said she was rude, difficult and quite demanding. It appears Hollywood is filled with prima donna attitudes.
Bacall reportedly objected to having a much younger and more exotic replacement fill in for her. The thought was – she needed a replacement, but she didn’t want the selection to be too good. Egos can get bruised rather easily in the entertainment business.
Despite Bacall’s resistance, Raquel got the job and would receive Bacall’s cut of 10 percent of the gross (or about $30,000 a week).
Bacall was not happy. When she learned that Raquel would be her replacement one woman on the production said Bacall “went wild”.
New York Magazine reported on Bacall’s rumored displeasure and the silent treatment she was giving after Raquel was announced as her replacement.
“When we first started the show, [Bacall] was very specific that she was not interested in publicity, and she’s done nothing since a few initial interviews,” said a source close to the production. “Yet she was greatly displeased when Miss Welch got extraordinary media attention, and she isn’t speaking to the show’s press agent.”
The press agent, Broadway veteran Merle Debuskey, said he’s an admirer of Bacall’s, but he found “normal channels of communication” closed. “She doesn’t want to be called, and when you go backstage her door is closed.” a source added
Bacall’s hostility toward Raquel continued. It appeared she didn’t want to see her succeed in the role, didn’t even want to feign any sort of support of her selection and actually fought against promoting her in any way. It almost seemed like Bacall was hoping the show would fail while she was away from it.
Insiders said Bacall asked the shows producers not to invite critics to Raquel’s performances. She also refused to participate in any joint publicity photos before Welch’s opening. She did not want to be photographed with Raquel. That was completely out of the question!
Jon Wilner designed Woman of the Year’s ad campaign. He revealed in The New York Post after Bacall’s death in 2014, some of Bacall’s spiteful demands she had regarding Raquel.
Bacall insisted that Welch’s ads be no bigger than Bacall’s. The day of Bacall’s final performance, the papers carried only an ad announcing Welch’s dates. It apparently was too big of an ad for Bacall’s taste. Bacall became angry over the Raquel ad that was used and she threatened not to perform that night.
Wilner had to calm Bacall down and somehow convince her to go on. He did this by massaging the woman’s huge ego.
Wilner dashed to Bacall’s dressing room and said, “You’ve been sold out for two weeks. But Raquel isn’t selling any tickets.”
“Oh. Well, of course she can’t sell any tickets!” Bacall said. Wilner explained, “That’s how we got her to go on.”
Yet, Raquel told Time Magazine at the time that Bacall was “warm and generous” in their single dressing room encounter.
Was Raquel just being nice? Was saying that a PR move to downplay the drama that was taking place? Was there truly some animosity between Bacall and Raquel? Well, I would say most likely.
If we accept these stories, it sounds like the tension came from Bacall and Raquel wasn’t responsible for it. But who knows? It is kind of strange that I haven’t been able to find one single photograph taken of them together. Not one. That alone helps fuel speculation and helps give a bit of credence to these tales.
While Bacall was having her hissy fits, Raquel very quickly began rehearsals for the show.
She didn’t have a lot of time for preparations, but she worked hard and readied herself for her debut. “I may have more guts than brains to follow Lauren in this show. But I’m not stupid enough to try to copy her.”
Raquel was younger, in better shape and a more experienced dancer than Bacall. With those attributes, she redrafted dance numbers, redesigned her wardrobe and the role to showcase her talents and brought a new energy to the performance. It would be a much different interpretation than Bacall’s.
Choreographer Tony Charmoli who worked with Raquel on Woman of the Year, and also her earlier television special was asked about her reputation of being difficult:
“Well, Raquel can be difficult because she knows who ‘Raquel’ is. She doesn’t like to stray from that character when she has to do it publicly. She wants to give you ‘Raquel’. So, if you don’t understand that you’re going to have trouble. If you want her to do something else….she is that woman. Her audience likes Raquel. She has to come out with the big boobs and the tight dress and her hair and makeup perfectly. She has to be a little risqué and look funny and be bad. That’s what sells. She packed the houses in New York being ‘Raquel’. She knows that character. The makeup man can start her makeup and then she does it herself and she finishes. She knows what that package is. Rightfully so, because that’s Raquel. If you understand that about her you’ll be fine. Obviously, I did because we got along fine.”
Ticket sales for the show dipped when Raquel was announced to have her two-week run, but then quickly they shot up. Reviews of her performance came in and they were extremely positive. Many expressed that she had brought a new excitement to the show, more glamour, a sexiness and audiences left impressed by her. It turned out Raquel was an excellent choice to step in for Bacall.
However, aside from the big box office and critical praise the show was getting, behind the curtains rumors swirled that Raquel’s difficult reputation was causing headaches to those who worked on the production.
I haven’t been able to find specific details or incidents that occurred, but it was said as Raquel was nearing the end of her two-week run the crew were eager to say adieu to her. Supposedly one day, the entire cast showed up at the theater wearing T-shirts that read “Bring back Betty!” printed on them.
It was said Raquel was such a surprise hit while Bacall was away, when Bacall did return she was not amused. Reportedly after Raquel received good notices from critics for her short run, Bacall returned to the Palace Theatre and sulked in her dressing room.
Later in 1982 when Bacall departed the show for good, Raquel became her permanent replacement and the new star of Woman of the Year. She would perform in the musical from June 29, 1982 to January 2, 1983 in a very successful run.
“The curtain came up and I just, I couldn’t believe it…they liked what I did. Somehow I got through to people.”
It was a career triumph for Raquel. “I feel very successful right now, fulfilled. Success is a feeling. It’s not just money or front-page stories or good reviews. It is a feeling about yourself. I get ovations in this show. In a way, it’s a confirmation, a validation that people really like me.”
As she had attempted many times before in her career, she hoped Woman of the Year would allow her to shed the ‘sex bomb’ albatross she had been pigeonholed as. Hannie Caulder, Kansas City Bomber, Myra Breckinridge, her variety show specials, were all projects designed to allow her to be more than just the ‘gorgeous bombshell’. She had tried it so many times hoping, ‘this time people will see me in a different light’.
BUT unlike her previous attempts, this time it actually succeeded. She felt her performance in Woman of the Year and the positive reaction from audiences and critics was the vindication she had been striving for.
“Woman of the Year has put me into a whole new category. Suddenly, I’ve gone from being a Hollywood sex symbol to a legitimate actress in the minds of many people. This play allowed them to discover what I can do.”
Woman of the Year would become one Raquel’s biggest career triumphs. Raquel would ultimately leave the show when she would become pregnant (she later suffered a miscarriage). Her replacement in Woman of the Year was Debbie Reynolds. No drama reportedly happened between them with that transition.
They even posed for photos together when Reynolds was about to take over the role, something Bacall was not as gracious to do when Raquel came onboard.
Raquel would continue performing live in a Vegas show and would eventually return to Broadway in 1997 for a short stint in Victor/Victoria replacing Julie Andrews. Allegedly her difficult temperament hadn’t changed by then. There were reports that she scissored a costume to shreds and threw a mirror backstage during her engagement.
“(Show business is) a business where when you finally end up on a beach somewhere finally getting some rest, you just feel completely numbed, because you get so emotionally involved in it all, from the performing end to the fact that your ass is on the line all the time. People are scrutinizing you constantly, sometimes kindly and with admiration, but sometimes not so kindly, and it’s just exhausting.”
A Decade of Television Movies & Exercise Tapes
The Legend of Walks Far Woman (1982)
Raquel plays the real life Blackfoot Indian woman known as Walks Far Woman in an NBC television movie.
This true story recounts her dramatic extraordinary life – her being forced to leave her tribe after killing to avenge her husband’s death. Meeting up with, and joining a Sioux tribe where she is accepted until she is banished (again) for killing her violent Sioux husband. Her first encounters with European ways. The battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 and its bloody aftermath. Then ending with her death in 1953 at the age of a 102.
This does not sound like the usual ‘Raquel Welch movie’. There’s not much room for bikinis in this story!
The film was based on the novel ‘Walks Far Woman’ by Colin Stuart that told the tale based on the life of his great grandmother. From this novel, Evan Hunter fashioned the screenplay. It was a story that Raquel said she eagerly wanted to tell and was on a personal crusade to make the film. She would produce and star in the film. It would mark her first television movie.
“This woman in a sense is liberated before her time. The Indian women didn’t have a voice in running the tribe, but they did have a profound influence. Walks Far Woman was an independent woman.”
“I was attracted to it right away. It was about an unusual woman in an unusual setting. I had always been interested in Indian folklore and culture.”
The role would also provide her with another attempt at a much more dramatic turn as an actress. Persistent and unafraid that people continually did not regard her as a great actress, she kept trying to prove them wrong. The role of Walks Far Woman would give her the chance to play a woman through various stages of her life and play a character unlike any she had done before.
She said Walks Far Woman was “a chance to do a serious, sensitive story with some universality, treating Indians as human beings.”
It almost sounds like an approach that Dances With Wolves would take a decade later.
“People might have some skepticism about me in such a role because it’s, well, a change of pace. But I don’t feel sensitive about that now, really. The recent reviews on Broadway have given me a kind of overnight legitimacy.”
The movie was actually filmed in 1979 in Montana, a year before Raquel would be a hit in Woman of the Year. NBC wouldn’t air it in the U.S. until 1982.
The production was not easy, and like on many of her previous film sets, there was tension and problems.
At the time of its May 30, 1982 television premiere, TV Guide wrote about the problems of the production. The headline read – ‘Raquel Went On a Warpath – And, Boy Did The Casualties Mount.’
The article details some of the issues that arose while making the film. While Raquel was playing a character that goes through some very dramatic, emotional scenes, TV Guide wrote, “Raquel has had almost as many traumas off-camera as on. She’s gone to the hospital twice – for food poising and for a knee injury. She’s had her cinematographer fired. She’s tried – unsuccessfully – to fire her director. Her leading man, her production manager, her secretary, her makeup man and her hairdresser have all quit.”
Filming went over-budget. Arduous working conditions and a variety of disagreements have prompted many in the crew to quit. Raquel and director Mel Damski fought repeatedly early in the filming, then she virtually stopped speaking to him altogether for the last four weeks on location.
The article continues: “At one point Raquel says she was ‘so disillusioned by the whole project’ that she began sticking large pins into a doll in her dressing room/trailer.”
“There are those on the set who say she also found other, more effective means of venting frustration – threats, demands, angry shouting matches.”
Raquel doesn’t deny it.
“I suppose I could be made out to be a bit of heavy. But that’s the price for getting something done well.”
Director Damski said his experience in making the movie was so unhappy – “the worst experience in my life” – that he still cannot watch the movie (or even discuss it) without having what he sees and what he says “colored by the personal relationship” he had with Raquel. Her behavior during the filming was “reprehensible” he said. “I went in thinking about an Emmy and I came out thinking about a Purple Heart.”
Damski went on to explain some of the issues that arose with dealing with her. One being, her concerns of looking good in the film. While throughout the movie Raquel appears muddled, bloodied and bruised, and even appearing in old age make-up, she wanted to be sure her stunning iconic looks were not completely absent.
“She didn’t think we were making her look good enough…giving her enough close-ups…focusing the camera on her enough. It’s so hard to convince her that this is period piece and that she’ll look out of place if she’s too glamorous.”
“She said she wanted a few scenes in the film where she did look good. I guess that’s understandable. But how ‘good’ is ‘good’? And how many scenes are ‘a few’?”
Raquel would later say, “There were some very tense moments on the set. Mel kept telling me my Hollywood image was coming through too much. He wanted more of documentary approach. He kept saying, ‘I thought you wanted to be a serious actress.’ I found that demeaning.”
The conflict between director and actress escalated to a degree that their working relationship basically ended during the production.
Raquel didn’t like the first rushes of the film, so she had the cinematographer fired. His camera crew soon followed. She then tried to get Damski fired. The producers, EMI Television, refused her request.
Her argument was to remind everyone that she was far more experienced than Damski and she insisted that some of his dramatic sequences “lacked emotional impact”. That they were “too choppy”…cavalier”.
Rather than trying to make the best of a strained relationship and trying to work through it in the best possible way, there was an interesting solution between Raquel and Damask’s communication onset. They didn’t talk to one another.
Raquel had her personal drama coach, Lilyan Chauvin on the set and she became an intermediary between actress and director. Damski said, “Raquel won’t listen to me – won’t talk to me. So I tell Lilyan what I want and she tells Raquel and Raquel listens.”
And yet, even with all the problems that came from her on the set, Damski admitted her work ethic was impressive. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an actress work so hard. She’s even insisted on doing some of her own stunts – sitting on a bucking bronco, sliding downhill, running a footrace…I wanted her to save her energy for acting, but this project means so much to her.”
The role was a very strenuous and physical one that required her to run a foot race and ride a bucking horse. Feeling so passionate about the story and the role, Raquel did it all herself. “I had a few accidents. During the foot race, I fell down and twisted my ankle so badly I had to be taken to the hospital. And, of course, riding that bucking horse was no fun. I had whiplash for weeks afterward.”
Damski conceded that had it not been for Raquel motivation to tell this story the film would not have happened. She was the one responsible for getting the film made. “It’s easy to say I wish the film had been made with another actress, but this film would not have been made with another actress. Raquel got this film made. You have to give her credit for that.”
The filming was finished and the problems ended there right? Nope!
The Legend of Walks Far Woman was filmed as a three-hour movie. The film was broadcast on British and French television in 1980, but ended up sitting on the shelf for nearly three years at NBC and not airing in the U.S. until May 30, 1982.
NBC which was in third place at the time, saw no commercial potential in the film and shelved it. NBC officially said them not airing the film was due to a combination of factors. They were searching for the most opportune time to schedule it. Several changes in the top-level administration of NBC’s movie division delayed the showing of the movie, that left none of the executives originally involved in the movie no longer there who pushed to get it made.
No one really accepted NBC’s reasons for shelving the movie. Most believed the extended delay was simply because NBC was not happy with it and deemed it “a disaster”.
Tartikoff denied that extreme description, but he did say after having screened the movie felt, “it was not something I wanted to play in sweeps” (the time of year when the networks showcase their best products to attract top ratings).
Raquel persistently badgered Tartikoff to air it. The Legend of Walks Far Woman was finally scheduled to air a week after May sweeps. Tartikoff would also slash the film by thirty minutes.
Not surprisingly, there was some criticism of a white Latina woman playing the role of a Blackfoot Indian. Some of the authenticity was questioned, along with the fact the whole cast spoke English and not the native language.
The cutting of the film by Tartikoff resulted in messy segments and a confusing ending. The final portion with Raquel aged to 102 years-old was cut down to 20 seconds with a voiceover to fill in the gaps. Despite the hatchet job Tartikoff took to the movie, when it finally aired The Legend of Walks Far Woman was a surprise ratings success.
It became the highest rated TV movie of the year.
Tartikoff was as surprised as anyone. Shortly after the film aired, he appeared before the nations TV critics in Burbank and, still smarting from numerous skirmishes with Welch and her lawyers, he described receiving a 7am call from NBC’s New York offices, the day after the movie aired.
“It was a call giving me the overnight ratings shares for the top three markets”, Tartikoff said “and for The Legend of Walks Far Woman, they were something like 36, 24 and 36. I said “Great — she got her measurements.”
The film much to the disappointment to fans has never been released on DVD. I’ve never been able to find it available on any streaming services. Raquel fans hope one day the three-hour uncut version will one day be made available.
You can watch the truncated U.S. broadcast version on Youtube.
Raquel’s Total Beauty and Fitness Exercise Videotape & Book 1984
The 1980’s was the decade of fitness videos.
The boom of VHS and the trendy idea of getting in shape collided into a billion dollar market. Fitness videotapes became one of the best-selling, most profitable products in the marketplace.
The new radical idea of popping in a VHS tape, getting motivated by a fit host, following along with their exercise routine in the comfort of your home with the goal of tightening your buns was all the rage.
Hundreds of exercise tapes flooded the market place in the 1980’s. Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, Mary Lou Retton, Lyle Alzado, Kathy Smith, Jayne Kennedy, Bruce Jenner, Tamice Webb, Tony Little, Suzanne Sommers, Denise Austin, Bubba Smith, Alyssa Milano, Debbie Reynolds, Jake Steinfeld, Heather Locklear, Angela Lansbury, Shirely MacLaine.
The number of fitness, weight loss, aerobic, spiritual, motivating, videotapes that were put out is staggering. Pretty much any kind of workout routine you can imagine had its due.
So, Raquel decided to get into the fitness business.
It made sense. Here was a woman renowned for her beautiful body and smashing looks. She had spent the first part of her career having men admiring, oogling and dreaming about her impressive physique.
Now, in her forties, still looking spectacular, why not turn her attention towards women and provide them the secrets of how she stays so stunning.
There was a bit of irony here. Fairly or not, she had always been categorized as a woman who got famous for her looks.
While men were salivating over her, she was looked down upon during the woman’s rights era. She was viewed as an objectified pinup and was used as an example of the problems women faced in society.
Now she would market herself towards those same woman who had once dismissed her. They were now an audience who admired her body in a different way. Those same women were now at an age who desired to get a ‘Raquel body’, they were ready to follow along with her exercise routines and learn her beauty secrets.
The Raquel Welch Total Beatuty and Fitness Program video would coincide with the release of a book. They would both focus on a health and exercise program based on the principles of haha-yoga, rather than being an aerobic workout. It was said to be for people of all ages. The book would also contain sections dedicated to nutrition and diet, fashion and make-up.
While today practicing yoga is popular, with all different forms and types of that can be done, at the time it was relatively new and just growing in the U.S. Many were unfamiliar with yoga or its benefits. Raquel’s book and video would be one of the first introductions many people would have to the world of yoga.
“I had discovered yoga when I was about 35 years old and it was like a panacea for me. It got me through a lot of highs and lows in this business. In yoga, they say that real strength is in your flexibility. If you take an oak tree and you hit it with lightning, it’s going to crack and break. But the reed, it flows back and forth in the wind and keeps coming back up. And that is the thing about me – I always come back up.”
The video and the book were both huge hits. The book became a bestseller – at least 100,000 copies of the book had been sold by the end of 1985. Both Raquel’s video and book converted thousands of suburbanites to home yoga practice.
But trouble also came along with Raquel’s success with her yoga endeavor.
Raquel had been the student of Bikram Choudhury in the late 1970’s/early 80’s. Choudhury was the yoga guru to the stars. He had a list of prominent Hollywood students. As Choudhury described when he first met Raquel, “She needed inspiration for her soul, the screws tightened in her brain and the cottage cheese taken off her thighs.”
They didn’t just become teacher and student, but Choudhury considered them friends. He socialized with Raquel and her husband André. When she was away he would send her special yoga tapes.
After her book and video were released, Choudhury filed a $1 million-plus damage suit against Raquel, charging that she had swiped a sequence of 26 hatha-yoga postures that had appeared in his 1978 book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class. She had used them in her Total Beatuy and Fitness Program and was now selling them as her own.
Bikram didn’t claim ownership of any single yoga posture, but he did claim the copyright and trademark rights over the precise sequence of 26 postures that he developed and she used. “It is my sequence you don’t copy.”
At the time he said Raquel’s yoga instructions were sometimes flawed (“she’s not even a good thief”) and could potentially injure readers.
He was also upset that the only credit he was given in her book was at the end of a long list of acknowledgements. He was listed just above Raquel thanking her dog Chat. He felt betrayed by her.
At the time Raquel’s husband André said Bikram just wanted publicly. “He’s just looking for his name in the paper to attract more students.”
In the end, the lawsuit was dropped and Choudhury received an out of court settlement. The amount wasn’t revealed, but he later said it helped him build a house in Beverly Hills and expand his yoga business – so it was probably quite a healthy amount of money.
Choudhury would get into more serious legal trouble when he became involved in a sex scandal, being accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Raquel’s Yoga workout has never been released on DVD and that is probably due to Choudhury’s lawsuit. It can only be found on VHS tapes and fortunately on Youtube. I’ve heard from yoga fans that her tape and book are both actually pretty good.
Welch continued to make fitness programs on video throughout the decade. She produced and starred in the home exercise video – A Week with Raquel (1986, which was filmed in her New York apartment), Raquel: Lose 10 Lbs. in 3 Weeks (1988) and Raquel: Body and Mind (1989).
Just a random note, all her exercise videos were directed by her husband André Weinfeld.
They were all profitable projects for her. In fact, it is believed that she made more money with her exercise video work during this time, than she had amassed throughout her acting career.
Raquel would continue focusing on the beauty market for women. Her appearance which was once simply used to showcase her body in a bikini, would now be a goal for woman to obtain. While her male fans still dreamt of Raquel the cavegirl, it was women who would idolize her in the second half of her career.
She would constantly be asked, “How do you stay looking so good at age 40, at age 50, at age 60…?”. Woman were now after her secrets.
She was once asked by a reporter if women respected her. She famously answered, “Yeah women respect me, now that I’m old.”
Enjoy working out with Raquel
Barry Manilow Evicts Raquel
It wasn’t just in her professional life Raquel caused others to be irritated by her actions. In 1984 she gave singer Barry Manilow a headache with a situation that arose from her renting his New York apartment.
Raquel and husband André had been renting Manilow’s Upper West Side Manhattan San Remo co-op since 1982. The dazzling two-tower building had a host of rich and famous tenants through its history. Raquel was renting Manilow’s 14th floor apartment that overlooked Central Park. The rent was allegedly about $5,500-a-month.
Manilow decided to sell his eight-room apartment. Raquel made Manilow an offer to buy the apartment from him, but he declined it as it being too low. This meant Raquel and André had to leave when their lease expired – but they refused to vacate.
This left Manilow with little choice, but to try to force Raquel out by taking her to court. Manilow’s spokesman at the time was quoted as saying, “She and André have refused to move out, and we are going to start eviction proceedings.”
André commented at the time, “We are negotiating with Barry.”
I’m not sure how this piece of gossipy news ended. Although it did make the newspapers at the time, I haven’t been able to find any resolution to this Manilow/Raquel face-off anywhere. I imagine if Manilow and Raquel actually went to court it would have gotten some decent press coverage. My best guess is that she finally left the apartment or some kind of agreement was eventually reached.
Raquel also had some problems with gossip columnist Cindy Adams. As Adams recounted:
“She doesn’t like me. One day, I was doing an interview with her for some cockamamy video that she had coming out – basically a promo. So she demanded a limo, a driver, a hairdresser, a makeup artist, she wanted Nubian slaves. Vaseline on the lens – a Navajo blanket on the lens. I was doing A Current Affair and I said, “Honey, our guys are accustomed to photographing car crashes and dead bodies!”
“The real problem was when I asked her if she was ‘difficult’. She said, ‘Why don’t you ask somebody I’ve worked with?’ The thing is, the night before, I’d had dinner with Robert Wagner, who never knocks anybody. Nobody! If Hitler came back, he’d say, ‘He’s the best in his line’. And he said, ‘Raquel is a bitch’. Just the night before. So when she said, ‘Why don’t you ask somebody who’s worked with me?’ I said, ‘Robert Wagner said you’re a monster’. She got up, unclipped her microphone, and stalked off.”
Some articles I found recounted this incident say that Raquel told Adams she looked like a lizard before storming off the set.
Right To Die (1987)
Raquel tries to change up her image once again with one of the most challenging roles in her career.
In the NBC tv movie Right To Die, she plays Emily a strong-willed woman who is suddenly stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS, or more widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
As her doctors explain to her there is no cure, Emily, her husband played by Michael Gross and their two daughters are now faced with this life and death issue.
The movie covers the financial strains the family is stuck with it, and also the emotional drain it takes on everyone, the suffering Emily endures and ultimately the virtually paralyzed Emily’s decision of ending this ordeal she and her family are placed in with her wanting to die. She wants to end her life in her own dignified way.
It’s a heavy subject and the stark drama got a lot of attention at the time. It was not only the provocative and controversial subject matter that made people take notice, but also the casting of Raquel in this type of role.
The ‘Raquel body’ that had been what she was known for was nowhere to be seen. Here, her body wasn’t meant to be oogled, but audiences would sadly watch the actress decay away. Witnessing the sexy former pinup girl play a pale, suffering woman who has to be put on life support was clearly an image that piqued viewers interests. Her casting for this type of role might of sounded like a gimmicky trick to gain attention, but it worked.
“In all fairness, I don’t think I can say I’ve set any precedent. After all, there was Farrah in The Burning Bed and Jessica Lange who has deglamorized herself on a number of occasions.”
“I’ve been offered a lot of roles where I feel the trick is, OK, so now we’re going to see Raquel without her makeup. And this means she’s acting in quotes. In capital letters. And I thought ‘No, that’s a cheap shot.'”
Yet, Right To Die she felt was different and it was a story she was passionate about and was eager to tell. Raquel researched the disease, visited with doctors and met patients in preparation for playing the part. It was an issue that Raquel felt quite strongly about and she took the film role because it did not take the typical TV approach of dodging the issue it claims to explore.
“So many of the scripts I’ve gotten, mince around the issue and give you a 360 degrees of it and finally, don’t really take a stand. We do take a stand.” The movie is in favor of Emily having the right to pull her own plug. She said she wasn’t worried about the inevitable criticism of the pro-choice stance the movie takes.
“I’m not afraid to take the backlash. Everyone has opinions and you’ve got to state them.” [Life-support systems] are like the tail wagging the dog. These people have a right to make their own decisions.”
Raquel received good notices from critics and she earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
“I wasn’t making a conscious search for something like this, but I had always known I had a whole part of my being and my professional ability that I’d never had a chance to use fully, and this satisfied that. Everything that was the public Raquel Welch, I got rid of…in this role…There was a great freedom in knowing for myself how much there was without all that, and what a range of things I can look forward to personally, as well as for myself as an actress. I’m very grateful I found that out.”
Fortunately, someone posted Right To Die on Youtube. It looks to be from its initial broadcast on October 12, 1987 on NBC
The 1980’s was a busy time for Raquel.
She decided to change things up with her career and her appearance. We could call this period during the 1980’s as Raquel’s ‘Short Hair Years’.
While fans wouldn’t see her in any feature films, she remained prolific in television movies, commercials and of course her popular exercise videotapes. While no longer being the young pinup, she was able to carve a new niche for herself – ‘the forty-something former bombshell’ who still looked fantastic, remained in demand and the public continued to be interested in her.
She became the spokeswoman for the drink mix Crystal Light and did several commercials for them. She got mentioned in the opening lyrics of the popular ABC TV show The Fall Guy about a stuntman/bounty hunter.
Along with Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, she was considered for the part of Alexis Carrington on the popular Dynasty. Joan Collins would get the role. I think she would’ve fit in pretty nicely on that show.
Ironically, years later after the popularity of nighttime soaps had faded, Raquel would accept a similar role in Central Park West.
Here’s Raquel pitching Crystal Light to television audiences
One TV project Raquel looked to make, but never happened was Forever Amber. In 1986 she announced plans to produce and star in a six-hour TV mini-series based on the novel Forever Amber.
Forever Amber is a 1944 historical romance set in 17th-century England. Because of its sexual themes it was controversial when it was released, with some states actually banning the book outright at the time. It was adapted into a 1947 film directed by Otto Preminger that starred Linda Darnell and Cornell Wilde.
Author Kathleen Winsor was asked what she thought of 44-year-old Raquel playing the lead character, a 16-year-old Amber. Ms. Winsor replied: “I’m not going to start finding fault with Raquel Welch. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen her. She’s probably as suitable for the part as anybody. Think of all the actresses who’ve played Juliet, and she’s 14.”
The Forever Amber project was mentioned several times in the press over the course of a few months. Raquel was quoted by TV Guide at the time about the project, “I like the idea of a big romantic epic about a woman and in the 17th century, you could still be wildly romantic. Another reason I was convinced we could do it was that the movie with Linda Darnell was not first rate at all, and we didn’t have to live up to a legendary epic.”
She said her version of the story would differ from both the book and the movie: “In those, Amber goes from bed to worse. In my version, she’ll go from bed to better.”
Then just as quickly as the talk began, Raquel’s Forever Amber project went silent and it never happened. Raquel never explained what happened with the project or why exactly it died.
Raquel was also was hoping to make a miniseries about the life of 1930s torch singer Libby Holman, who was accused of murdering her super-rich playboy husband. That, like Forever Amber, never happened.
Raquel tried to launch a singing career in 1986. While she had had successful Las Vegas performances and television specials singing, this time she attempted to be a hit with a larger radio audience with the dance single ‘This Girl’s Back in Town’.
The last time Raquel was featured on an album was with the song “I’m Ready To Groove” on the ‘A Swingin’ Summer Soundtrack’ in 1965.
She made a music video for ‘This Girl’s Back In Town’, directed by husband André. It was included at the end of her workout video A Week With Raquel. She was looking forward to a European release of the single and a tour to promote it, but the tour never happened. ‘This Girl’s Back In Town’ peaked at No. 29 on Billboard’s dance chart.
Did it deserve to be a bigger hit for Raquel? You be the judge…
Scandal in a Small Town (1988)
Raquel returned with another NBC TV-movie. This time her role allowed her to appear as fetching as ever, unlike in Right To Die. It would also be a less dramatic and controversial tale than her last television movie.
“I couldn’t have taken on another heavy thing right now.”
Initially, learning Raquel was starring as a sexy cocktail waitress, in a movie called Scandal in a Small Town, you might have visions of a certain kind of story.
Maybe, she’s a woman whose risqué behavior and attitudes upset the social norms of an uptight community. Her outspokenness and revealing attire become the talk of the town. She becomes a scorned woman, branded with a Scarlett letter, but she stands up for her lifestyle and refuses to conform to what the community thinks is right?
Sort of like a updated version of the 1978 TV movie Harper Valley PTA that starred Barbara Eden. That’s the image I would have had. Especially when you see the covers of the old VHS tapes and promotional photos that were released for the movie. It certainly conveys a certain kind of story.
But no, Scandal in a Small Town is nothing like that. Oh, Raquel definitely does play a sexy cocktail waitress and she’s not a respectable beacon in the community. However, the scandal doesn’t come solely from her reputation, but more of what she ends up fighting against.
Raquel plays Leda Beth Vincent, a single mother of teenage daughter Julie. She learns that Julie’s history teacher (played by Ronny Cox) is an anti-Semite and is exposing students to his racist ideas.
She sets out to stop him, but since he’s so popular and beloved in the town everyone dismisses her concerns. She ends up having to take the Board of Education to court to get the bigoted Cox removed. But this working class woman, who is not well respected in the town as it is, will get her dubious past dug up to further discredit her and keep Cox working.
Her relationship with her daughter becomes strained under the pressure their placed under. Leda is steadfast on not wavering on what she believes is right and has an uphill battle to win her case against the pillars of the community.
“One reason I liked this script is because I have dealt with a teenage daughter myself and I know the problems of raising a young woman who at that age is going to reject you and your ideas and will challenge your authority and seek out her own identity.”
One very amusing piece of trivia about the filming of the movie is worth noting. During one emotional scene Raquel is meant to be arguing with her daughter, who was played by Christa Denton. During one scene Raquel was meant to slap her.
They did the scene several times and the producer noticed that Welch, a mother in real life, was looking troubled. He commented to her, “This must be a really tough scene for you, huh?”
Raquel replied, “Oooh, it is! My hand is killing me!”
This piece of trivia is from IMDB, so take it with a grain of salt. It would be so great if it is true though!
“I’ve always thought the older I got the more people would see that I have more to me than just my good looks.”
Trouble in Paradise (1989)
On May 16, 1989, Raquel fans finally get their dreams come to life in a CBS TV-movie titled Trouble In Paradise – or at least that’s what it initially first looked like.
Raquel plays a rich, spoiled socialite who has just been widowed. She accompanies her husbands body on a boat to San Francisco. A violet storm hits causing the boat to sink near a deserted island. The only survivors from the boat are Raquel and a hard-drinking, macho sailor played by Jack Thompson.
These two opposites at first don’t like each other – shocking I know. It sounds like a low-grade African Queen. Then gradually they fall for each other and make the most of their time being alone together in paradise.
It’s a silly excursion and complete fluff, even by cheesy TV-movie standards. There’s no acknowledgement of the dead crew. This island seems to have everything one would need to survive. Raquel looks like she just stepped out of her trailer and applied her makeup. There is zero evidence of any hardships or exposure to the harsh elements on them. It’s like they’re on a beach vacation.
There’s also plenty of time for corny jokes and lovely shots of Raquel’s physique in the bright sun and beautiful locations. This is not Castaway.
What’s even stranger than the movie, is Raquel choosing to do this. After years of trying to get away from her sex symbol image, wanting to prove she had the chops to be a legitimate actress and finally getting recognition for some dramatic roles, she choose to do a watered down TV version of Swept Away? What an odd decision.
While promoting the TV-movie Raquel didn’t appreciate a journalist asking about that and if playing this role was a step back to her sex symbol days. “I thought it was a rather welcome change, quite frankly. I don’t think every single movie has to have a social conscience. You don’t seem to be thrilled with the idea. Just the tone of the question sounded like you thought it was a comedown. I won’t play a role where I’m just window dressing, but Trouble in Paradise has plenty of interesting scenes and a nice relationship.”
The film was shot in Australia and was faced with major censorship issues by CBS. At the time, network television was very nervous about recent complaints they had been getting from individuals and groups about the edginess network tv had crept into. Does that sound familiar?
As a result CBS maintained a very strict code over the production taking steps to make sure Raquel’s desert island fantasy stayed completely G-rated and wasn’t going to offend anyone. This apparently was not the type of movie Raquel signed up to do.
Even before filming began the censorship hammer came down by CBS. Raquel’s wardrobe was put under tight scrutiny. The network wanted to be sure she wasn’t going to show enough skin to offend viewers.
“In the costume test they were already up in arms to change everything. Pull everything down four inches and everything up five inches. It was just ridiculous. I don’t even wear a bikini. If you saw the movie you’d think the network’s censorship was the biggest joke ever. I look so pristine. It isn’t even funny.”
Love scenes between Raquel and Thompson were cut, causing her to protest. “CBS just wants to water it down – everything! They just want to make it into pap because they’re scared about this, that and the other thing.”
Raquel found the censorship by CBS “really kind of disappointing. There’s a romantic sequence three quarters of the way through the movie. We had a woman director. She just shot it really beautifully, lyrically under mosquito netting. It’s not at all prurient and it doesn’t show anything, but they (the network) just wants to undercut everything.”
As production continued in Australia the set was bombarded by CBS headquarters with constant “telephone calls and memos about nipples! The poor director said she’d never seen anything like it in her life. She said, ‘My God! I’ve shot a million love scenes. I’ve never heard of anything like this.”
As a result, the titillating island fantasy starring Raquel many fans thought they’d see turned into a forgettable, innocuous G-rated time killer. The most notable thing about Trouble in Paradise is how great Raquel looks and some of the dazzling shots of her.
Raquel was very unhappy with how CBS treated Trouble In Paradise and what they did to it. In a drastic turnaround, she actually spoke kindly of NBC and Brandon Tartikoff. Despite having a tense showdown with him over the cutting of her 1983 TV-movie Legend of Walks Far Woman, she seemed to think he and his network would not have caved to public pressure, they would have left Trouble In Paradise alone and let it be the sexy island fantasy it was meant to be.
”NBC is still the No. 1 network because they have a guy there running it who still has some instinct left and isn’t dealing out of fear,’‘ she said of NBC’s president Brandon Tartikoff.
Here’s the original CBS intro to the movie. It’s extremely cheesy! It’s kind of hard to take it serious.
“I’ve mellowed in some areas. I think I have a better perspective of everything now, how I fit into the picture. On the other hand, I think I’m more forthright now and outspoken than I’ve ever been.
The 1990’s – A Few TV-Movies, TV Appearances & Upstaging Her Daughter-In-Law’s Wedding
Raquel was now in her 50’s. Everyone continued to marvel at how great she still looked and would keep asking her “what are your secrets?”. During the 1990’s she would finally return to movie screens – in supporting and cameo roles. She starred in two TV-movies and made many guest appearances on television.
She would also say goodbye to her third husband. After a 10-year marriage, Raquel and André Weinfeld would divorce in 1990, although they had separated at least a year earlier. The divorce was amicable.
In a 1989 interview she said, “We had a terrible time for several months while we made up our minds what to do. It was very sad to say goodbye to part of our relationship that wasn’t happening any more, and wouldn’t continue. But there are no recriminations either. It really was a question of growing apart, which sometimes happens. We’re both still young – no kids, but we have life ahead of us – and if we’ll be happier going free, then we must.”
Before we check in on her career let’s take a look at how she started the decade with an incident that the gossip magazines were all eager to report on.
On June, 7 1991, Raquel’s son Damon Welch, 31, was marrying Rebecca Trueman, daughter to the famous cricket player Fred Trueman. Well, actually he and his bride had eloped the year prior in Los Angeles, but now they were having a formal ceremony at a London church to please their parents.
Raquel stole the show and placed all the attention on her according the press reports at the time. Raquel broke a cardinal rule of wedding etiquette – she upstaged the bride.
This salacious silliness began when Raquel was late to the church ceremony, which caused a bit of commotion. As she rushed to the church, she acknowledged photographers who were there and who wanted to take pictures of her. “Hurry, I’m late already!”, she supposedly told photographers.
Raquel was wearing a tight little black dress with a very low neckline. She topped her outfit off with a huge brimmed white hat and dark sunglasses.
The press commented the outfit looked more appropriate for an awards show than a wedding, especially on the mother-in-law of the bride. The bride could not have been pleased with all the attention her new mother-law’s outfit took away from her own bridal gown.
In the book Fred Trueman; The Authorized Biography, Rebecca’s wedding was discussed and some of the Trueman family reflected on that day and shared their memories.
“Raquel’s daring attire offended several members of the Trueman family. notably Trueman’s 87-year-old mother Ethel. Flo Halifax, Fred’s sister remembered: “When Raquel turned up wearing that low-cut dress, mum kept saying: ‘It’s not right that, Flo. It’s not right.”
Anyway, later on Raquel came over to speak to mum and, straight out of the blue, mum said: ‘You know, young lady, that’s not the kind of outfit to be wearing at a wedding blessing.’ Raquel thought she was joking and said: ‘Now I know where Freddie gets his humor from,’ but mum was deadly serious.”
Enid Trueman, Fred’s first wife, also took umbrage at Raquel’s appearance. “She completely ruined my daughter’s wedding. Her boobs were showing and her skirt was up her bum,” she said. “I don’t think she ate a lettuce leaf at the reception. At one point, she dropped her purse and bent down to pick it up. Fred said: ‘Gerrup, we can see your knickers.'”
Fred’s wife Karen also thought Raquel’s behavior beyond the pale. “She was doing the whole Hollywood movie star thing. We had a three-and-half-hour photo shoot for a magazine and Raquel was getting her lipstick touched up for every photograph.”
Raquel’s ‘upstaging her daughter-in-law’s wedding’ story was widely reported on. It was a bit of switch having her be the center of attention at wedding that was not her own! Many felt that it was inconsiderate and rude that her outfit drew so much attention away from the bride. This story would be cited as an example of Raquel’s ego and how selfish she can behave. The incident would also provide wedding articles to cite as an example of something not to do.
Years later in an interview with Piers Morgan, Raquel talked about her controversial wedding attire and how she ended up wearing such a flashy outfit to her son’s wedding:
“Listen, I had come over on the flight and had a very sedate ‘mother of the groom’ outfit: all pastel and covered up and nice and demure. And the photographers started arriving on the lawn outside and there were tons of them; crazy amounts of press! I just got kind of irritated and was like, ‘Look at them all!’ And I thought, ‘Alright, let’s just give them a story then!’ I went to my closet. The only thing (I wore) that I planned to wear was the darned hat. I don’t expect that Rebecca liked it too much, but she looked lovely.”
Piers asked if she feels guilty about her wardrobe choice that day. She replied, “No, my son didn’t mind. He didn’t care.”
I’ll leave it for you to decide whether Raquel’s outfit and her rationale was appropriate and if she offered a reasonable explanation as to why she wore it. I’m not sure how she and her daughter-in-law got along during the marriage – which did not last long at all. Damon and Rebecca divorced less than two years later.
Rebecca later said about their short marriage, “The only thing we had in common was that we were both the child of a famous parent.”
Tainted Blood (1993)
Raquel is cast against type and plays an investigative journalist. She’s researching a new book and comes across the story of a double-murder suicide. She eventually discovers there’s a murderous genetic trait that is being passed down and there’s another individual who possesses it. She attempts to find out if a teen girl has the genes to become a murderer.
It’s a strange convoluted movie. I simply refer to it as ‘the movie where Raquel wears glasses’.
As we’ve seen with her past tumultuous relationship with network television, Tainted Blood didn’t air on NBC or CBS, but it premiered on the USA Network.
Torch Song (1993)
Based on the Judith Krantz novel, Raquel stars as a glamorous movie star with a drinking problem. Her worried daughter (Alicia Silverstone) convinces her to get help. She enters into a rehabilitation clinic where she meets firefighter Jack Scalia. While both trying to sober up romance sparks between them.
They leave rehab, start dating while still trying to stay on the wagon. Her daughter is not keen on this man, her personal assistant is suspicious of his motives, and the pair also have to battle their alcohol addiction. Will they succeed and live happily ever after?
Raquel’s character had shades of another real-life Hollywood diva – Elizabeth Taylor. The comparison was not lost on the press. In response Raquel said, “To think it’s Liz’s story is a mistake, but what concerns me is that Liz might be upset, and that would be unfortunate.”
Like Tainted Blood, Torch Song premiered on the USA Network. This is one of those melodramatic TV-movies that women audiences lapped up around this time.
Had she had the chance, Raquel probably would have been a huge draw on The Hallmark Channel.
While also making her uncredited cameo in 1994’s Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult and her role in the 1998 Carrot Top comedy Chairman of the Board, it was on television where she kept busier.
Raquel guest-starred on many television shows during this time. She reunited with her old co-star Burt Reynolds on his show Evening Shade. She played a news reporter/assassin on Lois & Clark. She played a goofy aunt on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and played nerdy Richard Kind’s mother on Spin City for several episodes.
Most famously, it was her guest appearance on Seinfeld that most people under the age of 40 are most familiar with and associate with her the most.
In the 1997 episode ‘The Summer of George’, Raquel plays herself and gets a chance to poke fun at her difficult diva image. Michael Richard’s Kramer is tasked with firing Raquel from the fictional Broadway musical Scarsdale Surprise. Everyone is scared to death of her.
The reason the producers want to drop her from the musical is because she doesn’t swing her arms when she moves. The uncontrollable Raquel gets into fights with both Kramer and Julia Louis Dreyfus’ Elaine.
Raquel’s lack of arm movements while dancing has been an enduring joke with fans since the show aired.
Central Park West (1995-96)
One of the biggest potential opportunities Raquel had on television during this period was on Central Park West.
The CBS nighttime soap debuted in September of 1995. It was designed to be a Gen-X focused show, with a young good-looking cast set in the world of New York magazine publishing – and it was a colossal flop. It was removed in early November from CBS’ schedule mid-season.
However, CBS didn’t want to give up on it, and in the summer of 1996 it was overhauled and retooled to appeal to an older, more mature audience. Rather than trying to attract The Melrose Place crowd, CPW (which was now its new name) would target Dynasty and Dallas fans.
Lead actress Mariel Hemingway departed the show and older actors were brought in. Gerald McRaney would play a southern media tycoon and Raquel Welch would be his jet-setting ex-wife.
Raquel was scheduled to headline a 1996 national tour of the musical ‘Applause’, but she pulled out of that to do CPW instead. Stephanie Powers replaced her in ‘Applause’.
“I was getting a lot of advice from my representatives not to do it. But the character is a hoot, and it’s not like I’m getting every fabulous part that comes around in films.”
Raquel described her character as an “incorrigible superbitch.“
It’s ironic that where she once was considered for the role of Alexis Carrington, a part that would make Joan Collins one of the most popular actresses on television, now Raquel would play a similar character in a knockoff of Dynasty. She would even get into a catfight with Lauren Bacall in a fountain, a scene that was clearly reminiscent of the famous Alexis/Crystal fight on Dynasty that thrilled audiences and became popular watercolor talk after airing.
Raquel was very excited about her role. “I play an indiscriminate bitch. I’ve never played one of those. I played a bitch on Broadway, in Woman of the Year. People just love that. When a bitch takes off her gloves, she gets to be really mean and cunning. I’ll be funny, bitchy and a little over the top.”
CPW producer Darren Star was happy to get Raquel and said, “Raquel was the only person I want for (the show). She’s still a sex symbol…”
CBS was optimistic CPW could be saved with the help of Raquel and her famous sex appeal. CBS Entertainment chief Les Moonves said at the time, “I don’t think you put Raquel Welch in a show to have her dress like a schoolmarm. She’s sexy. You don’t hire her to be in ‘Little House on the Prairie with Angela Lansbury.”
The hope was that the revamped CPW would attract viewers during the summer and then get picked up for a new season in the fall. However, the reworked CPW with Raquel didn’t fare much better. It lasted for eight episodes until CBS finally put it to rest.
One sidetone, in an interview with Playbill actor John Barrowman, who starred in Central Park West, was asked about working with Raquel. He said, “I’m sure she’s a lovely lady, but she wastes a lot of people’s time.”
Returning To The Stage With The Millionaires (1995) & Victor/Victoria (1997)
Raquel returned to the stage in 1995 to play the lead in the George Bernard Shaw play Millionairess.
“I have always felt The Millionairess is one of Shaw’s most relevant plays, and we think audiences will take to it. I’m at the point in my life where I want to do work on material with substance.”
The play began at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The reviews were not raving. One headline from a review read – ‘Even with Raquel, It’s a Poor Imitation’.
The play left for for London for a limited West End run for several months. Raquel arrived in London and hoped to bring the show to New York City.
“I made One Million Years B.C. in London in the ’60s…I’m returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak.”
Even before the play opened, Raquel was readying for London critics to give her a drubbing. “I can almost hear the knives being sharpened for me when I get to London.”
The play was faced with problems even before its premiere in London. Before its pre-West End run, the play was on the road playing at smaller venues that were to lead up to a West End premiere. There was a rumor being reported that there was no theatre in the West End to take it. Essentially, The Millionairess didn’t have a place to play.
There were a few performances in Britain. According to reports at the time the press were not kind to it and they “hammered” the play and Raquel’s performance and what many felt was a terrible miscasting. One critic referred to her as “a life-size Barbie doll”.
‘A hostile press reaction during the early sages of the tour’ and low ticket sales sounds like it quickly put an end to The Millionairess. Raquel flew out of Britain and no confirmation came that the show would continue. Her spokesman said Raquel had “no immediate plans” to return.
BUT Raquel did return! According to what I’ve read, she again tried to tour with The Millionairess a few years later in 1998. Again, the play closed soon after it began.
In June 1997 Raquel returned to Broadway in Victor/Victoria, following Liza Minnelli and the departing Julie Andrews, Raquel played the impoverished female singer who pretends to be a man so she can get work as a female impersonator.
“I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with this character because I get to play the guy part and the girl part. My figure will be under wraps for some of it, and we’ll have fun playing with what’s under the wraps.”
Unlike her turn in Woman of the Year, critics and audiences weren’t applauding Raquel’s performance in Victor/Victoria. She signed to play the role for six months. But, the box office dipped and quietly closed soon after Raquel came onboard.
Raquel would end the decade by marrying for the fourth time. Husband number four was Richard Palmer a wealthy restaurateur.
The 2000’s – Keeping Busy In Film & TV
Unlike her small supporting role in the 1999 French comedy Folle d’elle (which I don’t know if anyone has seen) Raquel got to perform in much more memorable films and play better roles in the 2000’s and when she hit her 60’s.
She appeared in the 2001 box office hit Legally Blonde. Raquel didn’t have a major role, but the movie was so popular it did get her attention. Most audiences under a certain age probably know her from Legally Blonde more than any of her other film roles.
The 2006 comedy Forget About it allowed her to reteam with Burt Reynolds. Also starring Charles Durning and Robert Loggia, the film came and went without making any impact. I suspect most aren’t even aware it exists.
In the 2008 short-lived CBS TV series Welcome to the Captain, Raquel again spoofed her persona as she had done in Seinfeld. In the comedy she played a faded, once-upon-a-time bombshell, whose career peak was starring in a prime-time soap opera in the 1980s.
She had fun lampooning her onscreen persona. “I could see that I could play this character and people would believe it because of my previous career, I suppose, as a glamour puss. I haven’t done anything like this in quite a long time. And I think it’s a good chance for me to have a bit of fun with my image.”
There is a bit of callback to her co-star from Myra Breckinridge Mae West, with the part. Now being in her 60’s, this role was almost a mirror of how West behaved and viewed herself during the making of the 1970 film.
Unfortunately, Welcome to the Captain only lasted five episodes before being cancelled.
In 2001 Stuttering John from the Howard Stern show had encounter with Raquel. His usual schtick of asking outrageous questions to celebrities offended and insulted many of them when he thrust his microphone into their faces to get their responses and reaction. Encountering Raquel he asked her, “Are they drooping yet?” She didn’t appreciate the question or saw any humor in it. She hauled off and punched him.
Raquel got the chance to embrace her Mexican heritage (decades after 20th Century Fox wanted her to downplay it and change her name to ‘Debbie’) by playing several Latina roles. In the 2001 comedy/romance Tortilla Soup she played a single Latina lady who romances Hector Elizondo.
The television series American Family got a much better reception and reviews. The PBS family drama centered around the lives of a Mexican-American family living in Los Angeles. Raquel played the eccentric Aunt Dora.
The pilot was initially made for CBS. They passed on it and PBS decided to pick it up. It would be the first-ever Latino drama series on broadcast television.
She did a series of commercials for Foster Grant sunglasses. In a callback to being one of the celebrity spokeswoman of the sunglasses back in 1968, Raquel again adorned the shades.
In 2008 she and husband number four Palmer separated and later divorced.
The couple issued the news of their parting via a joint press release, but said little else on the matter, except to note that “no third party is involved” and the “separation is amicable”.
She has stated that she does not intend to marry again.
Aside from her numerous film, television and promotional work, the biggest venture Raquel set out on would be her relationship with HairUWear in 2000. The wig company approached her to create her signature line of wigs. This would evolve into becoming a multi-million venture for the her and the company.
In Jan 2007, she was selected as the newest face of MAC Cosmetics Beauty Icon series. She also began a jewelry and skincare line, although neither of those ventures compared to the success of her wig collection. Raquel would become a ‘wig mogul’.
Her wig collection has contributed significantly to Welch’s net worth, which is reportedly in the neighborhood of $30 million.
In fact, Raquel’s wig collection would become so popular Today, if you start typing her name into a search engine and you’re more likely to see the term ‘wigs’ behind her name over any of her films.
Welch and the company donate up to $1 million worth of wigs yearly to the American Cancer Society.
“I wasn’t impossible before, but in the past 10 years I’ve made a concerted effort to think about what I have to do for other people, what I owe, what my part is in whatever relationship or situation I find myself in. It’s getting older, I guess, that makes you think that way.”
2010s – More TV & Film Appearances, Her Wig Empire
Now in her 70’s, Raquel still worked to look her best for her fans. “Age is just a number to me. I am the product and people expect this gal to look good. So, I try my best to stay in shape. It’s not easy!”
Guest-starring on an episode of CSI: Miami in 2012, Raquel played the powerful matriarch of a Miami crime family whom David Caruso has been tracking.
“This is a role I’m really excited about, as I get to sink my teeth into a dramatic character who’s not just there to look good!”
Raquel wore one of her wigs from her line in the show.
She had a supporting role in the 2013 cable movie House of Versace. Raquel played Aunt Lucia. She was one of the many recognizable names in the the of 2017 comedy How To Be A Latin Lover. She also made it to the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel as part of the cast of the 2015 film The Ultimate Legacy.
Raquel made another attempt at a television series with the comedy Date My Dad in 2017 on UPN. It lasted for ten episodes. It did give her an opportunity to be reunited with her The Biggest Bundle of Them All co-star Robert Wagner on one episode.
It would be her popular wig line that gave her the most attention and the most personal satisfaction. Fans are just as likely to find her being interviewed about her HairUWear wigs as her latest film or tv project.
Yet, there also came a new appreciation of her film work. For years she was pegged as the curvy bombshell and her films were wholly ignored by audiences and critics. Today, several of her films have been reevaluated and a new generation of moviegoers are being entertained by them.
In 2012 The Film Society of Lincoln Center presented “Cinematic Goddess: American Sex Symbol, The Films of Raquel Welch”. The retrospective event included the screening of ten of Raquel’s films, along with several appearances by her. In something of a bit of time warp, she rejoined Dick Cavett (who she did several interviews with decades earlier) to talk about her her films, herself and her career.
She told stories about the making of her films. Audiences sat and enjoyed watching them. A new respect for the roles she played emerged; the trail she blazed, the variety of her roles and the legacy she has left. The significance of her independent and strong women characters in Hannie Caulder, Kansas City Bomber and 100 Rifles were now applauded.
Reviled and dismissed upon its initial release, Myra Breckinridge has now taken on the mantle of being a ‘cult classic’. It must of feel like some validation for Raquel.
From here on out, where does Raquel go? She’s always going to be an icon. Whether she likes it or not that fur bikini was the launching pad for her career. It’s followed her for most of her life, but really it’s understandable. It’s such a memorable image, how could she ever shake it completely off.
You have to admire her for attempting to. Raquel tried many types of different projects, and while some worked better than others and some might not have been as professionally fulfilling as she had hoped, she did try.
Aside from her ‘bombshell’ image, she endured a lot of unexpected hurdles in her career, some maybe from her own making and others just seemed unfair treatment towards her.
To her credit, she’s still around. Many pinup bombshells had much shorter careers and couldn’t maintain the continued public interest she has managed. She has enjoyed a level of popularity decades after she first arrived on the scene.
Still with all the things she accomplished in her career, her films, her live performances, her reputation, her business ventures, it’s going to be that one cavegirl image that will stick with her and what everyone will always associate with her. I think everyone knows it will be that photo that accompanies her obituary.
And I don’t think she has a problem with that anymore.
“Americans have always had sex symbols. It’s a time-honored tradition and I’m flattered to have been one. But it’s hard to have a long fruitful career once you’ve been stereotyped that way. That’s why I’m proud to say I’ve endured” – Raquel Welch, July 2002