Sunday, September 5, 2010
Happy Birthday Raquel Welch
Happy Birthday to the sexy superstar Raquel Welch as she turns 70 today. And I must say she looks fabulous.
She was born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois, the first of three children born to Bolivian Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo, an aerospace engineer, and his Irish-American wife Josephine Sarah Hall, the daughter of American architect Emery Stanford Hall (1869-1939) and wife Clara Louise Adams. The family moved to San Diego, California (her father was transferred) when Raquel was only two. Taking dance lessons as a youngster, she grew up to be quite a knockout and nailed a number of teen beauty titles ("Miss Photogenic," "Miss La Jolla," "Miss Contour," "Miss Fairest of the Fair" and "Miss San Diego"). With her sights set on theater arts, she studied at San Diego State College on a scholarship starting in 1958 and married her first husband, a high school sweetheart named James Welch, the following year. They had two children Damon (born 1960) and Tahnee (born 1961). Tahnee would go on to take advantage of her own stunning looks as an actress, most notably a prime featured role in Cocoon (1985).
On the sly, Raquel became a local TV weather girl in San Diego and eventually quit college because of her responsibilities. Following the end of her marriage in 1961 (they divorced in 1965), she packed up her two children and moved to Dallas, Texas, where she modeled for Neiman-Marcus and worked as a barmaid for a time. Regrouping, she returned to California, migrated to Los Angeles, and made the rounds of film/TV auditions. Providing sexy/perky decoration on such shows as "Bewitched," "McHale's Navy" and "The Virginian," she also paid her dues in filler bits with such movies as Elvis Presley's Roustabout (1964) and Doris Day's Do Not Disturb (1965). In the midst of the "beach party" craze, it's not surprising to find that her first prime role would be in the obvious A Swingin' Summer (1965), which concentrated more on musical guests 'Righteous Brothers, The and 'Gary Lewis & the Playboys' than on Raquel's outstanding contributions. But 20th Century Fox certainly took notice and signed her up.
With her very first film under contract (actually, she was on loan out to Britain's Hammer Studios at the time), she took on the remake of One Million B.C. (1940) in the Carole Landis role and the rest is history. Raquel remained an international commodity for her first few years of celebrity. In England, she was quite revealing as the deadly sin representing "lust" for the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their vehicle Bedazzled (1967), and as the title secret agent in the sexy spy spoof Fathom (1967). In Italy, she appeared in mediocre vehicles opposite such heartthrobs as Marcello Mastroianni. Back in the U.S. by 1968, she caused quite a stir in her brazen sex scenes with black athlete Jim Brown in the "spaghetti western" 100 Rifles (1969), and as the trans-gendered title role in the unfathomable Myra Breckinridge (1970), adapted from Gore Vidal novel while locking horns with the aging diva Mae West. The instant cult movie was a laughing stock to all concerned and certainly damaged Raquel's attempt at being taking seriously as an actress.
Box office bombs abounded after this. Try as she might with dramatic stabs, the writing was pretty much on the wall that Hollywood was resistant, even though her performances in .Kansas City Bomber (1972) and The Wild Party (1975) drew good reviews. With determination, she partly offset this with modest supporting roles in large ensemble pieces. She showed definite spark and won a Golden Globe for the swashbuckler The Three Musketeers (1973), and appeared to good advantage in the mystery thriller The Last of Sheila (1973). She planned on making a comeback in Cannery Row (1982), even agreeing to appear topless (which she had never done before), but during production, she was suddenly fired without notice. She sued MGM for breach of contract and ultimately won a $15 million settlement, but this didn't help her film career. TV movies became a positive milieu for Raquel as she developed serious vehicles for herself such as The Legend of Walks Far Woman (1982) (TV) and Right to Die (1987) (TV). She also found a lucrative avenue pitching beauty products in infomercials and developing exercise videos à la Jane Fonda. Moreover, Raquel took advantage of her modest singing and dancing abilities, by performing in splashy Las Vegas showrooms and starring in such plausible stage vehicles as "Woman of the Year" and "Victor/Victoria." Still a dazzler at age 60+, she has been seen sporadically over the years and still able to turn heads. More recently she co-starred in the Hispanic-oriented TV series "American Family" (2002) and in the film Tortilla Soup (2001). She is currently married to fourth husband Richard Palmer, who is 15 years her junior.