Farewell to an icon. Raquel Welch, known for her roles in Fantastic Voyage and Bedazzled, has died at age 82.
“The legendary bombshell actress of film, television and stage, passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness,” a representative for the actress told Us Weekly in a statement on Wednesday, February 15. “Her career spanned over 50 years starring in over 30 films and 50 television series and appearances. The Golden Globe winner, in more recent years, was involved in a very successful line of wigs. Raquel leaves behind her two children, son Damon Welch and her daughter, Tahnee Welch.”
Born in Chicago in 1940, Raquel moved to Los Angeles in 1963 to pursue her dream of movie stardom. The following year, she appeared in the films A House Is Not a Home and Roustabout, the latter of which starred Elvis Presley. She also racked up credits on TV shows including McHale’s Navy, Bewitched and The Hollywood Palace.
Raquel’s breakout role came in 1966 when she starred in Fantastic Voyage, a classic sci-fi film directed by Harry Kleiner. That same year, she appeared in One Million Years B.C., which made her a sex symbol thanks to the deerskin bikini she wore in a promotional still for the movie.
“I’m asked if I still have that bikini, but there were about six of them, and they’re probably in an archive somewhere. One day one of them will turn up in a museum or auction,” the Hannie Caulder actress told The Sunday Post in August 2018. “I’m not sure if I will ever wear it again but you never know — perhaps one day the script will drop through the door for Two Million Years B.C. If it does, I hope it has more dialogue than the first one. I had three lines in that, the rest was silent.”
Raquel went on to star in dozens of films over the years, including Myra Breckinridge, The Last of Sheila and The Wild Party. In 1975, she earned a Golden Globe Award for her performance as Constance Bonacieux in The Three Musketeers, which also starred Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain. Rom-com fans may also remember her as Mrs. Windham-Vandermark from 2001’s Legally Blonde.
The Forget About It star posed for Playboy in 1979, but she refused to appear nude, instead wearing a red swimsuit. “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,” Hugh Hefner later wrote of the Spin City veteran. “She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully. The pictures prove her point.”
The 8 Simple Rules alum’s last film and TV credits came in 2017 when she appeared in the film How to Be a Latin Lover and on the series Date My Dad.
Raquel was married four times: to James Welch from 1959 to 1964, to Patrick Curtis from 1967 to 1972, to André Weinfeld from 1980 to 1990 and to Richard Palmer from 1999 to 2004. The 100 Rifles and her first husband shared son Damon and daughter Tahnee, born in 1959 and 1961, respectively.
Though Raquel was born to a Bolivian father whose last name was Tejada, Curtis — who was her agent before they wed — advised her to keep her ex-husband’s last name to avoid being typecast as a Latina actress. The Lady in Cement star embraced her heritage in her later years, revealing that she’d also been advised to change her first name to Debbie.
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“People didn’t like my name and they said it was too ethnic, too difficult to pronounce, too exotic,” she told the Associated Press in 2015. “They wanted to change it and I was not happy at all. I did really feel like Raquel.”
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