When Raquel Welsh stepped into her fur bikini to battle dinosaurs for One Million Years BC, she likely had no idea that she’d be suffering for it for years to come.
1. She Wanted A Different Life
Jo Raquel Tejada was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 5, 1940. Her mother was English and was the daughter of a famous architect. Her father, from La Paz, Bolivia, was an engineer in aeronautics.
Welch had a cousin back in Bolivia who later became the South American country’s first female president. Welch, however, didn’t have much interest in politics: She wanted to dance.
2. She Wasn’t Right
The Tejada family—mom, dad, and three kids—moved from Chicago to San Diego, California when Welch was just two years old. By the time she was seven, Welch was already studying ballet.
After giving ballet ten years of her young life, she got some devastating news: Her teacher told her she didn’t have the right body for it. But Welch wasn’t easily discouraged and quickly turned to something she did have the body for.
3. She Was A Winner
Welch began entering beauty pageants. As a teenager, she won numerous titles. She was Miss Photogenic, Miss Contour, and while still in high school, she was Miss La Jolla. When the San Diego Fair was in session, Welch became Miss San Diego—the Fairest of the Fair.
As Welch blossomed into a stunning young woman, she began exploring new ways of wielding the power of her beauty.
4. She Fell In Love At First Sight
Raquel Welch met her “first true love” when she was only 15, James Welch. In her memoir, she confessed that it was love at first sight: “From the first minute I saw him, I secretly knew that I was destined to have his babies”. But sadly, these high school sweethearts weren’t destined for a happy ending.
5. She Was His Opposite
Raquel Welch’s first love was something out of a teen dream: She was a cheerleader and he was a football player. But there were also polar opposites. She was extroverted and brainy, while James was introverted and dropped out of school. However, their rollercoaster ride of a relationship had some more twists in store.
6. She Disappointed Her Parents
Though Welch broke up with James for a short while, the couple eventually reconnected—and decided to take a huge risk. In 1959, she dropped out of college and flew off to Las Vegas with her beau, where they married. Welch’s parents were not impressed with her decisions, but it was about to get so much worse.
7. She Became A Young Mom
Raquel and James Welch didn’t waste any time. The very same year they said “I do,” they welcomed their first child, a son named Damon. Welch was only 19 years old at the time and later confessed that it was a “painfully young age”—one of the reasons that her marriage dissolved in 1964. But that wasn’t all.
8. Her Marriage Fell Apart
Two years after the birth of her first child, Welch welcomed a baby girl named Tahnee. But starting a family didn’t save her marriage at all. To make matters worse, both Welch and her husband had very different plans for the future.
Her career ambitions clashed with his “own ideas,” and eventually, the high school sweethearts decided to divorce. With her life turned upside-down, Welch decided to try something new.
9. She Wanted A Change
Looking for a change, Welch packed up the kids and moved to Dallas, Texas. Once settled, she took whatever jobs she could find to pay the bills. She was a model for the department store Neiman Marcus and served cocktails at a bar.
This was not a great time for her and the kids, and Welch eventually decided she’d be better off in Los Angeles. She had dreams of a life in show business, but it was also a life of uncertainty.
10. She Met A Man
Once in LA, Welch hit up the studios for roles in films. Eventually, she met someone who would change her life in a big way.
His name was Patrick Curtis and he’d once been a child star. Curtis saw something in Welch—to be honest, most men did—but he thought she could be a star. His first piece of advice?
Hang on to your ex-husband’s last name. The reason for this was shocking.
11. She Had To Hide It
Patrick Curtis had the plan to make Welch into a Hollywood seductress—but he didn’t think Welch could succeed with her Latin-sounding family name. This was the 1960s, and most Americans still wanted their fantasy women to fit their limited ideals. Welch agreed to play it safe—and that’s when her new life began.
12. She Became A Star
In 1965, two big life events rocked Welch’s world. Firstly, she landed her first featured role—this was in the beachy film, A Swingin’ Summer. Next, The Hollywood Deb Stars made a big announcement.
The Hollywood Deb Stars was an event that showcased new talent in Hollywood—women only. Getting chosen was an honor and could lead to bigger things. In 1962, Welch became a Deb Star, and the photo spread in Life magazine got her all kinds of attention.
13. She Hung Onto It
Being a Deb Star certainly amped up Welch’s career. She got recommended to 20th Century Fox and Curtis helped her get a contract. But the studio wanted her to make a change before they cast her in a movie.
They were happy with the name Welch, but not so much with Raquel. According to the studio, it didn’t roll off the tongue very easily. They suggested “Debbie”. Welch, even though she was new in the business, ignored their suggestion and kept her name as Raquel Welch for the rest of her life.
14. She Was Eye Candy
Welch’s first film for Fox was 1966’s Fantastic Voyage. This was about a group of scientists who shrink themselves down to a microscopic size, and then inject themselves into the body of a scientist in order to save his life. Welch was certainly the eye candy of the group, and it caused some misadventures.
In one scene, the shrunken scientists are supposed to grab at each other’s bodies to remove antibodies that were sticking to them. The scene didn’t go as planned.
15. She Was Untouchable
The problem with this scene was that none of the actors felt comfortable reaching out to Welch’s chest area. This left Welch with a chest covered in antibodies. The director had to cut the scene and insist that the actor remove the antibodies from all over Welch—including her breasts. What happened next was kind of inevitable—now all the actors lunged straight for her chest.
Perhaps Welch intimidated some of her co-stars with her beauty. However, one man seemed immune to her charms.
16. She Faced Rejection
While filming Fantastic Voyage, Welch became infatuated with her co-star, Irish actor Stephen Boyd who had previously been in Ben-Hur. Welch later said that she made her interest known to Boyd. Apparently, Boyd was blind—or had some other reason–and he rejected the keen actress’s advances.
Well, the movie-going public didn’t ignore Welch. Fantastic Voyage was a huge hit, and the actress became an instant star. Boyd would always be the one that got away, but he wasn’t the biggest romantic disappointment in store for her.
17. She Tied The Knot
Remember, it was a man named Patrick Curtis who managed Welch’s rise to stardom. Well, it turned out they were more than just business partners.
On Valentine’s Day in 1967, Welch and Curtis tied the knot. So, now Curtis was doing double duty: keeping his wife happy at home and her movie career afloat. Well, Welch was about to make another movie and it would change her life—for better and for worse—forever.
18. She Went Back In Time
20th Century Fox now had a big movie star on their payroll. So, what would their first move be with her? They loaned Welch out to Hammer Studios in the UK. Hammer Studios was making One Million Years BC, a story of a fictional time when humans and dinosaurs coexisted. Welch definitely made an impression—but not as much as her costume did.
19. She Caused A Sensation
Because Welch was basically playing a cavewoman, she had exactly one outfit. The costume department was in a bit of a pickle about what Welch would wear. They wanted something that would be historically correct—so they used deer skin. They also wanted her to look provocative—so they made it into a bikini.
The result was a fur bikini that sent young men into the throes of utter passion—at least while they were staring at her posters.
20. She Wore It Well
Besides young lusty teens staring at a poster, The New York Times also took notice of Welch. They called her “a marvelous breathing monument to womankind”. Welch was now a huge star and the indisputable pin-up girl of the 1960s.
Years later, Time magazine made a list of the top bikinis of pop culture. Welch’s furry number ended up in the top ten. Without a doubt, her appearance in One Million Years BC helped make her a major celebrity, but what did Welch think of it?
21. She Thought It Was Silly
Even though Welch later called One Million Years BC “that silly dinosaur movie,” it did make her into an almost timeless star. The poster of her has even appeared in other movies including The Shawshank Redemption. Welch, however, wanted more than fur bikinis and grunting like a cavewoman. She wanted to act.
Fortunately, the opportunity was just around the corner.
22. She Took A Risk
1966 found Welch in Italy and working on a film that would require real acting and no special effects. Welch was going to be acting with one of Italy’s most iconic performers: Marcello Mastroianni. The bizarre title of the film was Shoot Louder, Louder…I Don’t Understand—a comedy-drama about a sculptor.
It was Welch’s first try at a role that wasn’t sci-fi—but it didn’t exactly pan out the way she expected it to.
23. She Came Out On Top
Critics had some pretty horrible things to say about Shoot Louder, Louder…I Don’t Understand. The Los Angeles Times compared it to a stale piece of pizza, and the Chicago Tribune said it was a “disastrous dud”. There was some good news, however.
Her co-star, Mastroianni said that Welch was very good for a comedy. With this glowing endorsement, Welch hung around Italy a little longer to see what came up.
24. She Was A Princess
Since she was already in Italy, there was an American movie for MGM that needed her. It was a heist film called The Biggest Bundle of Them All and her co-stars were Robert Wagner and Edward G Robinson. Welch was fairly new to Hollywood films, but that didn’t stop her from pulling some serious princess moves.
Apparently, she was late every day until Robinson—known for playing tough guys—finally told her off. Welch was immediately in tears and promised to do better. The only thing is, she didn’t.
25. They Reprimanded Her
The day after Edward G Robinson told Welch to stop being late for the day’s shoot, she was late again. To be fair, she needed a lot more hair and makeup as she was once again the eye candy of the film. The director, however, had another problem with Welch.
She didn’t know her lines. The director told Welch flat out that if she didn’t improve, he was not going to give her any close-ups and he was going to leave her out of any scene he could. Welch’s behavior improved immediately. But was it enough to keep her in Hollywood?
26. She Was Just A Body
After making The Biggest Bundle of Them All with Welch, Robinson told reporters that he was impressed with Welch’s body and her publicity campaign. He just hoped she could live up to it, “because a body will only take you so far”. Well, Welch was about to have to prove that she was more than just a body.
27. She Was The Lead
Fathom is a spy comedy made by 20th Century Fox and filmed in Spain. Here, Welch is a skydiver trying to recover a lost nuclear device. This was a big moment for Welch. Sure she was still eye candy, but she was also the lead actor. Critics and audiences would be able to see if she could carry a movie or not.
28. She Got A Zero
Film critic Roger Ebert made an exception for Fathom and did something he almost never did: He gave it zero stars. The Los Angeles Times compared Welch to Maria Montez who had a reputation for being a poor actor but looking good on film.
People on the set of Fathom unkindly referred to Welch as a “dumb broad” or a “drum majorette”. Peter Medak—second unit director—saw something else in Welch.
He noticed that she watched the rushes every day and that she was trying to improve. He saw great things for Welch’s future.
29. She Said No
There were good things ahead for Welch, but Valley of the Dolls wasn’t one of them. 20th Century Fox was adapting the famous novel about a group of young women and their addictions. Welch wanted the lead role and the producers wanted her for Jennifer—a woman who uses her body to get what she wants.
Welch was trying hard to get away from just being a beautiful body. Fox wouldn’t relent, and so Welch gave Valley of the Dolls a pass. The role of Jennifer went to future Manson victim, Sharon Tate.
30. She Was Lust
While Valley of the Dolls went on to become a cult classic, Welch made Bedazzled with Dudley Moore. If Welch was looking for more serious roles that didn’t rely on her body, she made a poor choice here.
Welch—who plays Lust—appeared in most movie posters for the film. The surprising thing is that Welch is in the movie for around seven minutes. Don’t worry, Welch was about to get much more than seven minutes of fame.
31. She Went West
Welch’s next project was going to include some heavy hitters from Hollywood. Her co-stars in Bandolero! were James Stewart and Dean Martin. The film’s a western and Welch manages to keep her clothes on for most of the film. She did learn something from this film.
When Stewart heard Welch complain about signing autographs, he gave her some sage advice. He said that she should sign them, as the people asking for them are “paying your salary”. Welch took his advice and never stopped signing.
32. She Was Proud
Despite its star power, Bandalero! was only a modest success. Welch herself later said that she was pleased with her acting and was glad she wasn’t running around with no clothes on.
James Stweart had this opinion of Welsh: He said, in an obvious reference to her chest size, that Welch “would stack up all right”. No matter how hard Welch tried, people continued to see her as just a body.
33. She Acted With A Famous Crooner
For her next film, Welch entered the ring with yet another heavy hitter, Frank Sinatra. The movie was 1968’s Lady in Cement and it was a comedy thriller that had Welch in a bathing suit for the poster and even included her measurements. But the film made no money for 20th Century Fox, and reviewers had mixed feelings about it.
Welch got a rather backhanded compliment from Variety magazine, who said she “adds her limited, but beauteous contribution” to the film. Welch couldn’t seem to get a break. No matter who she worked with, she couldn’t find a hit film or, more importantly, an ounce of respect.
34. She Caused A Stir
In 1969, Welch appeared in another western and caused a controversy. In 100 Rifles she has an onscreen love scene with Jim Brown. The controversy was because of the interracial relationship: Welch was white and Brown was Black. But that wasn’t the only scene to garner the actress some attention.
Welch’s character takes an outdoor shower to distract some servicemen. The director wanted Welch to do the scene without any clothes and Welch wisely refused.
35. She Just Wanted Respect
Myra Breckinridge sees Welch playing a transgender person—something that Welch thought would get her some respect. The sad thing is that Welch was likely cast again because of her beauty.
The producer of the film famously said that “If a man were going to become a woman, he would want to become the most beautiful woman in the world. He would become Raquel Welch”. It was cast for the sake of spectacle and the film was, in short, nothing less than a disaster.
36. She Caused Trouble
Besides being panned by nearly every critic, Myra Breckinridge had scandals galore backstage. Firstly, Mae West had a bizarre stipulation in her contract—that only she would get to wear black and white dresses. Well, Welch showed up for their scene together in a black dress but she’d added a white ruffle to it.
West lost it and complained to the producers. Welch accommodated West by dying the ruffle pale blue—which she knew would show on screen as white. These two women were sworn enemies, that it, until they ganged up on the new girl.
37. They Made Her Dye
Farrah Fawcett made her big screen debut in Myra Breckinridge and had a heck of a time with co-stars Welch and West. First West refused to work with Fawcett because she was blonde. This led Fawcett to having her hair dyed. When Welch saw her new do, she lost a gasket as well.
Fawcett’s hair looked too much like hers. Fawcett returned to hair and makeup and landed on a shade that lay somewhere between West’s and Welch’s. In the end, however, Myra Breckinridge did nothing for Welch’s career, and for a while, she seemed done with movies.
38. She Turned To Television
When Playboy magazine called Welch the “most desired woman of the 1970s,” of course she took it as a compliment. She also got the chance to go up on stage at the Oscars. She presented a few times in the 1970s and even accepted an award for Goldie Hawn. But still, it was all about her looks.
In 1970, CBS released a TV special called Raquel!. They shot this extravaganza in many exotic locations, and it featured stars like Tom Jones and Bob Hope. In it, Welch shows what she can do.
She sings, dances, and even recites a poem. Raquel! was a hit, but Welch was not yet done trying to be a serious Hollywood actor.
39. She Did It Herself
Sometime between films, Welch and her husband—and manager—Curtis put together their own production company. They named it Curtwel which was an awkward combination of their two names. With her own company, Welch would be able to get parts that showcased her talent as an actor, and not just her body.
The result was 1971’s western Hannie Caulder. This was a different western to most as it had a female lead: Welch of course. This female revenge story later inspired Quentin Tarantino to make his Kill Bill movies. Sadly, it didn’t come close to their popularity.
40. She Dated A Hot Bachelor
Reviews for Hannie Caulder were generally bad, and a year later, her personal life also took a hit. Her marriage to her business partner and husband was over. Welch hadn’t been single for a long time and so she chose America’s hottest bachelor to have on her arm.
Football player Joe Namath had a reputation for being a womanizer, but he gave it up—at least temporarily—to be with Welch. The two dated on and off during the 1970s. Welch wasn’t about to be a wife again; she’d wait another decade to do that.
41. She Played Herself
Throughout the 1970s, Welch continued to make films that didn’t really stand out, but one exception was the positively reviewed murder mystery, The Last of Sheila. Welch played a character whom she assumed was based on Ann Margaret. What she didn’t know was that the character she played was actually based on her.
It turned out the writers of the film were too afraid to tell her because her character wasn’t all that likeable.
42. She Wasn’t Dreadful
In the 1980s, Welch took her search for serious roles to television. She appeared in The Legend of Walks Far Woman where she played an Indigenous woman in the 19th century. NBC held off on airing the movie because they thought it was a disaster.
The New York Times had this to say: “there is nothing dreadfully wrong with Miss Welch’s performance…it’s just that the entire story is boring”. I’d say that Welch took that as a compliment.
Luckily, the decade had far more in store for the actress, especially when it came to matters of the heart.
43. She Married A Beast
The 1980s also saw Welch with a new man on her arm. André Weinfeld was a French and American producer, director, screenwriter, and even a journalist. But the French press was cruel to the couple and called them “Beauty and the Beast,” pointing out that André wasn’t much to look at.
But no amount of criticism could stop the couple from exchanging vows on the beach on July 5, 1980, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Welch had a new husband, and now, she needed a new direction for her career.
44. She Saw Her Name In Lights
Raquel Welch headed to the stage. On Broadway, she stepped into some very intimidating shoes. She replaced Lauren Bacall in Woman of the Year for two weeks while Bacall was on vacation. Bacall’s was a tough act to follow, but critics seemed to love Welch.
She was even asked back the following year for a six-month stint. After that, it should have been smooth sailing for the actress. But as you may have guessed—it wasn’t.
45. She Got The Boot
In 1982, Welch finally got a chance to show off her dramatic chops in a big Hollywood movie. It was Cannery Row and she was going to be opposite superstar Nick Nolte. Unfortunately, Welch sabotaged herself by refusing to do any early morning rehearsals.
The producers fired Welch and hired the much younger Debra Winger. Welch saw red and quickly hired a lawyer. Her settlement was for over $10 million—and the movie was not a success. She won in court, but her reputation had taken a huge hit.
46. She Shared Her Secrets
Welch’s day in court cost her quite a few roles so, like many female Hollywood stars, she decided to share some beauty secrets. With her husband working as her photographer, she released the book The Raquel Welch Beauty and Fitness Program. With that success, she then expanded to selling wigs, jewelry, and even skincare.
Much later, in 2007, MAC cosmetics selected her as the newest face of their company. They called her “strong and wild, yet sultry and exotic”. With that description, Welch had no problem finding a new man.
47. She Got Him Tickets
By 1992, Welch’s marriage to her French producer was over. Four years later, she met another man who also produced—but he produced pizza. Richard Palmer was the owner of Mulberry Street Pizzeria. The two dated for three years before walking down the aisle in 1999.
This may have been a marriage of convenience for Palmer. He seemed to be thrilled with his marriage because of a strange reason: Her name could get him great seats to all the best boxing matches. But sadly, the marriage ended in 2003, and Palmer had to find his own tickets.
48. She Went Quietly
Throughout her life, Welch always maintained that her glamorous persona on the screen was far from her real-life quiet lifestyle. The end of her life came as quietly as she said she’d lived it. After a brief illness, she passed at home in Los Angeles at the age of 82.
Her daughter, Tahnee Welch carries on the family name. She’s done a few movies and TV shows and—for better or worse—Playboy magazine.
49. She Didn’t Get It
When Welch started out, she got bit parts in TV shows and films—one even with Elvis Presley. Eventually, she got the audition of a lifetime: for Gilligan’s Island. Likely Welch had no idea that the show would become an icon of TV sitcoms.
Instead of getting to read for the glamorous Ginger, producers had her read for the wholesome Mary Ann. Obviously, she didn’t get it, but boy would her life have been different if she had.
50. She Was Herself
More than one of the actors appearing in The Last of Sheila had complaints about Welch. Apparently, she threw a tantrum where she flung some props around the set. Co-star Ian McShane said that Welch just assumed people wouldn’t like her. However, James Mason was brutally frank.
He called her “a selfish, ill-mannered, inconsiderate actress”. With her sultry good looks, many people mistakenly believe Raquel Welch was a Bond girl. Maybe her scandalous behavior on set had something to do with the fact that she never starred alongside 007.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21,