Raquel Welch, Quite Possibly the Greatest Sex Symbol the World Has Known, Dies at Age 82
There have been bigger movie stars. There have been more impressive filmographies. Goodness knows there have been better actors. But when it comes to the very specific talent for creating desire in others, perhaps no other figure in Hollywood history can compare to Raquel Welch.
I've given this plenty of consideration, long before the news of her tragic passing today. And here's my thought experiment. Let's say you held an All Time Sex Symbol Draft. Open to all. with no restrictions. Any women, from any era, in any field of entertainment. Who's your first round pick? I'm sure a lot of people would say Marilyn Monroe. Older guys might go with someone from the black and white era, Ingrid Bergman or Rita Hayworth. Recency bias would kick in so you'd get a lot of Jennifer Anistons and Scarlet Johanssens. But if I draw the No. 1 overall pick, I'm taking Raquel right off the board first.
Unfortunately, I don't have a ton of memories of my father. But one very specific one that's always stuck with me is when I was about 8 years old. watching a movie called One Million Years B.C. I was watching it to see cavemen battle cheesily done stop motion animated dinosaurs. (Note, it's not the most anthropologically accurate thing ever committed to film; a lot more "Fi" than "Sci.") And I was super pleasantly surprised Bud Thornton was watching it with me, because dinosaurs never seemed to hold the same fascination for the guys who saved the world from the Axis Powers that they did for their kids. So that was a good day.
Then I caught the movie again one day when I was like 18. And then it made all the sense in the world. For him, it wasn't so much the Neanderthals battling pterodactyls with spears. It was Raquel as the first cavewoman to shave her legs and armpits:
If you've never seen this cinematic tour de force, it still might seem familiar to you because Welch in that costume was Warden Norton's "Fussy Britches" that Andy Dufresne hid his tunnel behind. Spoiler? I guess? (0:40 mark):
She was so iconic in fact, that even at the age of 82, she was still appearing regularly on my Twitter and Instagram feeds:
Including this gem, which I screencapped not two weeks ago and posted to a text chain of five great friends. And we all agreed if she'd gotten either part, the show would never have been cancelled. Or as awful as it was:
To repeat, she was not Meryl Streep. She was an actress in name only. Her range was somewhere between being attractive in a bathing suit and being attractive in a skin tight outfit. Basically the first element of writing a part for her was figuring out how to get her character near water. Or in the case of Fantastic Voyage, shrinking her and the crew of a submarine down to microscopic size and injecting them into a human body for reasons. But putting her a white wet suit was mission critical:
Which was parodied to perfection in a "Treehouse of Horror" by Marge back when The Simpsons was still at its peak. (1:42 mark):
And in an intersting bit of trivia, she once did a Western with Jim Brown. An incredible crossover event with the sex symbol GOAT joining forces with the running back GOAT:
And to Raquel's eternal credit, she kept the Hollywood queen glamor going long past the age a lesser star would faded. She was a regular on the talk show circuit,. Sang and danced back when that was expected of pretty much every celebrity:
Plus she did comedy well into the 1990s:
And obviously never didn't look amazing doing all of the above.
So rest in peace to a true star in every sense, back in a time when that word still held some meaning. Raquel Welch created feelings in generations of Americans that often they themselves didn't understand. Appreciate her on this day, because she passes this way but once.