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Raquel Welch dead at 82: Former actress and sex symbol passes away after brief illness

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Actress Raquel Welch, who rose to fame as a sex symbol of the 1960s, died on Wednesday after a brief illness. She was 82.

“Raquel Welch, the legendary bombshell actress of film, television and stage, passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness,” her rep said in a statement to New York Post.

“The 82 year-old actress burst into Hollywood in her initial roles in [One Million Years B.C.] and Fantastic Voyage.

“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.”

Her long resume also includes Bedazzled, Myra Breckinridge and a memorable turn on the sitcom Seinfeld. But it was her breakout role in the 1966 sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage that made her a household name and cemented her sex symbol status.

“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,” Welch told The Post in 2012 about her role as a medical team member trying to save an injured diplomat’s life.

“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.”

Born on September 5, 1940, Welch became interested in performing at a young age by taking part in ballet and beauty pageants. She attended San Diego State College on a theatre arts scholarship and starred in several local theatre productions.

Welch is a two-time Golden Globe nominee, winning the musical/comedy motion picture award in 1975 for her performance in The Three Musketeers, which starred Faye Dunaway and Charlton Heston.

“My first day on set, Faye Dunaway comes over to me all dolled up, and she was so cute. She said, ‘Darling, I just want you to know, I’m a big fan of yours. But don’t you know, they’re all just waiting for us to tear each other’s eyes out. So let’s have fun with them,’” Welch told The Post a decade ago.“Everyone on set was going, ‘Uh-oh, here they come,’ standing there watching. And Faye gets out her fan and starts fanning herself, saying, ‘Darling, I adore your work.’ And I say, ‘Everything you do is genius!’ Everyone was so disappointed.”

Welch instantly became a pin-up girl when she wore a deer skin bikini in the 1996 movie One Million Years B.C. But despite her sex symbol status, she viewed herself differently.

“I was happy that I had got a break so I could have my career, but at the same time, it was like: ‘This isn’t me. But this is what I have to do because this is my ticket to ride,’” she wrote of the role in her memoir, Raquel: Beyond The Cleavage.

“I’m not in a position to just say: ‘Oh, no, wait a minute. You’ve got it all wrong. I’d like to do Shakespeare.’”

Welch was named one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History by Empire magazine in 1995.

Hugh Hefner, the creator and curator of the Playboy empire, once said she was the “woman that I most wanted to have in the magazine” because she seemed “ageless”.

“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,” Hefner wrote in Playboy: The Celebrities.

“She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully. The pictures prove her point.”

Welch received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. She portrayed a diva-ish version of herself on the 1997 Seinfeld episode, “The Summer of George”. In it, Kramer wins a Tony Award for his play, which stars Welch. In order to keep his award, he must fire the actress. It doesn’t go well.

Welch’s final movie role was in 2017’s How To Be A Latin Lover. Her final TV credit was also that year in Date My Dad. In later years, Welch found success with her signature wig collection, HAIRuWEAR.

She was spotted for the first time in over two years while stopping by the Heritage Auctions building in Beverly Hills in September 2021.

She married her high school sweetheart, James Welch, in 1959 and had two children: Damon, 63, and Latanne “Tahnee”, 61. The couple divorced in 1964.

Welch would marry three more times: Patrick Curtis (1967-1972), André Weinfeld (1980-1990), and Richard Palmer (1999-2004).

This article originally appeared in New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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