That last bit of news might come as a surprise as you chat in her home high in the hills of Los Angeles. "I was a bigger-than-life persona before I was anyone in my own mind," she says.
But the camisole she's wearing under the sheer leopard-print blouse barely camouflages the famous attribute headlined in The New York Times best-seller Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. Just 26 at the time, the single mother of two toddlers was separated from their father, her high school sweetheart Jim Welch.
"If they didn't watch their p's and q's, they were going to get into trouble — with their reputation, a broken heart or any of the other possible complications." She's held her own in a male-dominated industry, but celebrates the distinction between the sexes.
"I'm the antidote to Lindsay Lohan," she says, laughing."I know she misbehaves terribly, but sometimes it just seems like it's open season on her." When Welch was growing up, "women and young girls got the sense that they had to be in charge of what went on between them and men and society," she says.The show revolved around a Mexican American family and its search for the American dream.Director Gregory Nava, also raised in La Jolla, sought out Welch for the part of Aunt Dora, the comic yet poignant sister of the family patriarch played by Edward James Olmos.'" (Her impression of his gravelly voice is dead on.) "I said, 'I'm worried we're going to make a bad movie.'" She was right — the film was a flop.
But a few years later, she won a Golden Globe as the accident-prone young maiden in The Three Musketeers: The Queen's Diamonds, a much happier set.
'" To that end, six years ago she began working with the American Cancer Society as spokesperson and creative collaborator for Hair U Wear's line of Raquel Welch Signature Collection wigs.
"When women go to the mirror and see their hair falling out, it's like they see the cancer winning," she says.
"When I first came to Hollywood," she says, "other people may have thought, 'You poor thing, you don't have a car, you have two children, what possessed you? I didn't know if I did right to leave Jim and thought, 'This thing better work for me, and I better really keep my eye on the ball and be careful.'" Caution notwithstanding, she was brave in her choices, starring as a transsexual in 1970's Myra Breckinridge opposite John Huston, Mae West and Farrah Fawcett.
Filming was rough, with script changes and new directions daily. "John Huston knocked one time and said, 'Now Raquel, what seems to be the problem?
"I regret that I didn't give that marriage more of a chance," she says.