Actress Raquel Welch, who shot to fame as an international sex symbol of the 1960s, died on Wednesday. She was 82. Welsh died after suffering from a brief illness at her Los Angeles home, her family told TMZ. Tributes started pouring in from all corners, the moment news of her death broke.
Welch broke the stereotype of the "blonde bombshell" in 1966 when she appeared in Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years BC back-to-back. The actress was asked by Playboy on numerous occasions to pose nude for their cover, but she turned down the offer every time out of concern for her father's feelings.
Death of an Icon
Welch's death was confirmed by her rep Steve Sauer. "Raquel Welch, the legendary bombshell actress of film, television and stage, passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness," her Sauer said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Her career spanned over 50 years starring in over 30 films and 50 television series and appearances," said Sauer.
"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 daughter Tahnee Welch."
Welch broke the stereotype of the "blonde bombshell" in 1966 when she appeared in Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years BC back-to-back.
From there, she went on to make numerous film and television appearances and won a Golden Globe for playing Constance de Bonacieux in the 1974 adaptation of The Three Musketeers.
She has appeared in "Bedazzled," "Myra Breckinridge," and Seinfeld, among other notable roles in her extensive CV. However, her breakthrough performance in the 1966 science fiction film "Fantastic Voyage" established her as a household name and solidified her image as a sex icon.
"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 New York Post during an interview in 2012 on 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," she added.
Tributes started pouring in soon after the announcement of her death. "This is so sad," tweeted actor Paul Feig.
"I had the great pleasure of working with Ms. Welch when I was a regular on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and she was awesome.
"Kind, funny and a true superstar whom I was pretty much in love with for most of my childhood. We've lost a true icon."
Actor Titus Welliver, 60, tweeted: "Raquel Welch has departed. An iconic beauty and actor. RIP."
Abbott Elementary star Bruno Amato said he had met Welch not long ago, and was bewitched. "Raquel Welch. This was 7 years ago. She was a guest on 'The Talk' and I was working on the show 'Baby Daddy. Somehow our dressing rooms were across from each other. She was so gracious and still a total bombshell and I was in complete awe,"
Tributes Pour In
Jo-Raquel Tejada was born on September 5, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, to American mother Josephine Sarah Hall and Bolivian father Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo, an aviation engineer.
She had two younger siblings, James and Gayle Tejada. When Welch was two years old, the family relocated to San Diego, California, while her father worked on the war effort.
She and her mother would frequently go to church.
Welch started taking ballet lessons when she was seven years old, but she gave up after she turned 10 after learning that her body type was not suitable for professional ballet companies.
Welch won beauty titles at the age of 14 such as Miss Photogenic and Miss Contour. She went on to win Miss La Jolla and the title of Miss San Diego, the Fairest of the Fair, at the San Diego County Fair. She eventually received the title Maid of California.
After graduating from high school, Welch attended San Diego State College on a theater arts scholarship. She married her high school love, James Welch, in 1959.
She eventually quit acting to work as a weather forecaster for a local San Diego television station after only landing jobs in local theater organizations
Welch struggled to support herself after divorcing her first husband by working as a cocktail waitress and a model for Neiman Marcus.
She relocated to Los Angeles in 1963 in order to fulfill her lifelong ambition of becoming a movie star.
There, she met Patrick Curtis, a former child star who subsequently became her husband and personal and business manager. To avoid being stereotyped as a Latina actress, he had advised her to keep using her ex-name.
She had small parts in the movies "A House Is Not a Home" and Elvis Presley's "Roustabout" for her first foray into Hollywood. She was cast in a number of popular television shows, including Bewitched, The Virginian, and McHale's Navy.
Welch played his first prominent role in the 1965 beach movie A Swingin' Summer. She received some attention the same year because of her appearance in Life Magazine, notably from the producer Saul David's wife, who suggested she sign a deal with 20th Century Fox.
Her role as a part of a medical team that is compressed and injected into a wounded ambassador in Fantastic Voyage gave her the huge break she so desperately needed.
After that, the studio lent Hammer Studios in the UK her contract so they could do One Million Years BC.
Welch was a two-time Golden Globe nominee and who won the award in 1975 for "The Three Musketeers," which also starred Charlton Heston and Faye Dunaway, for best actress in a musical or comedy film.
Empire magazine listed Welch as one of the "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" in 1995. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Welch's acting career skyrocketed.
She is survived by her two children, Tahnee and Damon Welch, who were from her fourth marriage with Richard Palmer, which lasted from 1999 to 2004.
Besides James Welch, she was previously married to Patrick Curtis from 1967 to 1972, and Andre Weinfeld from 1980 to 1990 before she tied the knot with Palmer.