A 26 year old Raquel Welsh appeared in a a doeskin bikini for the film One Million Years B.C in 1966. Almost instantly, the mother of two become an overnight sex symbol sensation. Raquel went on to star in more than 30 movies and dozens of television shows. Along the way she was on the cover of Time and starred with leading men like Frank Sinatra. She took a turn on Broadway and also won a Golden Globe for her role in The Three Musketeers. Offscreen, Raquel’s signature wig line has made more than $500 million in sales, proving she has a head for business. Recently she made GQ’s magazines list of sexiest women of all time. They said, “back when women had bodies, Welsh was the body”.
If this is what 69 looks, like, bring it on. Welcome Raquel Welsh, says Oprah. The crowd go crazy. Wowee, says Oprah, wowee. Wowee. They embrace and compliment each other. Wowee, says Oprah. This is the question, do you feel as good as you look? Barely, says Raquel, laughing. She has her mornings when she likes herself but generally 90% of the time it’s Oh my God. This morning was disastrous- it takes her 3 hours to get ready which is why she looks so good- for her game face. In the book she says as you get older you have to decided if you are going to get in the game or check out, says Oprah. Raquel says that people decide that it’s over for them, they believe in the propaganda. Oprah says that there is a world of propaganda that when you reach 40, and especially 50, that it is over for you.
Oprah says that Raquel wrote the book because she finally wanted to be heard, and the title speaks to that so well: Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. The crowd cheer. Oprah was interested to hear that she was a somewhat reluctant sex symbol. Yes, says Raquel, when she came to Hollywood she wanted to be a serious actress, she was already the mother of two small children. Oprah didn’t know that until she read this book. Oprah thinks that the powers that were at the time didn’t want us to know, because it would ruin the sexy image. It wasn’t common knowledge says Raquel, she didn’t parade it around alot. When she first came to Hollywood, it was really clear that no actresses really had children. So she didn’t really know which path her career would take. She had her first baby at 19 with her highschool sweetheart. When it turned out that people really liked her because of her body and her sultry look, then..,.
Oprah interrupts to say that at the time everyone was gaga over Marilyn Monroe and that Raquel was not blond enough. Yes says Raquel, when she came to LA and tried to do some modeling just to get a job, they hated her body, everything was wrong. Too much here, not enough here.. Can you imagine, says Oprah, the guy who turned down Raquel Welsh is in an institution somewhere.
On page 23 of the book, Raquel writes that several million copies of the image were circulated throughout the planet. She became every males fantasy from that film. What did that feel like, asks Oprah. “Part of it was really flattering and fun,” she says. “The other part was just really scary as hell.” She felt she couldn’t live up to expectations. Sex sells so then there was this barrage of attention, photographs and photographs celebrating things that she didn’t feel worthy of. She was happy that she had got a break so she could have her 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 says. “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, I’d like to do something really serious”’.
Oprah loves that there is a point in the book where she went to see the director of the film and said she’d been thinking. It was on One Million Years B.C., when Raquel tried to approach director Don Chaffey with her ideas for a scene, making the best of her script. She said “Don, I’ve been thinking. I’ve been looking at the script and I’ve been thinking.” And he said, “Don’t.”He was the first in a long line of directors and producers who didn’t “give a rats ass” what she thought.
Oprah asks if she felt powerful or manipulated and controlled. “I felt I was being manipulated and things were moving without my consent, but I was also trying to calculate, because I’m not stupid. Maybe this has a good side to it and I better go with it and see where it might take me”. Oprah asks if they can have a really candid conversation when they come back from break because Raquel is a sex and beauty icon in the world. “Used to be” says Raquel. “No, still are” corrects Oprah, “absolutely still are”. The crowd applaud. Oprah says that she is always fascinated by extraordinarily beautiful women and what that does to your psyche. What happens when you walk into a room and the room stops. Oprah says that she has a good personality but the room doesn’t stop, you know what I mean? More after the break.
They show a clip from 1984 where Oprah first interviewed Raquel. She asked if Raquel was scared of aging because she is so beautiful, and Raquel replied “it’s a bitch”. Oprah says she learned from that interview that Raquel demanded a lighting test before appearing. Oprah had been sitting in the dark fro a year and after that she said that she wanted better lighting. That is what Raquel did for Oprah. They shake hands.
Oprah asks her about walking into the room as a sex symbol, she had been marketed that way, and went along with it, adds Raquel. Do you feel like you are that person asks Oprah. Its not that you are that person, says Raquel, she didn’t feel that she was that person, but she was addicted to the attention and power, the doors that opened for her. “It pulled me away from my more serious artistic side, and I kind of just let the other go, to tell you the truth.” Really, asks Oprah? Raquel did what people paid to see. She did a couple of serious roles and no one cared, no one turned up. They wanted to see Raquel Welsh being Raquel Welsh, just as they wanted to see Marilyn Monroe being Marilyn Monroe. Oprah says that she has talked to Beyonce a couple of times, who says that she becomes Sasha Fierce up on stage, a performer and entertainer, an artist. Totally, says Raquel, thats what she loves about Beyonce; when she’s not performing she is humble and works so hard, the humility is touching.
Oprah asks if she was afraid of getting older? Totally, she replies. To be an aging sex symbol is not exactly a picnic. In the book, Oprah says she liked that Raquel says that old is the last remaining dirty word for a woman. The crowd applaud. You can be called a ho, a porno slut, everything- none of that means anything, but if you are called old you feel like its over. Raquel felt that getting through 50 and surviving the menopause was like a new awakening. It was like Hello Raquel, you’re like that and like that, aren’t you. It was like starting over. On page 45 she said that the battle against aging truly begins in the onset of menopause. She found herself without energy and depressed. “I used to find myself just down on the floor in a corner crying my eyes out,” she says. “I couldn’t handle anything.” Nobody warns you how it will be, they commiserate. No one wants to admit that their eggs are over and on crutches, walking out the door, says Oprah. Raquel says that she thinks that it should be called, “men on pause”. For other reasons, yes, says Oprah. Raquel realized that when the body chemistry changes, it reveals some of the underlying problems that you have, some of the issues that she has never addressed.
Oprah loves that Raquel likened it to coming into the light. Oprah says its like our bodies are pushing through all the stuff that needs to be cleaned up and cleared up, the repressed stuff, so you can move into the light of yourself. Raquel had to face herself- her career and the men in her life were an avoidance of what is in her life. Sometimes a moment of silence can be the scariest thing in the world and you don’t really want to open the door and let things in, she says. Oprah is the opposite, she loves to be alone with her thoughts. Raquel does now, she says. Oprah says that when Raquel walks into the room, people are always looking at her, and what is there when she is home alone? Raquel says she has a heart and soul; her mind, her children and her emotions are all alive and well. She just had to unravel the things that she hadn’t been dealing with, she was always too busy. Coming up, Raquel Welsh says sex is over-rated, all the women watching at home can tell their husbands that when they come home tonight.
Before break, some women weigh in on what it means to age brilliantly. Linda age 55 says having a zest for life, going for it. Last year she hiked, rode dirt bikes and ran a half marathon. When her grandson was born she thought oh good, I have a playdate. Karyn loves being 62, she will not allow her husband to buy her a seniors ticket for the movies. She is excited by what is coming next, it keeps getting more exciting and she wants to live to be 120. Shirley, age 94, thinks it’s foolish to lie about your age. She was never afraid of aging, she didn’t think about it. Irene, 85, now has time for herself to play piano and read fat books, she can stay up late reading if she wants to, she can dance by herself having fun.
Raquel Welsh mentions “spending time” with everyone from Burt Bacharach, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley. In the book she made it like a multiple choice question, because she doesn’t believe a woman should kiss and tell. Oprah thinks Elvis and Dean Martin would have been irresistible to her. “They were all interesting in their own ways,” she says. Those two guys were not the whole enchilada for her. In 1972, Raquel filmed Bluebeard in Budapest with Richard Burton. “He’s like a heat-seeking missile, a smoking hot romantic,” she says. “He was just so charismatic. He was really something”. In 1964, Raquel had a small part in Elvis’ film Roustabout. “He was like high-octane energy set on idle,” she says. “He had all this stuff in him. He was charged up. But it was all contained in this cool demeanor.” Oprah asks if Elvis ever seduced her. “He invited me someplace that I decided not to go,” she says. “I just didn’t want to be another notch in his gun.”
On page 191, Raquel writes that sex is overrated and overhyped. If you are lucky it occurs with some regularity but its not the whole enchilada. “Sex is great, of course. But sex to me is an expression of the relationship and the feelings that you have for somebody else,” she says. Oprah says that people always think that Raquel, especially at the height of her “Raquelness” must be having sex all the time. Raquel says that she is not a prude but that the chemistry is only one part. She feels that we are a society of sexhibitionists. Everywhere she turns she sees porno queens and bare midriffs and big hair on three year olds. This is crazy that we are promoting this attitude to life, what about our whole selves? As a professional actress, this is what she does but “All the men that I have really fallen for are those men that have reacted to me and have made me feel like I’m a person and it’s not that they’re going to bed with Raquel Welch,” she says. The rapport must be there between them as people, and that they are not tongue tied. She’s just a human being, she puts her high heels on one foot at a time.
Oprah asks if she’s high maintenance. “I am for work but not the rest of the time,” Raquel says. Actresses are self centered and self serving and you have to be to get certain jobs done, but the rest of the time you have to be yourself. “I’m usually just in sweatpants and some kind of raggedy shirt and my Keds.” Oprah asks how raggedy? Raquel says that the year she wrote the book she went to pot and it was liberating. What Oprah said to her earlier was the key. When she came along in that poster “I was a thing to be seen and not heard,” she says. “By the time you get to 70, you might have a couple of things you’d like to say, and you might like to reach out and have a conversation with other women.”
Oprah asks what she’d like to say to other women about aging. Raquel says the lesson for every aging woman is to embrace it. “I want them to stop being scared of it, because it’s just another chapter in life,” she says. “It’s not time for you to give up. You don’t need to repeat what you did already. Don’t keep comparing yourself.” You need to get in the game, don’t give up but don’t keep comparing yourself. It used to bother her that working out or doing yoga she couldn’t compete, but now she realizes that she is almost 70 and not 19 or 20 or 30 or 50. Improve on your own terms, don’t try and repeat the past. Oprah reads from the book where Raquel says she likes to think of aging gracefully as a game. “We might as well make up our minds to play it or just bow out and be spectators,” she says. “Sitting around doing nothing is far from the best option. Just as you maintain your home, your car, your garden, you should look after your greatest gift: your body.” Oprah loves that, thank you.
Linda, 55, says step out of your box, there is no reason why you can’t do something. Shirley, 94, would tell a young woman to learn as much as she can all the time, every day, every year. Karyn, 62, always tells people that if you don’t take care of your body, the most magnificent machine that you are given, where are you going to live? Irene, 85, says be resilient, be like a willow tree bowing to the ground in the storm. An oak tree is rigid and will crack. Things are tough, but you will get through.
Raquel has two children, Tawny and Damon. She is very honest in the book about her shortcomings as a mother. “When I’m running around the world and being Miss Sex Symbol and having this big career in film and everything and I’m running from place to place, I couldn’t always be with my children when I wanted to be,” she says. She would have governesses and tutors but that was not the same. “Eventually, I could see that this was taking its toll on my kids, and it used to just break my heart.” Oprah asks if when she was there, was she really there, or was she someplace else in her Raquelness? Was she present and fully engaged? “I was often preoccupied,” she says. “I felt loving toward them and I would tuck them in and I would soothe them, but it wasn’t the same as being there for them as a mother 24/7.” In some birthday cards, Raquel signed “Raquel” instead of “Mom” because she was so used to autographs. They are great great kids, fun and smart decent human beings. Today, Raquel says she has a great relationship with her kids, but it took work. “I just started out realizing that I really needed to swim out to the wave. I needed to take a lot more initiative and just keep letting them know that I wanted to be there in their lives with them, that I had something I could offer to them,” she says. “Little by little, the disappointment or the lack of confidence they had in me in that area melted away.” Oprah read of a time when Tawny was in private school and Raquel went to the Parent Teacher meeting in all her Raquelness. Raquel realized that she had to change gears, as their mother that was a different thing than she was used to.
Linda, 55, does not use soap, she uses Oil of Olay daily. Shirley, 94, does a series of stretching exercises with the hope that she can stretch as much on Wednesday as on Tuesday. Annette, 52, is a big fan of Bikram yoga which is done in a 105 degree room, she takes a lot of walks with the dog. Karyn, 62, says that coconut oil is her number one thing. She uses it everywhere, she eats it, she moisturizes her hair with it. She saunas, detoxes, she drinks a green drink to get a lot of chlorophyll. Irene, 85, splashes water on her face and puts on some lipstick.
Raquel says that her friends are always asking for beauty and style advice. Oprah says that they decided to have some fun with her. Gail from Knoxville, Tennessee wrote in. Gail said that she used to be hot and something happened and she lost her mojo. Menopause hit her sideways and she never recovered her drive and enthusiasm and excitement about herself. But she has a really good spirit, she’s fun, says Raquel. Oprah say that they were talking in the commercial break about Halle, J-Lo and Beyonce, that the women have more than their faces and bodies, they have a spirit and joy. There’s a joy and femininity and warmth and heat that comes from them in a nice way, says Raquel. Raquel likes to think that she wasn’t just seen as beautiful- the world is full of good looking girls, but that there is something in your heart and mind that makes you, you, and makes you approachable.
Oprah thought Raquel should help 64 year old Gail get her mojo back. Take a look. Gail doesn’t know that Raquel is here waiting for her, she thinks she’s just getting a regular makeover. Gail is shocked to meet Raquel. They comb the racks of Neiman Marcus to find the perfect outfit. Next Raquel called in George, of George Salon, to give Gail’s hair some vava-voom. The final stop was the Laura Mercier make-up counter. Raquel has her own bag of tricks, which she is going to use on Gail. She says that she doesn’t make-over other people very often.
Gail is backstage, come on out. The crowd go wild. Look at you says Oprah. There’s some mojo in there. Oprah thinks that this is the coolest thing- how shocked was Gail when she say Raquel Welsh in Newman Marcus? Gail says that she left her contacts in Knoxville, so when she heard her name being called she thought, “I’m in Chicago, who knows me?” And all of sudden she was like oh my God, it’s Raquel Welsh, Gail was amazed. She says Raquel is beautiful, she’s sexy. Oprah asks if it was inspiring for her, first to have this opportunity and also to see Ms Mojo. Gail was amazed that this icon was the sweetest kindest person. They enjoyed shopping together, they had fun. Oprah asks how she feels, Gail says she is getting emotional because she feels beautiful. Raquel gets up to give her a hug. Gail thanks her. Great job, Raquel says Oprah, and you look beautiful too, she says to Gail.
Karyn, 62, knows for sure that she’ll continue to live in thankfulness. If you continue to show up, life is beautiful. Shirley, 94, knows that loving those around you is the best way to achieve any amount of happiness. Annette, 52, knows that if she was to do something crazy like dance around with her girlfriend, you don’t have to feel old just because you are growing old. Irene, 85 says write down the ten things you want most in the next ten years. Reach for the stars and put it in the back of your mind and your subconscious will take over. That she knows for sure. She achieved everything except for keeping her weight down. Linda, 55, knows for sure that she is not worried about growing older she just wants to ride her dirt bike for a little while.
Before she says goodbye, Oprah wants to show a photograph of Rodney Thompson. He was a Senior at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was very popular, a star athlete and a leader in his class. On October 17th 2008 he was driving and reading a text. He crashed into a utility pole and died instantly. His mother tells us that Rodney had recently decided that he would be a lawyer to help people less fortunate. She wants us all to learn from her sons story. No text is so important. Go to Oprah.com and take the pledge. Raquel Welsh is ready to take the pledge. There are three different levels of pledge to take. Raquel will not take any more meetings in her car. Her book is called Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. Thanks to all the brilliantly aging women who shared their wisdom today. Goodbye everybody and thank you.
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
Raquel Welsh was the mother of two small children when she became famous wearing a doeskin bikini for the film One Million Years B.C.
Raquel Welsh was turned down for modelling jobs when she first moved to LA.
Raquel Welsh was explicitly told not to think by many producers and directors.
Raquel Welsh thinks that sex is over-rated and over-hyped.
Raquel Welsh thinks that “old” is the last remaining dirty word for a woman.
A VERY QUICK SUMMARY:
Being an aging sex symbol is no picnic. Commit to the cause, don’t give up, don’t look back, reach for the stars.