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Raquel Welch, Iconic Hollywood Starlet, Dead at the Age of 82

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Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch, whose appearance in the film “One Million Years B.C.” in a skimpy, furry bikini propelled her to international sex symbol status throughout the 1960s and 1970s, has died. She was 82 years old.

According to her agent, Stephen LaManna of the talent agency Innovative Artists, Welch died early Wednesday after a brief illness.

Despite having only three lines, Welch’s breakthrough came in the campy prehistoric film “One Million Years B.C.” in 1966. She avoided pterodactyls but not public attention while dressed in a brown doeskin bikini.

“I just thought it was a silly dinosaur epic that we’d be able to sweep under the rug one day,” she told The Associated Press in 1981. “Wrong. It turned out that I was the season’s Bo Derek, the lady in the loin cloth about whom everyone exclaimed, ‘My God, what a bod,’ and they expected me to vanish overnight.”

She didn’t, instead playing Lust in Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s comedy “Bedazzled” in 1967 and a secret agent in the sexy spy spoof “Fathom” that same year.

Raquel Welch Playboy

Raquel Welch’s curves and beauty drew the attention of pop culture, with Playboy crowning her the “most desired woman” of the 1970s despite never being completely naked in the magazine.

She was ranked No. 2 on Men’s Health’s “Hottest Women of All Time” list in 2013. A poster of Welch covers an escape tunnel in the film “The Shawshank Redemption,” the third of three characters Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) used after Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.

Raquel Welch

TV host Rosie O’Donnell, actor Chris Meloni, and writer-director Paul Feig, who worked with Welch on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and called her “Kind, funny, and a true superstar whom I was pretty much in love with for most of my childhood,” all took to Twitter to express their condolences. “A true icon has passed away.”

Welch was a singer and dancer in addition to her acting career. She surprised many critics — and received positive feedback — when she replaced a vacationing Lauren Bacall in the Broadway musical “Woman of the Year” in 1981. In 1997, she returned to Broadway with “Victor/Victoria.”

Raquel Welch knew some people did not take her seriously because of her glamorous appearance. “I’m not Penny Marshall or Barbra Streisand,” she said to the Associated Press in 1993. “‘Raquel Welch wants to direct?'” they’ll say. Please give me a break.”‘

Raquel Welch

The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program

Jo-Raquel Tejada was born in Chicago and raised in La Jolla, California. (The Jo in her name comes from her mother, Josephine). When Welch met ex-actor turned press agent Patrick Curtis, she was a divorced mother.

“The irony is that while people thought of me as a sex symbol, I was a single mother of two small children!” “Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage,” her autobiography, says.

Curtis became her manager and second husband, helping shape her into a glam girl with hundreds of magazine covers, films, exercise videos, and books like “The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program.”

Though she would appear in exploitative films, she also surprised many in the industry with strong performances, such as in Richard Lester’s “The Three Musketeers,” for which she received a Golden Globe, and in “Wild Party,” opposite James Coco. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1988 for the television film “Right to Die.” In an episode of “Seinfeld,” she played herself and mocked divas, famously attacking Elaine and rattling Kramer.

Raquel Welch was married and divorced four times and is survived by two children, Damon Welch and Tahnee Welch, who both became actors, including a role in 1985’s “Cocoon.”

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