Raquel Welch by Terry O’Neill.
In 1970, movie star Raquel Welch starred in her very own TV variety extravaganza Raquel! which was intended to showcase her talents as a singer. Raquel! featured Welch performing a selection of classic pop songs in different locales and hamming it up alongside the old-school talents of Bob Hope and John Wayne, and young buck Tom Jones.
In just over a decade, Welch had gone from cocktail waitress to A-list movie star. She first made her mark as a scientist in The Fantastic Voyage then knocked teenage boys (and dads) for six as a cavewoman dressed in a fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. The media made her name synonymous with the term “sex symbol.” But she was more than just a celluloid beauty, she could act. Welch co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Lady in Cement, proved her mettle by refusing to go nude in 100 Rifles , and confounded critics by starring in Gore Vidal’s tale of a transsexual Myra Breckenridge. Despite all this, Welch was still hailed by Playboy (who else?) as the “world’s most desirable woman.”
Billed as a “multi-million dollar” extravaganza Raquel! seemingly spared no expense (though it reputedly cost nearer the $350,000 mark). There was a luxurious wardrobe by Bob Mackie with spacesuits by Paco Rabanne, some pop art and space-age set designs and a variety of exotic locations. Welch clocked-up her air miles performing songs to camera in London, Paris (where she sang “California Dreamin’” in view of the Eiffel Tower), Acapulco, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Yucatan, and Big Sur. Though Welch has a passable singing voice—one perhaps better suited to being heard in an elevator—Raquel! was a major success pulling in 58% in the Nielsen ratings. It’s a fine camp confection that has some strange and memorable moments—Welch and Hope (in Davy Crockett hat) singing the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” being just one.