Chicago’s Raquel Welch passed away at age 82

(Welch in Fantastic Voyage)

Iconic Golden Globe-winning actress and model Raquel Welch passed away this week at age 82 after suffering a brief illness. Her son Damon confirmed to the media: 

“She passed away with no pain,” he said. “I’m very proud about what she contributed to society and her career and everything. I’m most proud of her doing the U.S.O tours with Bob Hope during the late 60s and early 70s. We missed Christmas with her for three years while she was doing that. She said that was the hardest thing.”

Jo Raquel Welch was born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago, Illinois on September 5, 1940 and spent her first two years living in an apartment at 1354 W. Berwyn Ave. Her father, Armando Tejada, was an aeronautical engineer from La Paz, Bolivia. 

“Not ideal for a newborn baby girl with thin Mediterranean blood, courtesy of my Spanish father,” Welch stated in her autobiography title Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. “Luckily for me, my folks moved to California when I was barely two; a good thing, because my baby brain was frozen solid until that point. That’s probably why I’ve had an aversion to anything cold ever since, from icy drinks to frigid people.”

Her mother’s father, Emery Stanford Hall was an architect in Chicago and the president of Illinois Society of Architects. He is best known for the building located at 3536 S. Lowe Ave that was the Bridgeport home of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and family.

The family moved from Illinois to San Diego, California, when Welch was two years old.  From a young age Welch had the desire to be a performer and entertainer. At age 14 she began winning beauty pageants which eventually led to her winning the state title of Maid of California. 

After graduating high school with honors, Welch attended San Diego State College on a theater arts scholarship. While in college, she married her high school sweetheart, James Welch.  

Welch’s career started in the 1960s when she was cast in small roles in two films, A House Is Not a Home and the musical Roustabout, an Elvis Presley film in addition to appearances on TV shows such as The Virginian, McHale’s Navy and Bewitched.

Those projects paved the way for back-to-back roles in Fantastic Voyage, and One Million Years B.C. That latter role catapulted her to sex symbol status. Welch would go on to star in several films, including 1970’s Myra Breckinridge, where she played a trans actress, and The Three Musketeers, which earned her a Golden Globe in 1974 for best actress in a motion picture comedy or musical.

While she leaned into being a sex symbol and posed for Playboy in 1979, she never actually posed nude. Hugh Hefner later wrote in Playboy: The Celebrities , “Raquel Welch, one of the last of the classic sex symbols, came from the era when you could be considered the sexiest woman in the world without taking your clothes off. She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully. The pictures prove her point.”

Welch was named one of the “100 Sexiest Stars in Film History” in an issue of Empire magazine in 1995 and was ranked #3 in Playboy’s “100 Sexiest Stars of the 20th Century.”

Welsh continued to be an icon throughout the decades appearing in magazines, TV and movies including guest starring in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Welch had a cameo appearance in Naked Gun 33+1⁄3: The Final Insult, in the scene where Lesley Nielsen’s character crashes the Academy Awards. In 2001, she had a cameo in the comedy film Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon, playing a wealthy ex-wife in court. Welch appeared in the Season 8 finale of Seinfeld, titled The Summer of George, where she played an exaggerated and highly temperamental version of herself.

After shying away from her Latinx heritage for years, she embraced it in the early 2000’s both by speaking openly about her background and by playing Latina roles like Aunt Dora in the PBS show American Family and Hortensia in the film Tortilla Soup.

“Latinos are here to stay,” she said at a National Press Club Luncheon in 2002. “As citizen Raquel, I’m proud to be Latina.”


As news of her passing spread, many took to Twitter to pay their respects:

Welsh is survived by her two children, her son Damon Welch and her daughter, Tahnee Welch.

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