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Young alligator, Red Slough Wildlife Management Area, Idabel, OK, Aug. 4, 2020
I have been guilty, like many men, of objectifying women.
I admit years ago, as a budding, hormone-seething teenager of the 1960s, I looked upon Raquel Welch as only an object of sex.
In 1966, when I was 13 years old, Raquel made an appearance in One Million B.C. — giving only three lines in a nearly two-hour movie.
My thoughts about sex were a little ill-defined and nebulous then, but there was nothing ill-defined or nebulous about Raquel’s physical appeal. She was all well-defined curves, sharp facial features, and dark skin that spoke directly and unmistakably to my male curiosity and budding libido. Her curvaceous and well-endowed frame covered by a negligible skin-of-an-animal bikini spurred an already active imagination and drive.
After her big breakthrough, Raquel began receiving more roles and leading roles, usually as a sex symbol, until the 1980s when older, but still beautiful, she began to flag in popularity and she was cast in a made-for-television movie that attempted to portray her in a new role as a smart, inquisitive reporter/investigator/writer. Despite being clad in pantsuit, suit jacket, and blouse buttoned to the top of her neck, Raquel provoked in me memories of the gorgeous woman in a bikini made from the skin of an animal.
Some today will say it’s a shame, and it is, that she was treated mainly as a symbol of sexual appeal. And it is a shame that she made her way to stardom predominantly on her shape even though she had enough acting ability to be more than a body; otherwise, she would have been relegated to low-budget movies with limited exposure.
What I grew to appreciate about Raquel, however, is that she never submitted herself to gratuitous sex scenes or puerile nudity. She was discreet about the roles she took, and I would wager she was as tough in the movie industry standing up to men as the roles she played on screen.
She was not a fragile, mixed-up megastar who needed cajoling, preening, and extra attention. She didn’t make a mess of her life with drugs, alcohol or sex despite being subjected, most likely, to the sexual harassment and mistreatment of the day in the movie industry.
I last saw Raquel on a Seinfeld episode. The episode came out in 1997, but I wouldn’t have seen it then. I caught it on a rerun, probably five to ten years later. When the episode was made, Raquel would have been near 60 years old, but the curves were still there.
And not only the curves. All the sass and spitfire of her younger days were showcased too. She took the Seinfeld writers’ quirky, fun-poking characterization of her in stride and good humor.
Or maybe she helped to create the character she portrayed.
If she did, I would appreciate her even more.
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Tulsa, OK, US