She built her career as a skimpily clad Las Vegas showgirl, magazine cover girl, movie star and stage actress. And now the body-beautiful Raquel Welch has written a book: "Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program" (Fawcett/Columbine: $9.95). More than 200,000 copies have already been sold.
Welch's step-by-step program, which she describes as "when East meets Welch," fills--and fully--about two-thirds of the 264 pages, and the rest is consumed by 250 photographs, all of which were shot by her French-born writer-producer husband, Andre Weinfeld--and all of which show Raquel exercising (in skimpy costumes) or just plain being Raquel (in skimpy costumes).
Unlike many other Hollywood beauties who sought help in putting their programs in written form, Welch has penned this book by herself.
It was while completing a successful stint as replacement for Lauren Bacall in the Broadway play "Woman of the Year," that the book idea occurred.
"Every time I left the theater, there would be a crowd of women waiting to ask me questions, such as: 'What do you eat?' 'What kind of exercises do you do?' and 'How do you look like that?' Well, I wasn't about to stand there and explain my daily hour-and-a-half exercise routine or what I had for breakfast," she says.
"I decided to take a year off to write. For the first time, I had a chance to get outside my image as an actress," she says thoughtfully. "And for the first time, I had something to say."
Welch's fitness guide outlines a routine she has practiced for nearly a decade--she is now 44--after trying everything from jogging to aerobics to weightlifting. Then she discovered Hatha yoga.
"At first I was skeptical. I thought you had to ohm-m-m out or run around in long saffron robes," she says with a laugh. "Of course it isn't like that at all. It does coordinate the mind and the body but it's also de-stressing," she says.
Intermingled with charm and humor, Raquel confesses that she cuts her own hair to get the tousled, just-showered look. She believes that "less is more" in makeup, and about diet: "No salt, no sugar, no caffeine, no oil, no preservatives.
"For the most part, I see myself as a well-proportioned wimp," she confides. "Before I began this program, long rehearsals were a struggle. As an actress, I'd always been interested in dance but I was always hurting myself. Hatha yoga was a great alternative. It's a lot more sensual than jumping up and down, but it's still strenuous."
The beauty of the method, she explains, is that it can be done by anyone regardless of age, sex or physical condition. And along with the likes of Greta Garbo, Shirley MacLaine, Cary Grant and a host of other celebrities, Welch's family has gotten into the act.
"My mother started doing Hatha yoga at age 68 and has greatly reduced the arthritic pain from which she suffered. Even my daughter does it now.
"People kept telling me that combining children with a career at an early age just wasn't done. But I think it helped. It gave me a kind of stability and determination I might not have had otherwise. If nothing else, I owed it to them not to trash myself."
But preserving her famous curves was just part of the picture. "Being a sex symbol was a tremendous responsibility and a constant battle. It used to bother me at first, but I now know you can have that and be respected as well. You can have both."