Recalling Raquel Welch in blue and at the Bridge

From the official Chelsea FC website:

Actress and model Raquel Welch, who has died aged 82, was instrumental in sealing Chelsea’s reputation as London’s glamour club of the early Seventies.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1940, she was one Hollywood’s most sought-after stars by her late 20s.

Much of the appreciation centred on her looks, so after a more serious role alongside James Stewart and Dean Martin in ‘Bandolero!’ (1968 – pictured top) she felt compelled to say: ‘No one is going to shout, “Wow it’s Anne Bancroft all over again,” but at least I’m not “Miss Sexpot” running around half-naked all the time.”

However, it was a unique of-its-time photoshoot in March 1971 on the Spanish film set for the Western ‘Hannie Caulder’ that first cemented her place in the affections of Blues supporters.

The organiser was her old friend, celebrity photographer Terry O’Neill. ‘I knew Raquel very well,’ O’Neill recalled in 2005. ‘She knew l’d been a Chelsea fan all my life and she went along with me to quite a few games. Back then I knew Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson, Dave Sexton. So l took Raquel to meet Ossie, who was her idol. She had quite a thing for him. And I bought her the shirt with the number 9 on it and took it out to Spain for the shoot.’

O’Neill fired off four rolls of film, capturing Welch in the iconic Chelsea centre-forward strip, kicking a ball and taking throw-ins (all with an incongruous holster on her hip), some of which appeared in The Times newspaper – and still regularly crop up online. ‘Tell them,’ she told The Times arts critic present, ‘Osgood is not forgotten on the plains of Almeria.’

The following year, in November 1972, Welch made a widely publicised visit to Stamford Bridge for the visit of Leicester, accompanied by well-known football figure Jimmy Hill. She became the centre of attention during a 1-1 draw that the hosts should have won 6-1.

Chairman Brian Mears had hoped to put her off because the East Stand redevelopment meant she would have to sit in a temporary directors’ box in the rickety old North Stand, which shuddered every time a train went by. But Welch would not be denied.

‘Everyone could see her walking past the hoarding in front of the building work,’ Mears later related, ‘and there was the most awful fuss as she tried to get to her seat. Then she demanded a brandy and I told her it wasn’t possible, but she kicked up such a fuss I got her the brandy. And she’s sitting there in the stand holding this bloody brandy. I’m thinking, “Oh my God”.’

Welch then made an ostentatious departure before the final whistle, passing along the East Stand hoarding, waving and calling out to Osgood – who was supposed to be concentrating on the game.

Her sad passing closes an association very much of its day but woven into the tapestry of Chelsea’s rich heritage. Chelsea FC sends condolences to her family, friends and many fans.





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