Show Business: Myra/Raquel: The Predator of Hollywood

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I am Myra Breckinridge, whom no man will ever possess. Clad only in garter belt and one dress shield, I held off the entire elite of the Trobriand Islanders, a race who possess no words for "why" or "because." I am the New Woman whose astonishing history is a poignant amalgam of vulgar dreams and knife-sharp realities. Soon, by an extreme gesture, I shall cease altogether to be human and become legend like Jesus, Buddha, Cybele . . .

FEW spectacles are more terrifying than the New Woman, bearing the twin torches of Desire to Succeed and Disdain for Mere Man. This quality of savage purpose was etched to its satiric extreme in Myra Breckinridge. Gore Vidal's travesty dealt with a sex change—the conversion of Myron to Myra—and with America's compulsive devotion to movies. It was Myra's unholy quest to vanquish man; the locus of her attack was the wellspring of his contemporary myths, Hollywood. Clad principally in feminine indestructibility, she sought to blind men with her beauty, determinedly "unmanning them in the way that King Kong was reduced to a mere simian whimper by beauteous Fay Wray, whom I resemble left three-quarter profile."

Raquel Tejada Welch bears no resemblance to frail, delicate Fay Wray from any angle. Her attack on the male world is based on calculated carnality, on the woman as animal. The parallels between her and Vidal's carnivorous heroine are remarkable. Says Raquel, "I understand Myra thoroughly. I've always identified with her." Now she is bringing her sense of identification to the screen in the title role of 20th Century-Fox's forthcoming film version of Myra. Not since Cleopatra has a movie provoked so much gossip, speculation, expectation—and guerrilla war—even before going into production. As the filming staggers into its ninth week, real-life and fantasy female forces keep colliding in Raquel Welch, and the collision promises the extreme moment of her career. If she can't convincingly play the invincible, pathologically ambitious Myra, she probably can't play anyone.

The Rock. Wonder Woman. The Plastic Sheena. Whatever unladylike sobriquets attach to Raquel, there is no denying her box-office attraction. Clad mainly in animal hides and bikinis, brandishing her publicity photos like the jawbone of an ass, Raquel set about five years ago to hold off the entire critical elite of cinema and conquer mankind through Hollywood. Now only 29, she has enjoyed extraordinary success. Her brooding, aquiline face and brimming, arabesque body (37-22-35) have launched thousands of picture spreads. The mere mention of her name (or the sight of it, in endless Laugh-In balloon gags) is high-premium chuckle insurance for every TV and nightclub humor writer in the land. After 15 films that range, except for Bedazzled, from unintentionally risible to just plain awful, she is worth more than $4,000,000, earns about $950,000 a year. Even more astonishing, she has succeeded in becoming the No. 1 sex symbol in a world in which sex has been stripped of its last, diaphanous shred of symbolism.

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