Read Excerpt: 'Beyond the Cleavage' by Raquel Welch

My breakup with Jim remains the most painful decision of my entire life. For our children's sake, I should have stayed. Kudos to my mother on that score. C. S. Lewis wrote that you "stand taller when you bow." But I wasn't in the bowing mood. People talk about "falling in love," but there is also a will to love, which is what it all boils down to after the honeymoon is over. At our painfully young age, we didn't have the serious relationship tools to manage that kind of love. Those qualities come with a maturity that I couldn't even dream of possessing at the time. We were both just too damn young.

That doesn't, however, excuse me. The damage I did to my children and Jim by taking off as I did is immeasurable. It would take a whole book to get into it. I have no defense for my foolishness, except to say that I was young and pigheaded. My children are the best thing in my life . . . that I haven't done. Their good character, resourcefulness, and talents are all to their own credit. More on that subject later, when I can delve a bit further into motherhood.

Mommy Takes Hollywood
Flash forward only three short years, on the heels of my breakup with Jim and the beginning of my struggles in Hollywood. When I got there, with no car, two hundred bucks in my pocket, two kids, and no connec¬tions, it was pretty rough going. I ran into all kinds of weirdness. For one thing, children were considered personae non gratae back then. It was difficult to even rent an apartment. In early 1963, 90 percent of the vacancy signs specified "No Children." A couple of toddlers were not the kind of baggage a young actress starting out could advertise around town. It was wise to keep a low profile.

All of it was hateful and demoralizing. But I knew I was just passing through, and I didn't need the acceptance of those who disapproved. I just held my nose and gave myself a make-or-break, three-year dead¬line. Sometimes even today I drive by the first apartment we stayed in, just as a reminder of what a miracle it is that we survived that wicked period. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. My early experience in H'wood vaccinated me against sleaze and phonies.

When I hit town, it was all about Bond, James Bond, and I almost became a Bond girl! I was tested for Thunderball. Producer Cubby Broccoli had seen my photo in a Life magazine layout called "The End of the Great Girl Drought!" He called Jack Gilardi, my agent at GAC, and the subsequent buzz around town created so much excitement that it enabled me to bag a long-term contract at 20th Century Fox. But because of a technicality involving start dates and contract options, Fox put me in the sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage. I was disappointed. Here I was ready to snuggle up to Sean Connery but was assigned to eight months floating through the human bloodstream in a wet suit instead.

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