I enrolled in La Jolla High School, which was only three blocks away from the famous Windansea surfing beach! From the high school's second- story windows, my classmates could check out the coastline to see if the surf was up. Despite this siren call of the sea, once I enrolled as a freshman, I threw myself into my studies and managed to become an A student. Mr. Rosney, my all-time favorite teacher, taught American government, my best subject. I was keenly interested in Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight against racism and segregation. When it came to homework, I wasn't a fast reader, so I often had to work very late into the night to finish my assignments, sometimes until 3 AM. That didn't really bother me. I loved getting a handle on sociopolitical subjects. Whatever it took, I was ready to put forth the effort.

By now I had new idols. My parents didn't allow any movie fan magazines at our house. They were considered trash. But my best friend, Kitty Pemberton, had stacks of forbidden tabloids piled high all over her bedroom floor. We spent many an afternoon glued to the pages of those "rags." I pored over photos and stories about stars like Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh and couldn't get enough of James Dean, Natalie Wood, Jayne Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe, as well as tons of
starlets and teen idols.

Since the '90s, people have tended to refer to the '50s as an uptight period in our culture. I would argue with that perception. If that were true, how could this "squeaky clean" era have given rise to the world's most memorable sex symbols? Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Marlon Brando? They became my new idols. And they are still widely worshipped to this day.

Marilyn oozed "availability," which was how we young girls felt hormonally, though we had to put a lid on it. What troubled me back then was the fact that as hypnotic as Marilyn was to watch, she gave the impression of someone who could be easily taken advantage of and who couldn't fight back . . . like my mother. For that reason, I didn't want to be like her at all. She was an accident waiting to happen. Later, I saw that there were some men who could be protective. That was reassuring, but then they might end up taking ownership of you. Being a girl was like walking a tightrope. You just couldn't afford to walk with a wiggle.

And then came Elvis! It's amazing what his presence did to stimulate my teenage libido. Holy shit, he was something! I managed to get tickets to see him live at his first concert in the San Diego area. I sat eagerly waiting among thousands of screaming teenage girls when Elvis hit that stage. He was like a sexual hurricane, a force of nature. In reality, I didn't know the first thing about sex. But all of us sensed that Elvis had an irresistible grip on that subject. I can assure you that he had this fourteen-year-old girl "all shook up"!

Who could compete with Elvis? I had a record player stacked with 45s of "Heartbreak Hotel," "Jailhouse Rock," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Love Me Tender," and "Hound Dog." From that point on, something clicked in my head, and a new era was born. After that, I thought in terms of B.E. and A.E.: Before Elvis and After Elvis. He was a milestone.

Until I met Jim Welch.

From Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage by Raquel Welch (April 1, 2010); reprinted with permission from the publisher.


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