Movie beauty Raquel Welch still has her suspicions that Mae West was a male drag queen after getting up close and personal to the silver screen icon during one of her final films, Myra Breckinridge.
The two goddesses spent a lot of time in each other's company on the set of the 1970 film - and Welch admits she started to think there was something more than a little odd about her co-star.
During a Raquel Welch film retrospective in New York at the weekend (11-12Feb12), the still-stunning actress explained, "She never worked before 5pm and... she also never moved by herself, so the limo that took her to the studio, to her dressing room, also brought her onto the set. So they had to open the huge door where they load in scenery. She was kind of like a piece of scenery!
"When I went over to say hello to her (one day) I said, 'Hi, it's Raquel, remember?' She sort of extended her hand to me and I went to kiss the ring and one false fingernail painted silver fell to the floor. I looked at the hand and I thought, 'Oh, I'm getting a vibe'. I really think she's a man!
"At this point in her life all bets are off and you're not going to be able to doll it (appearance) up that much. I would say it's pretty accurate that she resembled a dock worker in drag."
Welch admitted it was a thrill to work with West - but she took away a very bad memory from their time together: "I had this beautiful dress and it was black with a big white ruffle around the neck and a black velvet hat, based on a costume that was worn by Greta Garbo. It was very chic and I couldn't wait to wear it. (Costume designer) Theodora Van Runkle designed it for the scene with Mae West because she was wearing all white with black trim, so this would be perfect.
"Apparently Mae got wind of the fact that I was wearing this exquisite dress and I went to the studio that day for our scene together. I got coiffed, got my hair done and went to the closet to get the dress and it wasn't there. I asked my dresser what happened to the dress and she said, 'It's been confiscated. Mae does not want you to wear that dress. You can wear the red dress that you wore in the last scene!'
"Mae had approval over everything that was worn on the set... The producer said, 'It's (dress) a non-colour and nobody gets to wear non-colours in the movie but Mae.'"
Welch was so outraged, she stormed off the set and refused to return until the dress was back in her closet.
She recalled, "For the scene, we never appeared in a two-shot together. She left after she did her lines and I had someone off-camera reading her lines and I had to pretend she was there."