Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 21, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Perhaps you’ve seen her body of work: in Vegas, on Broadway in Woman of the Year, in The Three Musketeers, in fitness videotapes, in — let’s get to it — One Million Years B.C. and Mother, Jugs & Speed? Raquel Welch, 52, now stars in Judith Krantz’s Torch Song on ABC on May 23, and guess what? She plays a gorgeous alcoholic supercelebrity who messes up her life (and her daughter’s), then goes into rehab, where she meets a gorgeous fire fighter (Jack Scalia), and, after a lot of personal exploration, unmesses up her life. Is she gorgeous? You bet. Funny? Yup. Exacting, determined, demanding, the whole ball of celebrity wax? Don’t get us started. Just get her talking.

What attracted you to Torch Song?
Judith Krantz has a special kind of idea that she has made into a franchise. No, it’s not Chekhov, but it’s entertaining and I loved it.

True or false: Being beautiful has its drawbacks.
Beauty itself is not a liability. Beauty itself is probably the whole reason that anybody would care one way or another about me. But once [producers] get you, then they don’t want you to [rely on your looks]. You know, then somebody might criticize me for being a sex object.

Would you say that you are taken seriously by Hollywood?
There’s a cliché about acting that says that you have to be somebody totally different than you are — you know, you have to gain 40 pounds or do something extraordinary to change your image in order to be considered serious. I think that’s probably not required.

Is it any different for men?
When you look at what guys do they’re always pretty much the same — De Niro, Nicholson, Pacino — there’s an essence there that is always them, and that’s valued. When you’re a woman, for some reason, people go, ”Oh, just the same old thing again.” And I think, ”Gee, lighten up.”

How are you underestimated?
As a comedian. I can do slapstick; I can do romantic comedy. And I’m good at it — that was pretty clear in The Three Musketeers. Yet nobody seems to get that back in H-wood — and it’s not just my problem. Actresses are still being relegated to the suicide, or the murderous mother of a cheerleader, or the rejected teenage lover of Joey Buttafuoco.

What makes you laugh?
Fawlty Towers. I’ve been trying to put together a sitcom for myself, and I’m always going back to study Fawlty Towers. Its tempo and the ensemble playing make it so funny and appealing — much more clever than American comedies.

How does your life look from age 52?
I don’t know anything more than I did before — except that I’m more philosophical about it.

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