Charo at the 2013 Alma Awards
María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza
(DOB: see section)
|Occupation||Actress, singer, classical guitarist, comedian|
|Spouse(s)||Xavier Cugat (1966–1978)|
Kjell Rasten (1978–2019; his death)
Charo began playing guitar at the age of 9 and trained under the famed Andrés Segovia. In 1966 she married bandleader Xavier Cugat and they moved to the United States. In the late 1960s and 1970s, she became a ubiquitous presence on American television, frequently appearing as a guest star on series such as Laugh-In, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She is known for her uninhibited and exuberant manner, vague age, ostensible lack of fluency in English, heavy Spanish accent, and the catch-phrase "cuchi-cuchi."
As a musician, she has performed and recorded in various styles for five decades. She released a series of disco recordings in the 1970s with Salsoul Records, most notably Dance a Little Bit Closer (1977). In 1995 her flamenco album Guitar Passion (1994) won the Female Pop Album of the Year award at the Billboard International Latin Music Conference and was named best female Latin pop album by Billboard. In an interview Charo said, "Around the world I am known as a great musician. But in America I am known as the cuchi-cuchi girl. That’s okay because cuchi-cuchi has taken me all the way to the bank."
Born as María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, her official date of birth is listed as January 15, 1951 (though original documents from Spain report her birth date as March 13, 1941), in Molina de Segura, Region of Murcia, Spain. Her father was reportedly a lawyer who fled to Casablanca during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, while her homemaker mother stayed behind in Murcia, raising their children.
Charo has occasionally claimed that she was enrolled in a convent as a young child and remained there until she was 15, when a nun stated that she belonged in show business. In the most colorful version of this childhood, Charo's grandmother hired a music professor to give her weekly classical guitar lessons, and he became the first man to enter the convent.
Most sources indicate that she studied classical and flamenco guitar in a school in Madrid founded by Andrés Segovia for underprivileged children. In a 2005 interview she reminisced: "The institution had great young teachers and students. Everything was a charity. Mr. Segovia, between concerts that's when he'd come, and if you'd been there a year and you weren't good, you'd go out and they would give your place to another young kid." Charo has stated in several interviews that she graduated with honors at age 16.
Charo was discovered as a young performer by bandleader Xavier Cugat, whom she later wed on 7 August 1966. When they married, Cugat was 66 and had already been married four times (Rita Montaner, Carmen Castillo, Lorraine Allen, and Abbe Lane), although reports sometimes listed fewer marriages. An April 1966 column by Earl Wilson on the couple's wedding plans announced, "Sixty-year-old Xavier Cugat and his 20-year-old Spanish girlfriend and singing star Charo hope to marry in San Cugat, Spain, in a few days if Cugat can convince church authorities his two divorces should not be counted against him since he wasn't married in church."
The couple was the first to have their nuptials in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. She later claimed that her marriage to Cugat had been merely a business contract, a way for him to legally bring her over to the United States where he was based.
She moved to West 257th Street in The Bronx, New York, with her mother and aunt and was regularly featured in shows with Cugat's orchestra in New York and Las Vegas, as well as in overseas engagements in Latin America and Europe. She claims he was confident in her eventual success from early on, and that she gave him a Rolls-Royce as a parting gift once she legally came of majority age.
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Charo's first U.S. TV appearance was on The Today Show. From 1965 to 1967 she performed on The Ed Sullivan Show four times with her husband, Xavier Cugat, and his orchestra. She began appearing on Laugh-In in 1968, appearing in segments lasting a few minutes near the end of each episode with Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. Her almost complete lack of fluency in the English language was played as a comic focus, with the two hosts laughing at her mangled English. It was around this time that she began using "cuchi-cuchi" in the public arena.
She was headlining Vegas shows by 1971 and reportedly being paid as much as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, or Dean Martin. In 1977 she became a naturalized citizen of the United States. That same year she filed for divorce from Cugat, a petition that was granted April 14, 1978.
On August 11, 1978, she married her second husband, Kjell Rasten, a producer, in South Lake Tahoe, California, in a civil ceremony attended by 30 guests. Rasten soon became his wife's manager. The couple has one child, a son, Shel Rasten (born 1981), who is the drummer for the heavy metal band Treazen.
Throughout the 1970s she was a highly visible personality, appearing eight times on The Love Boat, as well as on variety and talk shows such as Donny & Marie, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Captain and Tennille, The John Davidson Show, The Mike Douglas Show, which she guest-hosted at least once, and the short-lived Brady Bunch variety spinoff.
In 1975 Dallas Morning News critic Harry Bowman wrote that the ABC network had "penciled in . . . a half-hour comedy starring the uninhibited wife of Xavier Cugat" and commented, "This is probably the worst idea of the season." By October of that year, the performer was promoting a special slated for November, but the special did not actually appear until May 1976.
A TV listing for August 24, 1976, shows what appears to be an unsold pilot airing on ABC at 8:30 p.m. CST: "Charo and the Sergeant—Situation comedy starring Charo Cugat. Charo's first U.S. job is to be a dancer at an off-limits nightclub, and her conservative Marine Corps husband finds out. The few episodes that were taped ended up being broadcast on the American Armed Forces Network overseas."
By the late 1970s Charo was being mentioned as an example of how overexposure could damage a celebrity. One such article quoted the "Q score" of Performer Q, Steve Levitt's celebrity popularity rating service, to show that the performer's popularity declined slightly even as her familiarity increased:
Before she gained national fame on talk shows in 1975, bosomy Latina starlet Charo was 'recognized' by 57 percent of Levitt's national television sample and had a 'popularity quotient' of 9 percent. Today, known by 80 percent, a figure as high as Clint Eastwood's 80 percent, Charo's popularity is 8 percent. 'If she was known by 100 percent of the world, chances are her popularity might go down to 7 or 6 percent,' Levitt says coolly. That paradox makes some performers think twice when invitations to talk shows come in.— "The TV Talk Shows", The Washington Post July 14, 1977 (Style section, pg. B1)
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In the 2000s Charo appeared in television in commercials for Sprint wireless phone service and GEICO insurance, as well as guest appearances on Hollywood Squares, a season-three stint on the celeb-reality series The Surreal Life, portraying herself on an episode of Fox Network's That ’70s Show, and appearances in VH1's I Love the '70s retrospectives. On May 11, 2008, she made a guest appearance on the Latin-themed VH1 reality show Viva Hollywood.
Charo has a regular touring show in addition to appearances in Branson, Missouri, and Las Vegas (which at one time were choreographed by Comedy Central actor/dancer Jade Esteban Estrada). She appeared as the Celebrity Showtime entertainer aboard Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas on its January 4 and January 13, 2008, sailings, and on the Adventure of the Seas on its August 10, 2008, sailing. She was a Celebrity Grand Marshal of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade on Sunday, June 29, 2008. She was accompanied by hordes of Charo lookalikes on a pink float. On May 23, 2008, she was a guest on GSN Live.
Charo returned to the dance music scene in June 2008 with the single "España Cañi," which was released through Universal Wave Records.
In April 2010 Charo made a guest appearance on Dancing with the Stars. She made an appearance on Watch What Happens: Live on February 22, 2011, where she promoted a new song, "Sexy! Sexy!" In July 2011 Charo appeared as a celebrity guest judge on the fifth episode of RuPaul's Drag U, Season 2. In May 2013 she appeared on the final episode of Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. In June 2015 she appeared in an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap, where she swapped with former Love Boat costar, Jill Whelan. The show prominently featured her husband–manager, Kjell Rasten, and her sister, Carmen, who served as Charo's stylist.
On March 1, 2017, Charo was revealed as one of the contestants who would compete on season 24 of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with professional dancer Keo Motsepe. On April 3, 2017, Charo and Motsepe were the second couple eliminated from the competition and finished in 11th place.
Charo and her husband, Kjell Rasten, moved to Hawaii to raise her son. Because of the large number of people of Japanese descent in Hawaii, Charo learned to speak Japanese. They eventually moved back to Beverly Hills, where they were living as of 2015.
Kjell Rasten died by suicide on Monday, February 18, 2019. He was 78. Charo publicly stated, "In recent years, his health began to decline and he developed a rare and horrible skin disease called Bullous pemphigoid. He also became very depressed. That, along with the many medications he needed to take, became too much for him, and he ended his suffering."
Year of birth controversy
Charo's year of birth has been the subject of dispute for many years. Official documents in her birthplace of Murcia, including her original Spanish passport and her naturalization papers, state that her birth date is March 13, 1941. After immigrating to the United States, Charo said that she was born in 1947, then changed it to 1949. In her final change, she asserted in a 1977 court hearing that her passport and naturalization papers were wrong and that her year of birth is 1951.
The performer has said in interviews that her parents allowed her to falsify her age to appear older when marrying 66-year-old Xavier Cugat in 1966, although according to her later claims, that would have made her 15 at the time. However as noted previously, she has stated in many interviews that she was attending school in Madrid at that age and graduated at 16, not having yet begun her performing career. She has never clarified the obvious discrepancy. Numerous articles and interviews published shortly before and at the time of her wedding placed her birth year between 1945 and 1946. In 1964 Charo was referred to as Cugat's "18-year-old protegée." An April 1966 column on the wedding plans stated she was 20 and Cugat was 60. Many sources identified her as 21 on the day of her wedding.
In October 1977—the same year in which Charo filed for divorce from Cugat and became a naturalized American citizen—U.S. District Judge Roger Foley in Las Vegas allowed the 1951 birth year as official, with the performer providing sworn affidavits from her parents in support of her claim, a claim that has been viewed with skepticism. Commenting on the disputes over her age, she has said that the public's disbelief could prove advantageous: "But if people really believe I'm older, that's fine. Don't be surprised if I come out with my own cosmetics, a new energy bar, and maybe some vitamins."
- Cuchi-Cuchi (1977) (with the Salsoul Orchestra)
- Olé Olé (1978) (with the Salsoul Orchestra)
- Bailando con Charo (Dancing with Charo, 1981) (with the Salsoul Orchestra)
- Guitar Passion (1994)
- Gusto (Pleasure, 1997)
- Charo and Guitar (2005)
- 1976: "La Salsa"
- 1977: "Dance A Little Bit Closer" (US Dance #18); UK #44
- 1978: "Mamacita, ¿dónde está Santa Claus? (Mommy, Where's Santa Claus?)"
- 1978: "Olé Olé" (US Dance #36)
- 1979: "Sha Na Na"
- 1979: "Stay with Me" (US Dance #55)
- 1979: "Hot Love"
- 1981: "La Mojada (Wet Back)"
- 2003: "Prisionera De Tu Amor" (with Seductive Souls)
- 2008: "España Cañi" (US Dance #14)
- 2011: "Sexy Sexy" (US Dance #24)
- 2013 "Dance a Little Bit Closer" (Charo & The Salsoul Orchestra vs The Cube Guys remix)
- New Friendship (1963)
- Dress Rehearsal for Death (1963)
- The Big Mouth (1967)
- Tiger by the Tail (1970)
- Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970; documentary)
- The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979)
- Moon Over Parador (1988)
- Thumbelina (1994) as "Mrs. Toad"
- Blame It on the Macarena! (1996)
- The Suite Life on Deck (2010)
- Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017) as the Queen of England
- The Danny Kaye Show (6 Oct 1965)
- The Ed Sullivan Show (four episodes; 1965–67)
- The Merv Griffin Show (1966 episode where she is introduced as age 21)
- The Carol Burnett Show
- The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
- Rowan & Martin's Laugh In
- Donnie and Marie -1976
- The Hollywood Squares (semiregular panelist; 1972–78, 1986–89, 1998–2004)
- The Charo Show (1976; unsold pilot for variety series)
- Chico and the Man (cast member from 1977–78) -- Aunt Charo
- The Love Boat (guest starred in 10 episodes, 1977–84) -- April Lopez
- Flying High (guest starred in episode #9, 1978–1979)
- Fantasy Island (guest starred in 4 episodes, 1981–84)
- The Facts of Life (guest appearance in 1985)
- The Jeffersons (January 8, 1985)
- Marblehead Manor (February 18, 1988)
- Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (guest star; 1988)
- Mickey Mouse Works (special guest voiceover)
- That '70s Show (special guest appearance: "Red Sees Red" 2000)
- The Brak Show (special guest star; 2001)
- The Surreal Life (cast member; 2004)
- So NoTORIous (episode 5, season 1 in 2006)
- I Love the '70s: Volume 2 (appearances in 2006)
- Chappelle's Show (guest appearance in 2006)
- Las Vegas
- Viva Hollywood! (new reality show on VH1; May 11, 2008)
- The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (special appearance April 17, 2008)
- Chelsea Lately (special appearance; July 24, 2008)
- The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (special appearance; December 18, 2008)
- RuPaul's Drag Race (guest performer; March 9, 2009)
- The Suite Life on Deck (special appearance as Esteban's mother; 2010)
- The Wendy Williams Show (Episode 363; aired October 5, 2010)
- Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 (special appearance May 17, 2013)
- Hell's Kitchen (dining room guest; May 26, 2015)
- Celebrity Wife Swap (aired June 17, 2015)
- Jane The Virgin (special appearance March 28, 2016)
- RuPaul's Drag Race (special appearance April 4, 2016)
- Dancing With the Stars (contestant on season 24, 2017)
- "The Official Charo Website". Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Kerr, Jolie (2019-06-22). "Thank Heaven for Charo". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-23.
- Kariann Goldschmitt. "Charo", Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. April 27, 2017.
- Ruíz, Vicki and Virginia Sánchez Korrol. Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. Indiana University Press (2006), p. 144.
- "Charo Biography: Dancer, Singer, Guitarist (1951–)". Biography. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
- "Coochie-coochie comedienne wants to be 'zee' dramatic actress", Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1982.
- "She's dynamite: You might say Charo's rather un-convent-ional", Chicago Tribune, April 29, 1974.
- "Ageless Charo keeps the cuchi cuchi flame burning", San Francisco Chronicle, August 6, 2005.
- "Charo: She's more than just miss 'Cuchi, Cuchi'", Napa Valley Register, September 8, 2010
- "Charo: Beyond 'cuchi cuchi' Archived 2012-07-04 at the Wayback Machine, San Luis Obispo Tribune, March 29, 2012
- John Beck. "Ageless persona: Vegas headliner Charo thrills fans at Sonoma County Fair: Cuchi-cuchi time at the fair", The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California), August 1, 2002, page B1.
- "Fin del 'cuchi cuchi', principio del arte", La Opinión Digital, February 17, 2005 ‹See Tfd›(in Spanish) Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- Roger Piantadosi. "Personalities" (column), The Washington Post, April 15, 1978, page C3.
- Ellen Goldman and Joseph P. Mastrangelo. "Personalities" (column), The Washington Post, August 15, 1978, p. C1
- Bobic, Chrissy. "Charo's Son Has A Great Relationship With His Mom". Romper. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
- "Treazen - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". www.metal-archives.com. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
- "Shel Rasten". IMDb. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
- Donny & Marie broadcast listings, "Channel Choices," The Dallas Morning News, February 27, 1976, pg. C7 (with George Gobel); December 3, 1976, pg. B11 (with Carl Reiner); December 2, 1977, pg. A16 (with Milton Berle and the Sylvers)
- Tony Orlando and Dawn broadcast listings, "Channel Choices," The Dallas Morning News, July 10, 1974, pg. C7 (with Lloyd Bridges); March 5, 1975, pg. D4 (with Tony Randall); January 28, 1976, pg. C9 (with Freddy Fender).
- The Captain and Tennille broadcast listings, "Channel Choices", The Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1977, pg. B7 (with John Byner, Ben Vereen, Manfred Mann and the Earth Band, and LeVar Burton).
- Rena Pederson (column), The Dallas Morning News, December 3, 1976, pg. B11; refers to Charo as "the dizzy Spanish sexpot-songstress".
- The Brady Bunch Hour broadcast listing, "Channel Choices," The Dallas Morning News, March 21, 1977, page A18.
- Harry Bowman. "New season guessing" ("Broadcast Beat" column), The Dallas Morning News, April 22, 1975, pg. A12
- Earl Wilson. "Hackett 'Teaching' Charo" (column), The Dallas Morning News, October 13, 1975, pg. D5.
- Harry Bowman. The Dallas Morning News, April 27, 1976, page C5
- UPI. "Charo special looms as family sizzler", The Dallas Morning News, May 24, 1976, pg. B7.
- "Channel Choices," The Dallas Morning News, August 24, 1976, pg. B5.
- Ruíz, Vicki; Virginia Sánchez Korrol (2006). Latinas in the United States: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1. Indiana University Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-253-34681-0. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
- "From Perfect Beat". Archived from the original on 2008-07-02.
- Charo on IMDb
- "'Dancing With the Stars' 2017: Season 24 celebrity cast and partners revealed on 'GMA'". ABC News. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
- Silverman, Stephen M. (May 8, 1998). "Charo: Still Cuchi-Cuchi-ing". People. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
- Corinthios, Aurelie; White, Chelsea (February 19, 2019). "Charo's Husband Kjell Rasten Dies by Suicide: 'He Was an Amazing Man,' Star Says". People. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
- "These stars keep tight rein on real ages", The Pittsburgh Press, August 9, 1986.
- "La mujer que conquistó EE.UU. sin que nadie en España se enterase". 15 January 2016.
- Cugat Weds Charo in Las Vegas, nytimes.com; accessed March 13, 2016.
- Earl Wilson. "It happened last night." (column), The Dallas Morning News, September 16, 1964, section 4, Ataahua's song
- Earl Wilson. "It happened last night" (column), The Dallas Morning News, April 18, 1966, page D18.
- Francis Raffetto. "Las Vegas Opens Caesar's Palace", After Dark column, The Dallas Morning News, August 8, 1966, page A14
- Paul Steiner. "Jackie followed trend of May–December," The Dallas Morning News, October 27, 1968, page E9
- Royal Parker (August 7, 1966). WBAL-TV 11pm News, August 7, 1966 (YouTube) (TV News). Baltimore, MD: WBAL/YouTube. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
- Jura Koncius. "Personalities" (column), The Washington Post, August 16, 1978, page D2
- Larry Powell (column). "Exact age for Charo leaves plenty of wiggle room," The Dallas Morning News, February 7, 1999, page 38A
- "Charo, Sister 'Younger'" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 10, 1977.
- CARLINSKY, DAN (1986-07-13). "Stars' Ages: The Big Lie?". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 101. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Charo- IMDB".
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