Charo at the 2013 Alma Awards
|Born||María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza
January 15, 1951
Murcia, Region of Murcia, Spain
|Occupation||Actress, singer, guitarist|
|Spouse(s)||Xavier Cugat (1966–1978)
Kjell Rasten (1978–present; 1 son)
María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza (born January 15, 1951), professionally known by her mononymous stage name Charo, is a Spanish-American actress, comedian, and flamenco guitarist. She is best known for her flamboyant stage presence, her provocative outfits, and her trademark phrase, "cuchi-cuchi".
Date of birth
The performer has said in interviews that her parents allowed her to falsify her age to appear older after marrying 66-year-old band leader Xavier Cugat in 1966. Complicating the issue is the fact that contemporary press reports gave her age at marriage as 21, an April 1966 column on the wedding plans stated she was 20 and Cugat was 60, and columns less than two years before the marriage refer to her as Cugat's "18-year-old protegée" — which, if she was really born in 1951 would have made her actually 15 at the time. In October 1977 — the same year in which Charo filed for divorce from Cugat and became an American citizen — a United States court upheld the 1951 birth year as official, with the performer providing a sworn statement from her parents in support of her claim. 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."
Charo was born María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza in Murcia, Region of Murcia, Spain. Her father was a lawyer who reportedly fled to Casablanca during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, while her homemaker mother stayed behind in Murcia, raising their children. Charo studied classical and flamenco guitar under Andrés Segovia, who taught general music classes as community service in schools around Murcia. He once spoke of his pupil in an interview and remembered giving her career advice: "Stop saying 'cuchi-cuchi' so much, Charo! Be serious!" She took guitar lessons from him and other teachers from the age of nine. She has been named "Best Flamenco Guitarist" in Guitar Player Magazine's readers' poll twice.
When Charo was young, she was discovered by famous bandleader Xavier Cugat, whom she later wed on August 7, 1966. 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 [sic] Xavier Cugat and his 20-year-old Spanish girlfriend and singing star Charo hope to get married 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.
Charo 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 New York City borough of The Bronx 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 came of legal age.
Charo's first US TV appearance was on The Today Show in the mid-1960s. She later appeared on Laugh-In in 1968. She would appear on short chatfests of a few minutes near the end of the show with Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. Her almost complete lack of fluency in the English language was played as a comic focus and she would have the two hosts laughing at her mangled English. This is also the time that the "cuchi cuchi" line passed into 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 and the couple has one child, a son, Shel Rasten (born 1982), 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 even the infamously 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 pm 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 night club 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 Latin 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", Washington Post, July 14, 1977 (Style section, page B1)
For much of the late 1980s and 1990s Charo had limited visibility as she moved to Hawaii and opened and performed at her own dinner theater while she and Rasten raised their son. Because of the large number of Japanese immigrants to the island state, Charo learned to speak Japanese. In the 2000s, she returned to 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 celebreality series The Surreal Life, as guest appearances on the 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.
She now 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). Charo 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 look-alikes on a pink float. On May 23, 2008, she was a guest on GSN Live.
She returned to the dance music scene in June 2008 with the single "España Cañi". The single was released through Universal Wave Records. She performed Rihanna's song "Don't Stop the Music" at the 2009 Muscular Dystrophy Association Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.
Charo appeared as the Celebrity Showtime entertainer aboard Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas cruise ship on Christmas Eve, 2009. She also appeared on the Royal Caribbean ship Adventure of the Seas on Thursday, February 25, 2010. She continues to entertain guests on Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas in May 2010. On May 23, 2011, Charo performed parts of her Las Vegas show on the Disney Magic cruise ship's Eastbound Transatlantic crossing to standing ovations. The first half of the show were more pop oriented pieces while the second half was her playing classical Spanish guitar. She noted her seven years of study with Andrés Segovia several times during this portion of the show. She appeared later in the cruise at an informal autograph-signing session.
In April 2010, she made a guest appearance on Dancing with the Stars.
Charo 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.
- 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) Mama Toad
- Blame It on the Macarena! (1996)
- The Carol Burnett Show
- Rowan & Martin's Laugh In
- The Hollywood Squares (semi-regular panelist from 1972–1978)
- The Charo Show (1976) (unsold pilot for variety series)
- Chico and the Man (cast member from 1977–1978) -- Aunt Charo
- The Love Boat (guest starred in 8 episodes, 1977–1984) -- April Lopez
- Flying High (guest starred in episode #9, 1978–1979)
- Maaco Auto Painting and Body Works (commercial spokesperson, late 1970s-early 1980s)
- Fantasy Island (guest starred in 4 episodes, 1981–1984)
- The Jeffersons (Woman in Atlantic City casino, 1985 one episode)
- The Facts of Life (guest appearance in 1985)
- Marblehead Manor (Feb 18, 1988)
- Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (guest star 1988)
- Olivia Mayo is Life (special appearance November 20, 1992)
- Mickey Mouse Works (special guest voiceover)
- That '70s Show (special guest star: "Red Sees Red" 2000)
- Space Ghost Coast to Coast (unaired interview, but was quickly glimpsed on Episode 60: "Lawsuit" 1998)
- The Brak Show (special guest star 2001)
- The Surreal Life (cast member in 2004)
- So NoTORIous (episode 5, season 1 in 2006)
- I Love the '70s: Volume 2 (appearances in 2006)
- Chappelle's Show (appearance in 2006)
- Las Vegas
- Sprint Cellular Phones featuring the catch phrase "I thought you said bring home Charo"
- Geico Auto Insurance Commercial (Acts out the Geico customer's experience 2007)
- 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 Dec 18, 2008)
- RuPaul's Drag Race (guest performer Mar 9, 2009)
- The Suite Life on Deck (special appearance as Esteban's mother in 2010)
- Good Luck Charlie (special appearance as girl crushing on Bob Duncan)
- The Wendy Williams Show (Episode 363, Orig. air date October 5, 2010)
- Latino 101 (2009–present)
- Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 (special appearance May 17, 2013)
- "Celebrity Wife Swap" (Orig. air date June 17, 2015)
- "The Official Charo Website". Retrieved 29 Jun 2012.
- "IMDB Bio Page". Retrieved 29 Jun 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.
- 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
- Earl Wilson. "It happened last night" (column), The Dallas Morning News, April 18, 1966, page D18.
- Earl Wilson. "It happened last night." (column), The Dallas Morning News, September 16, 1964, section 4, Ataahua's song
- 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
- 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.
- "Fin del 'cuchi cuchi', principio del arte", La Opinión Digital, February 17, 2005 (Spanish)
- 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, page C1
- Donny & Marie broadcast listings, "Channel Choices", The Dallas Morning News, 1976-02-27, C7 (with George Gobel); 12-03-1976, B11 (with Carl Reiner); 1977-12-02, A16 (with Milton Berle and the Sylvers)
- Tony Orlando and Dawn broadcast listings, "Channel Choices," The Dallas Morning News, 1974-07-10, page C7 (with Lloyd Bridges); 1975-03-05, page D4 (with Tony Randall); 1976-01-28, page C9 (with Freddy Fender).
- The Captain and Tennille broadcast listings, "Channel Choices", The Dallas Morning News, 1977-03-07, page 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, page 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 (with the Hudson Brothers, Ann B. Davis, and Rip Taylor
- Harry Bowman. "New season guessing" ("Broadcast Beat" column), The Dallas Morning News, April 22, 1975, page A12
- Earl Wilson. "Hackett 'Teaching' Charo" (column), The Dallas Morning News, October 13, 1975, page 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, page B7.
- "Channel Choices," The Dallas Morning News, August 24, 1976, page B5.
- Silverman, Stephen M. (May 8, 1998). "Charo: Still Cuchi-Cuchi-ing". People.com. Retrieved Mar 4, 2010.
- "From Perfect Beat".
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 101. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
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