Today is the 66th birthday of the bigger-than-life entertainer with the bigger-than-life given name that has shortened it to simply “Charo.” She is one of my very favorite Love Boat guest stars. The woman just delivers every time! The world is a better place because Charo is in it.
OCCUPATION: Singer, Guitarist, Dancer, Comedian
BIRTH DATE: January 15, 1951
PLACE OF BIRTH: Murcia, Spain
FULL NAME: María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Gutiérrez de los Perales Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Hinojosa Rasten
BEST KNOWN FOR: Charo is a singer, musician and actress best known for her Latin sassiness, sexy outfits and signature phrase during the 1970s, “Cuchi-cuchi.”
Latin singer, musician and actress Charo was born Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza on January 15, 1951 (though some sources report that she was born on March 13, 1941), in Murcia, Spain.
Known for her long blonde hair, sexy clothes and trademark phrase, “Cuchi-cuchi,” Charo first made a big impression on American audiences in the 1970s. She started out, however, as a serious musician. As a child, she studied classical guitar and was mentored by one of that field’s great performers, Andres Segovia. At the age of 16, Charo was discovered by bandleader Xavier Cugat, and soon joined his orchestra as a singer and dancer.
Despite a more than 40-year age difference, Charo and Cugat wed in 1966. She appeared with him and alone on The Ed Sullivan Show several times in the late 1960s. In Las Vegas, Charo initially performed with her husband and later developed her own popular nightclub act. She made her film debut in Tiger by the Tail (1968) with Tippi Hedren. By the early 1970s, she had begun to break out on her own and continued to make guest appearances on such shows as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show and The Hollywood Squares. Charo was also a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Although she was a versatile performer, she became best known for the sassy Latina with the bubbly personality and bombshell looks. Charo could often be heard uttering her famous catchphrase, “Cuchi-cuchi,” which was usually accompanied by a wiggle of the hips. The phrase came from a childhood pet, a dog named Cuchillo.
Near the end of the decade, Charo seemed to be everywhere. On television, she had her own special in 1976 and appeared on the comedy Chico and the Man with comedian Freddie Prinze for a season and had recurring role on The Love Boat. In addition to acting, Charo also performed a nightclub act and released several records, including La Salsa (1976) and Dance a Little Bit Closer (1978).
This time also meant big changes in her personal life. Charo divorced Cugat in 1978 and married Kjell Rasten that same year. Not long after the birth of their son, Shel Joseph, in 1982, they moved to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Focused on her family, she scaled back on performing. Along with the occasional appearance, Charo continued to perform locally and owned a restaurant aptly named Charo’s.
Once their son was older, Charo set out to revive her career. She returned to performing and to her beloved guitar for 1994’s Guitar Passion, which did well on the Latin charts. And she attracted a new generation of fans through the VH1 reality show, The Surreal Life, in 2004. While no one has forgotten her humorous stage persona, she does seem to be taken more seriously as a performer, having received positive reviews for her latest album, Charo and Guitar (2007).
Charo lives in Beverly Hills, California, with her husband.
Chico and the Man Aunt Charo (1977-78)
The Surreal Life Herself (Season 3, 2004)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Thumbelina (30-Mar-1994) · Mrs. Toad [VOICE]
Moon Over Parador (9-Sep-1988) · Madame Loop
Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse (1988) · Herself
The Concorde: Airport ’79 (17-Aug-1979) · Margarita
Tiger by the Tail (1968)