María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza,[1][note 1] professionally known by her stage name Charo, is a Spanish-born actress, singer, comedian, and flamenco guitarist who rose to international prominence in the 1960s on American television, as well as starring in several films.

Charo at the 2013 Alma Awards
Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza[note 1]

  • Actress
  • singer
  • classical guitarist
  • comedian
Years active1963–present
(m. 1966; div. 1978)
Kjell Rasten
(m. 1978; died 2019)
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Charo began playing classical (Spanish-style) guitar at the age of nine, training under the famed guitarist Andrés Segovia.[6][7] In 1966, she married 66-year-old bandleader Xavier Cugat and moved to the United States with him. 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, high energy levels, vague age, heavy Spanish accent, and catchphrase "cuchi-cuchi". She frequently pokes fun at herself, while also pointing out the potential judgment of others, through her accent.

As a musician, Charo 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) was awarded Female Pop Album of the Year at the Billboard International Latin Music Conference, and was named Best Female Latin Pop Album by Billboard Magazine.[2][8] In an interview, Charo has 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."[8]

Early life edit

Charo was born in the city of Murcia, Spain.[1] Her birth date has been a matter of some dispute (see 'Birth year controversy' below). Her Spanish passport gives her name as María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza.[3][note 1]

Charo has claimed she was enrolled in a convent school until the age of 15, when a nun told her that she belonged in show business.[9] In the most colorful version of her 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.[10]

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."[11]

Charo has stated in several interviews that she graduated with honors at age 16.[12][7]

Bandleader Xavier Cugat "discovered" her while in Spain filming a television special in 1964.[13] They wed on August 7, 1966. 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."[14]

They were the first couple to be wed at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Charo later claimed that her marriage to Cugat was merely a business contract, a way for him to legally bring her to the United States.[15]

Birth year controversy edit

Charo in the 1960s

Charo's year of birth is the subject of dispute. Her Spanish birth certificate and passport, as well as her American naturalization papers, give her birthdate as March 13, 1941. She later claimed she was born in 1947, then changed it to 1949.[16] In 1977, she asserted in a court hearing that her passport and naturalization papers were incorrect and that her birthdate was January 15, 1951.[3]

Several newspaper articles around the time of her wedding to Cugat gave Charo's age as 17.[17] Others referred to her as Cugat's "18-year-old protégée".[18] An April 1966 column on the wedding plans stated that she was 20 and Cugat was 60.[19] Many sources identified her as 21 on the day of her wedding.[20][21][22]

Later, when asserting her birthdate was 1951, she claimed her parents allowed her to falsify her age to appear older when marrying Cugat. However, that would have made her 15 at the time, contradicting her claim to have graduated from school at 16, not yet having begun her performing career. She has never clarified the discrepancy.[23][14]

In October 1977,[24] the same year in which Charo filed for divorce from Cugat and became a naturalized American citizen, judge Roger Foley in Las Vegas adjudicated the 1951 birth year to be official. Charo provided sworn affidavits from her parents,[25][26] although the claim has been viewed with skepticism.[8][27] 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."[14]

Career edit

Charo was highly visible throughout the 1970s, appearing eight times on The Love Boat, and on variety and talk shows such as Donny & Marie,[28] Tony Orlando and Dawn,[29] The Captain and Tennille,[30] The John Davidson Show, The Mike Douglas Show (which she guest-hosted at least once)[31] and the short-lived The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.[32]

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."[33] By October of that year, Charo was promoting a TV special slated for November,[34] but it did not actually appear until May 1976.[35][36]

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."[37]

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 her 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)
Charo performing in 2004

She was named Best Flamenco Guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine's readers' poll twice.[38]

Charo returned to the dance-music scene in June 2008 with the single "España Cañi", which was released through Universal Wave Records.[39]

On March 1, 2017, Charo was revealed a contestant for Season 24 of Dancing with the Stars, paired with professional dancer Keo Motsepe.[40] On April 3, 2017, they were the second couple eliminated from the competition and finished in 11th place.

Personal life edit

In 1977, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States. That year, she filed for divorce from Cugat, which was granted on April 14, 1978.[41]

On August 11, 1978, she married her second husband, producer Kjell Rasten, in South Lake Tahoe, California.[42] He soon became her manager. They have one child, son Shel Rasten (born 1981),[43] who is the drummer for the heavy metal band Treazen. He is also an actor and producer, known for The Boulevard (2013), FAMOUS (and on the List) (2010) and CSI: Miami (2002).

They moved to Hawaii, but eventually moved back to Beverly Hills.[44]

Rasten died by suicide on February 18, 2019, at the age of 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.[44]

Discography edit

Albums edit

  • 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)

Singles edit

  • 1976: "La Salsa"
  • 1977: "Dance a Little Bit Closer" – US Dance No. 18; UK No. 44[45]
  • 1978: "Mamacita, ¿dónde está Santa Claus?" ("Mommy, Where's Santa Claus?")
  • 1978: "Olé Olé" – US Dance No. 36
  • 1979: "Sha Na Na"
  • 1979: "Stay with Me" – US Dance No. 55
  • 1979: "Hot Love"
  • 1981: "La Mojada (Wet Back)"
  • 2003: "Prisionera De Tu Amor" (with Seductive Souls)
  • 2008: "España Cañi" – US Dance No. 14
  • 2011: "Sexy Sexy" – US Dance No. 24
  • 2013: "Dance a Little Bit Closer" (Charo & the Salsoul Orchestra vs. the Cube Guys Remix)

Filmography edit

Year Title Role Notes
1963 New Friendship
Ensayo general para la muerte English Title: "Dress Rehearsal for Death"
1967 The Big Mouth Mexican Maid Uncredited
1970 Tiger by the Tail Darlita
Elvis: That's the Way It Is Herself Documentary
1979 The Concorde ... Airport '79 Margarita
1988 Moon Over Parador Madame Loop
1994 Thumbelina Mrs. Toad Voice
1996 Blame It on the Macarena!
2017 Sharknado 5: Global Swarming The Queen of the United Kingdom
2021 The Bitch Who Stole Christmas

Television edit

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c Though Charo's official English-language website gives her name as Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza without accent marks, other sources give longer versions of her name, some of which are contradictory: for example María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza,[2] María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza,[3] Maria Rosario Pilar Lorenza Emilia Eugenia Martinez Molina Baeza De La Osa Rasten,[4] or María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Gutiérrez de los Perales Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Hinojosa Rasten, but with a shorter version in the text of the same source.[5]

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Charo". The Official Charo Website. Archived from the original on November 23, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Goldschmitt, Kariann (2013), "Charo", Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2248852, ISBN 9781561592630
  3. ^ a b c "La mujer que conquistó EE.UU. sin que nadie en España se enterase". January 15, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  4. ^ Kerr, Jolie (June 22, 2019). "Thank Heaven for Charo". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  5. ^ "Charo Biography: Dancer, Singer, Guitarist (1951–)". May 14, 2019. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  6. ^ "Charo". Biography. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Pemberton, Patrick S. (March 29, 2012). "Charo: Beyond 'cuchi cuchi'". The Tribune. San Luis Obispo, California. Archived from the original on July 4, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Ruíz, Vicki and Virginia Sánchez Korrol. Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. Indiana University Press (2006), p. 144.
  9. ^ "Coochie-coochie comedienne wants to be 'zee' dramatic actress", Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1982.
  10. ^ "She's dynamite: You might say Charo's rather un-convent-ional", Chicago Tribune, April 29, 1974.
  11. ^ "Ageless Charo keeps the cuchi cuchi flame burning", San Francisco Chronicle, August 6, 2005.
  12. ^ "Charo: She's more than just miss 'Cuchi, Cuchi'", Napa Valley Register, September 8, 2010
  13. ^ "7 Jul 1964, 5 - The Morning Call at". July 7, 1964. Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  14. ^ a b c 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.
  15. ^ "Fin del 'cuchi cuchi', principio del arte", La Opinión Digital, February 17, 2005 (in Spanish) Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "These stars keep tight rein on real ages", The Pittsburgh Press, August 9, 1986.
  17. ^ "15 Jul 1964, Page 28 - The Philadelphia Inquirer at". July 15, 1964. Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  18. ^ Earl Wilson. "It happened last night" (column), The Dallas Morning News, September 16, 1964, section 4, Ataahua's song
  19. ^ Earl Wilson. "It happened last night" (column), The Dallas Morning News, April 18, 1966, page D18.
  20. ^ Francis Raffetto. "Las Vegas Opens Caesar's Palace", After Dark column, The Dallas Morning News, August 8, 1966, page A14
  21. ^ Paul Steiner. "Jackie followed trend of May–December", The Dallas Morning News, October 27, 1968, page E9
  22. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Royal Parker (August 7, 1966). WBAL-TV 11pm News, August 7, 1966 (YouTube) (TV News). Baltimore, MD: WBAL/YouTube. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  23. ^ Cugat Weds Charo in Las Vegas,; accessed March 13, 2016.
  24. ^ Jura Koncius. "Personalities" (column), The Washington Post, August 16, 1978, page D2
  25. ^ Larry Powell (column). "Exact age for Charo leaves plenty of wiggle room", The Dallas Morning News, February 7, 1999, page 38A
  26. ^ "Charo, Sister 'Younger'" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 10, 1977.
  27. ^ CARLINSKY, DAN (July 13, 1986). "Stars' Ages: The Big Lie?". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  28. ^ 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)
  29. ^ 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).
  30. ^ The Captain and Tennille broadcast listings, "Channel Choices", The Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1977, pg. B7 (with John Byner, Ben Vereen, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and LeVar Burton).
  31. ^ Rena Pederson (column), The Dallas Morning News, December 3, 1976, pg. B11; refers to Charo as "the dizzy Spanish sexpot-songstress".
  32. ^ The Brady Bunch Hour broadcast listing, "Channel Choices", The Dallas Morning News, March 21, 1977, page A18.
  33. ^ Harry Bowman. "New season guessing" ("Broadcast Beat" column), The Dallas Morning News, April 22, 1975, pg. A12
  34. ^ Earl Wilson. "Hackett 'Teaching' Charo" (column), The Dallas Morning News, October 13, 1975, pg. D5.
  35. ^ Harry Bowman. The Dallas Morning News, April 27, 1976, page C5
  36. ^ UPI. "Charo special looms as family sizzler", The Dallas Morning News, May 24, 1976, pg. B7.
  37. ^ "Channel Choices", The Dallas Morning News, August 24, 1976, pg. B5.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ "From Perfect Beat". Archived from the original on July 2, 2008.
  40. ^ "'Dancing With the Stars' 2017: Season 24 celebrity cast and partners revealed on 'GMA'". ABC News. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  41. ^ Roger Piantadosi. "Personalities" (column), The Washington Post, April 15, 1978, page C3.
  42. ^ Ellen Goldman and Joseph P. Mastrangelo. "Personalities" (column), The Washington Post, August 15, 1978, p. C1
  43. ^ Bobic, Chrissy (March 20, 2017). "Charo's Son Has A Great Relationship With His Mom". Romper. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  44. ^ a b Corinthios, Aurelie; White, Chelsea (2019, February 19). "Charo's Husband Kjell Rasten Dies by Suicide: 'He Was an Amazing Man,' Star Says". People, 19 February 2019. Retrieved on 2019-03-11 from
  45. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 101. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  46. ^ "Charo- IMDB". IMDb.

External links edit