Charo is a singer, musician and actress who was born on January 15, 1951 (though some sources report her birth date as March 13, 1941), in Murcia, Spain. She emerged as a star in America in the 1970s with her Latin sassiness, sexy outfits and signature phrase, "Cuchi-cuchi." She appeared on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show, The Hollywood Squares, The Tonight Show and The Love Boat. In the 1980s she scaled back her career to focus on her family. The next two decades saw her release several albums featuring her singing and guitar skills. Charo's appearance on the reality show The Surreal Life gained her a new legion of fans.
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.