Who Is Charo?
Charo began her career as a musician, singer and dancer. She emerged as a star in America in the 1970s via appearances 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 few decades saw her release several albums featuring her singing and guitar skills, along with a return to TV on shows like The Surreal Life and Dancing with the Stars.
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Early Life and Career
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.
Charo started out as a serious musician. As a child, she studied classical guitar and was mentored by one of that field's great performers, Andres Segovia. As a teenager, she was discovered by Latin bandleader and "Rumba King" Xavier Cugat, and she soon joined his orchestra as a singer and dancer. Despite a more than 40-year age difference, Charo and Cugat wed in 1966.
TV Star: 'Ed Sullivan' to 'Chico and the Man' and 'The Love Boat'
Charo appeared with Cugat and alone on The Ed Sullivan Show several times in the late 1960s. In Las Vegas, she initially performed with her husband and later developed her own popular nightclub act.
After making her film debut in Tiger by the Tail (1968), with Tippi Hedren, Charo began to break out on her own through guest appearances on such shows as Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show and The Hollywood Squares. She was also a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Although she was a versatile performer, Charo became best known for her bubbly personality and bombshell looks. She 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. She went on to a recurring role on The Love Boat that stretched for several years.
Along with her acting, Charo released several records, including La Salsa (1976) and Dance a Little Bit Closer (1978).
Later Albums and TV Career
Charo returned to performing and to her beloved guitar for 1994's Guitar Passion, which did well on the Latin charts. She also attracted a new generation of fans through the VH1 reality show The Surreal Life. And while she remained famous for her humorous stage persona, she was also taken more seriously as a serious performer, receiving positive reviews for her album Charo and Guitar (2005).
Following years of scattered TV appearances, Charo in 2017 was named a contestant on the 24th season of Dancing with the Stars. That year she also appeared in the farcical Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, as the queen of England.
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 mostly performed locally and owned a restaurant aptly named Charo's.
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In February 2019, Rasten died after reportedly shooting himself at their Beverly Hills home. Charo revealed that her husband had been battling depression as a side effect of medications taken for a rare skin disease.
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