By Marshall Jay Kaplan
The flamboyant entertainer and talented flamenco guitarist is still flamboyant and still talented and still makes television and stage appearances. “Cuchi-cuchi!”
Maria del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza (yes, that is her real name!) was born January 15, 1951 in Murcia, Spain. Starting as a child right into her teenage years, she studied classical and flamenco guitar. Always the funny performer, she would be scolded by her guitar teacher for playfully saying “Cuchi-cuchi”–her nickname for her little dog, “Cuchillo”—to make him dance and wiggle his rear end. Her habit of calling her dog (and wiggling her behind) became her trademark.
In 1964, Charo (as she now called herself) was discovered by bandleader Xavier Cugat, who married her when she was 15. She later claimed it was a business deal so she could legally move to the United States. Upon becoming a U.S. citizen in 1978, she divorced Cugat.
Charo began appearing on U.S. television shows in the mid-60s and by the mid-70s was in many TV series’ and game shows. As viewers tired of her, Charo “Cuchi-cuchi’d” her way off of television.
She remarried and moved to Hawaii to open a dinner theater where she could perform with her number one love—flamenco guitar. Twenty years later, she was asked to appear in a reality series called The Surreal Life, and returned to Los Angeles.
Interest in Charo was rekindled and she has parodied herself in commercials for Sprint and Geico, and performs on cruise ships.