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Charo – The “Cuchi-Cuchi” Girl

Music | January 17, 2018

Spanish-born bandleader Xavier Cugat (1900 - 1990) looks at his wife and compatriot, the musician and comedian Charo, as they appear on the CBS variety program 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' New York, February 26, 1967. (Getty Images)

María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza is much better known by her stage name, Charo. Thank goodness for that because her given name is a mouthful! Try learning to spell and write that one in first grade.

Charo is a spunky, Spanish-American actress, comedian and flamenco guitarist. She is well-known for her flamboyant costumes and personality. Her uninhibited and electric disposition can light up the dark just by walking into a room. Even now at the age of 54, she can hold her own with other, much younger, female performers.

Not long after she married her first husband at a very young age, she arrived on American soil and took the country by storm. Before long, Charo was a universal, household name. By the late 1960s, she had become quite a presence on primetime television. Charo began appearing on all the popular shows of the era including The Tonight Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Laugh-In, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. If Charo was cast on a show, we knew what was coming. She always remained true to her character and never disappointed her audiences.

The name, Charo, soon became synonymous with the catch-phrase, “cuchi-cuchi”. Charo could always be counted on to show up with undeniable exuberance, a curvy figure and the costumes to show it off. She didn’t shy away from the attention. She welcomed it, in fact, and was a good sport about it.

Adding further to her stage presence and appeal, was the fact that she lacked a total command of the English language. Also, what little English she did know was almost unrecognizable because of her thick accent. It certainly didn’t hold her back, though; Charo was in high demand and getting attention around every corner. By the early 1970s, she was reportedly earning as much money as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Dean Martin. Not bad for a newcomer!

By the late 1970s, Charo had begun to suffer from overexposure. Not overexposure in the sense that her costumes were too skimpy, but rather she had saturated television with her boisterous, uninhibited routine. She was somewhat of a spectacle, not necessarily in a bad way, but a spectacle all the same. Show after show she mainly stuck to that one persona and routine. America was tiring of it and was ready for something else.

No worries for Charo, though. She enjoyed being in the limelight and performing her brand of comedy for audiences, but music was her real calling. Charo loved to perform on stage, singing and playing the flamenco guitar, which she can make hum like no other. Charo is actually considered the world’s best flamenco guitarist. She was awarded the title of the Best Flamenco Guitarist of all time, 2 years in a row, by Guitar Player magazine.

Even today, Charo is performing her flamenco act and delighting her audiences.  Her beauty appears to be timeless and she can still “cuchi-cuchi” but that is not her claim to fame anymore. She is widely regarded as being a multi-talented musician and entertainer; being seen on Dancing With the Stars in the not so distant past.

Over the years, Charo has appreciated her American audiences and fans. Worldwide, however, she is known as a superior musician but in America, she is best known as the “cuchi-cuchi girl”. She takes no offense and actually embraces the distinction because it certainly paid off.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.