When no one else was presenting
the fire and passion of Latin music in the nightclubs of Las Vegas,
Atlantic City, and other showrooms, Charo was. When no one else was
singing both Spanish and English, called Spanglish, Charo was. When no one
else was playing classical guitar on TV talk shows, Charo was. She's the
mamacita of the Macarena, the queen of salsa disco, and the matriarch of
Today, Charo is more popular
than ever. A new album of dance music, Gusto, and a home video,
On The Macarena!, are currently in release. When not performing her
sold-out, five-times-a-week, 36-weeks-a-year stage show at the 500-seat
Outrigger Reef Tower's Polynesian Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii -- where
she's become the top entertainment attraction on the Islands -- she tours
around the world, from Europe to Latin America to Asia. She also continues
to appear in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno and around the United States.
relocated to Hawaii in 1988 after her son Shel turned six years old.
"I wanted our son to grow up in a healthy and beautiful environment.
I just closed my eyes to some good offers in show business. I love show
business, but family is my priority."
Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza was born in Murcia in southeastern
Spain and nicknamed Charo as a child. Her father was a lawyer who was exiled
to Casablanca during the Franco dictatorship, returning only when Franco
died. Her mother was a homemaker; "She came from a time when girls
just had children and cooked," Charo adds proudly, "but she
Attending school at the Catholic
convent of the Sacred Heart, Charo began playing guitar at age nine. One
of her teachers was Andres Segovia, father of modern classical guitar
music. "We were a bunch of kids, and he gave us general lessons. He
was very nice, and never accepted money. You would watch this incredible
man with such big fingers play, telling you what to do. It was beautiful
a teenager in Madrid, she recorded albums, debuted on film starring in the
Spanish classic "Don Juan Teniorio," and was featured in a TV
show similar to Sesame Street. When famed Big Band leader Xavier Cugat saw
her in the latter, he decided she was what his orchestra needed. She
joined his band, but after a
while she went out on her own to become a solo performer.
At 19, she began appearing as a
solo artist. Among her recording hits were La Salsa and Flamenco Salsa on
Capital. Her first US album was Cuchi-Cuchi from Charo & The Salsoul
Orchestra, on Salsoul Records (a one-time leader in Latin disco), and went
Platinum. The single Dance A Little Bit Closer became a #1 hit in clubs
worldwide. The album also included Cuchi-Cuchi and Borriquito. Her
follow-up was Olé, Olé (Salsoul), spawning hits with its title track and
Stay With Me which achieved Gold status.
She was presented with the
prestigious Golden Eagle Award as Outstanding Entertainer of the Year by
Nosotros, the leading Hispanic arts organization. Other musical winners
have since included Gloria Estefan, Carlos Santana and Los Lobos. Charo
also received the Distinguished Career Award from Hispanic Exhibitor and
on TV, she played Aunt Charo on the
sitcom Chico and the Man, and appeared in The Concorde - Airport
guest star was featured on more episodes of the series The Love Boat than
Charo. She also costarred in Moon Over Parador (1988) and given voice to a
character in the animated Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina (1994) with
Carol Channing, Gilbert Gottfried and John Hurt.
Thanks to hundreds of
appearances on top-rated TV series from Laugh-In to The Carol Burnett
Show, commercials (Sun Country Wine Cooler, Miller Lite Beer, Pepsi,
to name a few) and talk shows such as The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin
Show, David Letterman, etc., Charo became a household name, instantly
recognizable for her big blonde hair, tight flamboyant clothes, voluptuous
figure, fractured English, enough energy to light up every marquee in Las
Vegas, and the hip-shake she calls the "cuchi-cuchi." Charo
muses, "I tell you, I still don't know what the hell 'cuchi-cuchi'
means. But hey, it works for me!"
1978, she took a Hawaiian honeymoon with Kjell Rasten, a Swedish-born
businessman, and fell in love with the Islands. Some years later, they
completed building a home on Kauai on the spot where "Bali Hai"
was sung in the movie South Pacific and opened a restaurant, aptly named
Charo's, nearby in 1985. With the international tourism attracted to
Hawaii, nightclubs there require a star with broad appeal -- and Charo
certainly qualifies. She's fluent in French, English, Italian, and
Japanese, as well as her native Spanish.
One of the highlights in her
shows is when she plays classical guitar. She was the winner of Guitar
Player magazine's Readers Poll as Best Flamenco Guitarist two years in a
row. She usually plays guitar two hours a day, but before major concerts
will practice up to five hours daily. "Sometimes I think, taking the
hours I give to the guitar, when I die, half of my life will have been
given to that instrument."
audiences began asking when she'll do an album spotlighting her playing,
she began preparing Guitar Passion. Called "a fine flamenco-rooted
album that spotlights her fluid fingerplay" (Billboard, June 10,
1995), Guitar Passion (Universal Wave Records) was named Pop Album of the
Year (female artist) at the 1995 Billboard International Latin Music
Conference, and reached Platinum worldwide. Charo recalls, "Guitar
Passion introduced me as a musician to those who did not know I could play
guitar. But while promoting it, people would ask 'What happened to 'cuchi-cuchi'
and that energy and that wiggle?'."
(Universal Wave Records) released February 1997, is Charo's first dance
album since her disco hits. It includes
a new Dance A Little Bit Closer, Give Me Cuchi, and her own take on
years ago, while performing in Madrid, she heard the original Macarena and
brought it back with her to America to include in her live performances.
She also developed her version of an accompanying dance: "When I do
it, it's more like a dancer, more seductive, not like a robot." Charo
has now become the woman most associated with the Macarena. Her home
video, Blame It On The Macarena! (Madacy Entertainment Group), features
Charo performing both the song and the dance in her uniquely entertaining
style -- fun, passionate and funny.
long ago, a woman scheduled for open heart surgery was gripped by despair.
She turned on the TV and there was Charo, whose bubbly personality and
zany antics made her laugh. When she awoke after the successful operation,
glad to be alive, she sent a letter addressed simply to "Charo's,
Hawaii." Recalls Charo, "She thanked me because in those
terrible moments for her, I entertained her. There is nothing better than
that. What I do is from the heart. This is what I was born for."
a few people in show business attract audiences ranging from young
children to senior citizens, and from all ethnic cultures. Today, only a
few combine comedy with music. Surely, only a few have as much fun as she.
Charo is one of those chosen few.