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María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Gutiérrez de los Perales Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Hinojosa Rasten , better known as Charo, is a Spanish-American actress, comedienne, and flamenco guitarist, best known for her flamboyant stage presence, her provocative outfits, and her trademark phrase ("cuchi-cuchi").


 Early life
Charo was born María Hernandez in Murcia, Region of Murcia, Spain in 1951, Charo's father was a lawyer who reportedly fled to Casablanca during Francisco Franco's dictatorship while her homemaker mother stayed behind in Murcia, raising their children. She studied classical and flamenco guitar while residing in Murcia, and can claim Andrés Segovia as her guitar teacher. He once spoke of his pupil in an interview, and remembered giving her career advice. "Stop saying 'cuchi-cuchi' so much, Charo! Be serious!" She took guitar lessons from him and other teachers from the age of nine on. She has been named "Best Flamenco Guitarist" in Guitar Player Magazine's readers' poll twice.

When Charo was quite young, she was "discovered" by famous bandleader Xavier Cugat, whom she later wed on August 7, 1966. Cugat was 66 and had already been married four times although reports sometimes listed fewer marriages. An April 1966 column by Earl Wilson on the couple's wedding plans announced, "Sixty-year-old Xavier Cugat and his 20-year-old Spanish girlfriend and singing star Charo hope to get married in San Cugat, Spain, in a few days – if Cugat can convince church authorities his two divorces should not be counted against him since he wasn't married in church." The couple was the first to have their nuptials in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

In a February 2005 interview with the Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión, Charo claimed that her marriage to Cugat had been merely a "business contract," a way for him to legally bring her over to the United States, where he was based.

She moved to West 257th Street in the New York City borough of The Bronx with her mother and aunt, and was regularly featured in shows with Cugat's orchestra in New York and Las Vegas, as well as in overseas engagements in Latin America and Europe. She claims he was confident in her eventual success from early on, and that she gave him a Rolls-Royce as a parting gift once she came of legal age.

Charo's first US TV appearance was on The Today Show in the mid-1960s. She later appeared on Laugh-In in 1968. She would appear on short chatfests of a few minutes near the end of the show with Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. Her almost complete lack of fluency in the English language was played as a comic focus, and she would have the two hosts laughing at her mangled English. This is also the time that the "cuchi cuchi' line passed into the public arena.

The 1970s
She was headlining Vegas shows by 1971, and reportedly being paid as much as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles or Dean Martin. In 1977, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States; that same year, she filed for divorce from Cugat, a petition that was granted April 14, 1978 On August 11, 1978, she married her second husband, Kjell Rasten, a producer, in South Lake Tahoe, California, in a civil ceremony attended by 30 guests. Rasten soon became his wife's manager, and the couple has one child, a son, Shel Rasten , who is the drummer for the heavy metal band Treazen.

Throughout the 1970s, she was a highly visible personality, appearing 8 times on The Love Boat, as well as on variety and talk shows such as Donny & Marie, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Captain and Tennille, The John Davidson Show, The Mike Douglas Show, which she guest-hosted at least once, and even the infamously short-lived Brady Bunch variety spinoff.

In 1975, Dallas Morning News critic Harry Bowman wrote that the ABC network had "penciled in ... a half-hour comedy starring the uninhibited wife of Xavier Cugat" and commented, "This is probably the worst idea of the season." By October of that year, the performer was promoting a special slated for November, but the special did not actually appear until May, 1976. A TV listing for August 24, 1976, shows what appears to be an unsold pilot airing on ABC at 8:30 pm CST: "Charo and the Sergeant - Situation comedy starring Charo Cugat. Charo's first U.S. job is to be a dancer at an off-limits night club, and her conservative Marine Corps husband finds out. The few episodes that were taped ended up being broadcast on the American Armed Forces Network overseas. "

By the late 1970s, Charo was being mentioned as an example of how overexposure could damage a celebrity; one such article quoted Steve Levitt's "Q score" research to show the performer's popularity declined slightly even as her familiarity increased:

Before she gained national fame on talk shows in 1975, bosomy Latin starlet Charo was 'recognized' by 57 per cent of Levitt's national television sample - and had a 'popularity quotient' of 9 per cent. Today, known by 80 per cent, a figure as high as Clint Eastwood's 80 per cent, Charo's popularity is 8 per cent. 'If she was known by 100 per cent of the world, chances are her popularity might go down to 7 or 6 per cent', Levitt says coolly. That paradox makes some performers think twice when invitations to talk shows come in.

For much of the late 1980s and 1990s Charo had limited visibility as she moved to Hawaii, and opened and performed at her own dinner theater while she and Rasten raised their son. Because of the large number of Japanese immigrants to the island state, Charo learned to speak Japanese. In the 2000s, she returned to television in commercials for Sprint wireless phone service and GEICO insurance, as well as guest appearances on Hollywood Squares, a season-three stint on the celebreality series The Surreal Life, as guest appearances on the Fox Network's That '70s Show and appearances in VH1's I Love the '70s retrospectives. Most recently, on May 11, 2008. she made a guest appearance on the Latin-themed VH1 reality show Viva Hollywood.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Charo", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.