Part Sofia Vergara, part chihuahua, and part helium balloon, Charo is one of the cutest and weirdest showbiz characters ever. In case you’re not familiar, Charo is one of those pop-culture oddities who appeared on late-night shows lichrally hundreds of times during the ’70s and ’80s. The host would giggle at her shitty English, she’d do some kind of funny dance or musical performance, and everyone would laugh. Throughout each segment, she’d constantly repeat her catchphrase, “cuchi cuchi!”
(Fast-forward to 2:55 for the interview, if you can manage to skip past her awesome song and amphetamine-fueled dance moves)
But Charo is so much more than just her double cuchi—she has one of the weirdest and coolest backstories ever. She was born in Spain—her actual birth name is María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, but I’m not even going to bother typing that out over and over again—then studied flamenco guitar as a kid. She became a sick musician and then may or may not have gotten married at age 13 (reports/record-keeping is hazy, but wow), and eventually became a Vegas headliner in the ’70s, earning more than even Frank Sinatra.
Here’s Tiny Baby Charo back then, palling around with/being condescended to by Dean Martin, who she also out-earned in Vegas (GIT IT, GURL):
Since she’s better known for her cramazing wigs and cutesy behavior than for her technical skills, most people probably don’t know that Charo is a ridiculously talented flamenco guitarist. Like, incredible:
And since she was known primarily as a Latin sex bomb, I guess it’s not that surprising that her musical talents got overlooked in favor of her other…talents.
Later, she became a camp icon, and made an appearance on Pee Wee’s infamously-the-best-thing-ever Christmas special.
She’s even been “done” on Drag Race!
Since her musical heyday, she’s done a ton of ads and guest appearances on everyone and their mom’s TV shows, including Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23, on which she played a guardian angel. And she’s wholeheartedly embraced her gay fan base—she was the Grand Marshal of the SF LGBT Pride Parade in 2008, and rode on a float surrounded by lovely Charo imitators.
Glamorous, goofy, crazy-talented, fearless, and all-out fun, Charo is our kind of gal. We hope you pop that cuchi forever, lady.
P.S. We’ll leave you with this, her performance of “Please Don’t Stop the Music” at the Jerry Lewis Telethon in 2009. There are no words.