Her given name is María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, but fans across the globe simply know her as Charo. For over five decades, this Spanish-American performer has entertained audiences thanks to her skills as an actress, comedienne and flamenco artist. In the early ’60s Charo quickly started her rise to fame in the States after appearing on such shows as The Today Show, Laugh-In and an unforgettable stint in the ’70s on the iconic Love Boat. She then went on to also appear on numerous shows including Donny & Marie, Hollywood Squares and The Surreal Life, and those are just to name a few. Charo will soon be seen in an episode of El Show, which is the first series of MiTú Networks’ newest venture on their YouTube Channel Macho.
You recently shot an episode of El Show. What can we expect?
It’s going to be a huge success. It’s going to be big because it’s spontaneous and it is refreshing and it’s exactly what the audience needs right now. Everything is the same right now. We need something spontaneous, charming and terrific. I know this is it.
El Show is featured on YouTube with social media playing a big part to help spread the word on episodes. Are you a fan of social media?
Victor, this is the funniest thing, and I am glad that you asked me. My life is so colorful, and I know that I should Tweet, and I am going to start because everybody tells me that I should start doing it. Today I am in Boston. Three days from now you are going to find me in Florida. After that you will find me in Europe and then I will go back to Las Vegas. I move like Speedy Gonzales with high heels. The problem is that I don’t have the time. How can that bitch be in Boston and then three days later come back? I don’t have a steady life or the time to say, “Today I have a personal day, and I think I am going to go for a walk with my baby bull pet.” I don’t have the time, but I think that I should do it. I think it’s a tremendous connection with your fans and the people. Shame on me. I am for it, and I will do it. It’s the best way to connect with your fans.
You are known for a number of things, one of which is the phrase “Cuchi-Cuchi,” which you coined. How did that come about?
This is a famous story. I copied a dog that my grandma rescued, which was injured in an accident. She brought it to her farm. It was a big cinnamon-colored dog. His name was Cuchillo (knife). I was 3 or 4 years old, and I played with Cuchillo, but I called that dog Cuchi, because Cuchillo is very difficult for a young kid to say. Cuchi was always so happy when he would see me. Because of his accident he would shake his butt in the front, so I copied the dog. When I wanted attention or candy I would say, “Como Cuchi. Como Cuchi.” This worked. I took it everywhere, and when I came to America I did not speak English. They told me that Johnny Carson was the king, and that if he liked you, you were in. Whatever he asked me, I would say “Cuchi Cuchi” and that was it. The next day they would say, “Oh, you are the Cuchi Cuchi girl!”
If you hadn’t gone into the entertainment business, what do you think that you’d be doing?
You want to have fun? A prostitute. [Laughs] I would be a doctor, and I am very much involved with medicine. I would be a hell of a good doctor. I was in a convention for heart diseases and talking to some of the doctors. I mentioned why I am so fascinated with medicine. Medicine and music is connected.
You’ve been married to your husband since 1978. That’s unheard of in Hollywood. What’s the secret to making it work?
First of all, respect. If you don’t respect each other, the shit is going to hit the fan. If you are not loyal, then how can you trust a person that says, “Honey, I love you” and you turn around and you screw somebody else. Rule number two: Don’t screw anybody. Number three: Be very good friends. And number four: Be very good in bed.
Earlier this year, you were recently mentioned in Behind the Candelabra. What was it like to hang out with Liberace?
He was my friend. We were real buddies. I was working at the hotel Sahara. And I used to say, “You are in Las Vegas and you have to see Liberace.” He heard about this and sent me flowers and told me that he was saying the same about me. We mingled together. He was fascinated with an old Latin song called “Tico Tico.” The rumor came that he had AIDS and under no circumstance was I going to abandon him. All of a sudden it was like taboo. Everybody stayed away. I cooked for him, and he cooked for us. He had a beautiful home in Las Vegas. We had another home not too far from him.
You are no stranger to the gay community. In fact, you served as the Celebrity Grand Marshal in 2008 for the San Francisco Gay Pride. What are your thoughts on gay marriage?
Spain is part of Europe, and fortunately the way that the children grow up, because all of the discrimination comes from what the children hear in the house, when they are babies growing up. When you are growing up and you are educated like everybody is equal and forget about the skin color and forget about gay, forget about overweight and all of those things. My surprise was, when I came to this country many, many, many years ago and I was working with Sammy Davis Jr., we went to a restaurant in Las Vegas and he was a little strange. I looked at him and I said, “What’s going on?” He said, “Well, maybe I won’t have problems because I’m coming with you, but, you know, I’m black.” I said, “Listen, you think I’m color blind? I know you’re black.” He said, “I did have problems before.” This was in 1971. I’ll never forget it. I was young and I almost went into shock. I looked at my sister and I said, “Well, one day it will happen when people will wake up to reality and find out that we all are the way that we are born.” Don’t judge us for the way that we are born. Discrimination has to be eliminated as soon as possible, and it is getting better. I get very upset when I hear a joke about gays or racism.