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There's only one Charo

Either 57 or 67? You go, Charo!

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Either 57 or 67? You go, Charo!

Is the Charo performing in St. Petersburg on Saturday the same blond booty-shakin' icon of the '70s? Can't be!

Same top-knot hair poof. Same "cuchi-cuchi" squeal. Sorta same curvalicious body busting out of showy sequins. But that would make her ... well, just how old is she?

Good question. Charo (real name Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza) insists she was born in 1951 -- which would make her 15 at the time of her marriage to 66-year-old band leader Xavier Cugat. Curiously, records in Spain say she was born in 1941. So 57 or 67?

Either way, we can't think of any other entertainer who has a TV resume quite like this. (And we're not counting game shows, TV specials, sitcoms and commercials.) Click on the links for cheesetastik YouTube video.

The Love Boat

The show that made her a pop culture icon. From 1977-'84, she appeared in eight episodes as lovable stowaway-turned-entertainer April Lopez. Memorable moment: Shaking up the Love Boat theme song with a hoochie-mama disco dance at the end. From there it wasn't much of a leap to Fantasy Island, where she did three episodes.

Variety, talk show queen

Mostly in the '70s, spastic Charo hit them all, spouting off whatever "Spanglish" popped into her head: Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher, Captain and Tennille, Donny and Marie, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and Dean Martin. Her Web site says she was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at least 45 times. Also, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Late Night with David Letterman.

Bizarro Charo

Martha Stewart (2006): Charo showed up "to smash a 30-pound chocolate bunny with a mallet, then inform America's most meticulous hostess that she needed to start wearing outfits that 'show more maracas,' " according to Entertainment Weekly. Amazingly, it's not the first time Charo and Martha appeared together: Charo sampled Martha's hors d'oeuvres on Merv Griffin in 1983.

Pee-Wee Herman's Christmas Special (1988): She played and sang "Feliz Navidad" while Pee-Wee tried to smash a pinata. Kinda like the Surreal Life meets Dora the Explorer meets Mister Rogers.

-- Compiled by Kelly Smith, Times staff writer. Information from, and was used in this report.

What's "cuchi-cuchi?"

It was the nickname for her childhood dog, Cuchillo. "When Cuchillo was happy he wiggled. I copied him and I used to say 'como Cuchi, como Cuchi,' " Charo says in a quote on "Everybody thought that it was very cute when I wiggled and say cuchi-cuchi, and they give me cookies and candy. Now, every time I say cuchi-cuchi, people give me money." (Watch Charo tell Florence Henderson to squeeze her butt while teaching her to cuchi-cuchi.)

Charo Presents: Latin Explosion

An accomplished flamenco guitarist, Charo features the dance and history of the real salsa, tango, samba and flamenco. $29-$52 ($52 VIP tickets include pre-concert reception with light hors d'oeuvres and cash bar), 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S ,St. Petersburg, (727) 892-5767.

There's only one Charo 09/26/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 28, 2008 1:35pm]
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