Charo is headed to the Dancing With the Stars ballroom—and she’ll be bringing her “cuchi-cuchies” with her. The flamenco guitarist and actress will compete for the 24th Dancing With the Stars mirrorball trophy with partner Keo Motsepe.
For viewers under a certain age, Charo ruled the entertainment scene in the 1970s—at least on the small screen. Back in the day, Charo appeared on a steady stream of hit TV shows, including Chico and the Man, Donny & Marie, Fantasy Island, and a whopping ten times on The Love Boat, where she played recurring character, April Lopez. The ’70s sexpot also made the rounds on the talk show and game show circuit. Charo was a guest on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson more than 45 times, and she was a frequent fixture on Hollywood Squares.
More recently, Charo appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race and Jane the Virgin. Charo’s reality TV credits include Celebrity Wife Swap and The Surreal Life. And Charo is no stranger to Dancing With the Stars either. In 2010, she made a cameo on the celebrity ballroom competition to teach Pamela Anderson the flamenco.
Of course, the big question, for Dancing With the Stars standards, anyway, is: How old is Charo? Charo has been a bit secretive about her age, but most media outlets report that she is 65-years-old. According to Baby Boomer Daily, Charo’s Spanish birth certificate lists her birth year as 1941 (which would make her 76 this year), but when she married Cuban bandleader Xavier Cugat in 1966, it was reported that she was born in 1951. To add to the confusion, news outlets at the time said Charo was 20-years-old when she married the 66-year-old Cugat. At other times, Charo has claimed that she was born in 1947 and 1949.
Charo has been married to her manager, Kjell Rasten, since 1978 and they have one child together. In a 2014 interview on Oprah: Where Are They Now, Charo’s son, Shel Rasten, said she was a great mother, but that she was “slightly embarrassing” sometimes, especially when he was in high school. Rasten said on his first day of school, his flamboyant mom dropped him off and made a big commotion with her signature catchphrase, and he said it made him “not cool” among his peers for the next few years.
While she was embarrassing during Shel’s teen years, in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Charo revealed that she put her career on hold during her son’s younger years in the early 1980s.
“I didn’t want him to be a gypsy, moving from one city to another, or growing up with nannies and me calling him by telephone and saying, ‘I love you,'” Charo said. “I didn’t want him to write a book when he grows up and call it “Cuchi-Cuchi Dearest.” That’s why I canceled everything. In 1988, Christmas, that was my last performance because I moved to Hawaii to raise my son.”
Still, Charo told the Sun she has no regrets over her sexy image.”I had no regret to the ‘cuchi-cuchi show,” Charo said. “It showed me the way to the bank. It’s a gimmick. It’s fun. It has nothing to do with sex… it’s energy and fun… If it wasn’t for ‘cuchi-cuchi,’ I would be selling tomatoes in Tijuana.”
Of course, in addition to her dance moves, Charo will surely bring that “cuchi- cuchi” catchphrase to the DWTS ballroom. In the Oprah interview, Charo explained how she came up with her signature salute, which many people assume has sexual undertones.
“Cuchillo (knife in Spanish), that was the name of my dog,” Charo told OWN. “He was a mix between a St. Bernard and a pit bull. I make a joke about that. First he bites you and then he runs for help. But I call him ‘cuchi cuchi.'”
In addition to Charo, the Dancing With the Stars Season 24 cast includes Heather Morris (Glee), Nick Viall (The Bachelor), Erika Girardi (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live), Mr. T (The A Team), Fifth Harmony singer Normani Kordei, bull rider and model Bonner Bolton, Rashad Jennings, David Ross, and Olympians Nancy Kerrigan and Simone Biles.
You can see Charo when Dancing With the Stars premieres Monday, March 20 on ABC.
[Featured Image by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Latina Magazine]