“Cuchi-Cuchi!” Where is ‘Fantasy Island’ Star Charo Now?

Charo then and now
Everett Collection and Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Project Angel Food

While many people recognize Charo for her unusual catchphrase (“cuchi-cuchi!”), she certainly shouldn’t be defined by it. She worked through childhood struggles after her family escaped from Spain when dictator Francisco Franco ran the government and was able to become a big star in the United States. Her real name is as interesting as some of her comedy (Maria Rosario Pilar Lorenza Emilia Eugenia Martinez Molina Baeza De La Osa Rasten), but some may not realize that she is also an award-winning guitarist and considered one of the best flamenco guitarists in the world.

When Charo was a teenager, her talents were noticed by musician Xavier Cugat. He brought her to the United States to help with her career and the two got married in 1966, with an age difference of over four decades. She later admitted that the marriage was just a business deal to keep her in America so she could continue to work on her budding career. Charo soon booked The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and her catchphrase was born. She explained that he asked her something she didn’t understand and her response was “Cuchi-cuchi!” It doesn’t mean anything sexy or suggestive; it was inspired by a dog she had as a child that she nicknamed Cuchi and found that everyone laughed at the name.

The Concorde... Airport '79 Charo, 1979

Universal/Everett Collection

Of course, America loved Charo, and she achieved stardom after her roles on the shows Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. It wasn’t always easy. She once remarked, “When I came to America, it was very make-it-or-break-it. Overnight, America found ‘cuchi-cuchi,’ and that is the character that became so powerful. For me, cuchi-cuchi means money. Not only that, it saved me. And then we had a problem. Cuchi-cuchi took over the real me: my preparation, my knowledge, my guitar, my education. I became an idiot.”

While she hopes that America remembers her as a passionate musician, she understands that most will remember her for her persona and how she can make people laugh. She later appeared in other iconic ’70s shows such as The Jeffersons, Cheers‘ spinoff The Tortellis and The Facts of Life. In recent years, she has turned to reality television to showcase her authentic self in her 70s, and appeared in Dancing With the Stars, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Celebrity Wife Swap and Generation Gap.

The Surreal Life Charo, (Season 3), 2003-06

VH1/Everett Collection

Charo was married to Kjell Rasten from 1978 until his death in 2019. He died by suicide after struggling with some health conditions and depression. When she shared the news of his death, she wrote, “Please, if anyone you know and love is suffering from depression or illness, hold them close, tell them you love them with all your heart and that the world is better because they are in it.”

Where Are They Now - The Seventies
Want More?

Where Are They Now - The Seventies

June 2022

Who can forget all the great TV shows, movies and music of the ‘70s?

Buy This Issue