Conversation with the One and Only Charo!
By Rebecca Redshaw
One name – Charo. Two words – Cuchi, Cuchi. But there’s so much more to this dynamic entertainer. In a recent phone interview from her home in Beverly Hills, Charo talked about her upcoming engagement at Spotlight 29, her success in show business, and her true love.
What can the Spotlight 29- Palm Spring audience expect on October 8th?
This will be a special show, a big show, a brand-new show. What happens after so many times, I have found the almost perfect formula because I combine energy, excitement – good for teenagers and children and grown-ups. It’s almost like two shows – one, the first 45 minutes, you are in Las Vegas with great production and magnificent costumes. If you like salsa, you’ll go crazy because it’s the greatest hit from Cuba. If you like flamenco, you’re gonna love it. It’s a great, great, great production.
But after this fun is done, after some comedy and some dancing, you know, the things people expect, I will play the guitar. I feel very strong about that. I studied with Segovia and I studied flamenco. Little by little I have incorporated the guitar [into the show].
Why the change?
There comes a point in your life where you put your foot down. It already happened to me. You say, “The show is doing fine, but I wonder what these people think about it the day after? If they’re going to remember.
So, that’s what you’re doing with this show, giving it more depth?
You’re going to be impressed because, I get a standing ovation no matter what I do – dancing, jumping – because for the last forty-five minutes of the show it’s the ending of Las Vegas. That’s when I’m going to introduce you to a person you don’t know because I have been camouflaged by the cuchi cuchi thing (which is OK because it showed me the way to the bank – but enough is enough). So, then the audience says, “OK, show me.” And I know they’re thinking, “What’s this bitch going to do?” And then I show them. I practice so hard and I’m so well trained [on the guitar].
How is the second part of the show different?
It’s the band, me in a tuxedo, and my guitar. Hopefully, the audience responds with a standing ovation. In the past, on a great night we get three standing ovations, on a good night, one and a half. [laughs]
How many in your troupe are coming to Palm Springs?
I’m bringing a sound engineer, probably a light engineer, four fabulous musicians, four dancers, singers, and myself. It’s a big show, but it goes so fast. You sit down and you see what I can do. You know how hot Latin music is right now. With salsa people cannot help moving. And I just got the latest hit from Cuba. It’s unbelievable. And then, of course, we have flamenco. Because I was born in the south of Spain where flamenco
was born. People say, “I pay for it, I love it. Viva Las Vegas.”
You’re also releasing a new CD soon. Is it singing, solo guitar, or both?
When you hear my new CD, you’re going to hear what I’m trying to do. You’re going to see a new person. I want to say to the audience, “With this CD, I culminate my dreams. Make or break it. Cuchi cuchi is over. Hello, Charo.”
Let me tell you why there’s no singing. Another day I might have considered it. But the United States is extremely good when you are original, when you are one of the best.
So, the CD is solo guitar?
Yes, I was thinking there are better singers around. I can tell you any day. But who is a better guitar player? Aha! When it comes to acoustic guitar with my flamenco and classical training, who can compete? There’s no competition. People will say, “Wonderful” or “I don’t understand the music, but this woman is different.”
Did you compose your own songs or is this traditional repertoire?
Good question, shit, I want to meet you! The first three songs are original and very flamenco and very powerful. So, I say OK, let’s see what I can do in the future – and the future is now. On the CD there is a cut called “Picante” – hot, hot, hot. I created a dance. On October the 2nd, God willing, we are filming a video with hundreds of people introducing the dance and this one is sexy! You’re going to love it. On October 22nd you’ll see me on TV teaching people. It will be on Latin MTV and we’re hoping to put on MTV. I’m trying to get people dancing together, touching together–no more being a mile from your partner.
Charo, where do you call home?
The love of my life is Kauai, Hawaii. When the shit hits the fan, I just wish I was there. It’s walking distance, just a few minutes from the Bali Hai mountain and at a certain time of the night, at sunset, you hear harmony in the trees. I discovered this place in 1980 – it was full of hippies.
I performed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village – they built a showroom for me named The Tropics and I played there from ’89 to ’99. All of the big shots sooner or later stay there. I entertained the Prime Minister of Mexico and Bill Clinton at that time. He was charming. He played the saxophone with the band and talked with the dancers. When my son graduated in 2000, we moved to Beverly Hills. We have a place in Las Vegas because I perform there. My life is between dressing rooms. When the telephone rings, I pack.
Where are you performing now?
I go to Europe and Puerto Rico and Spain, of course, and this coming year, I will perform in a lot of Indian casinos. I try to raise a lot of money for the Red Cross. They are doing a good job. They are trying to do the best and I have so many friends in the south and I feel so bad that I’m going to dedicate this year to helping.
Whenever they need me, I will cooperate with the Red Cross. Listen, this is America. I was watching television and thinking, “What the heck? What country are we at? This isn’t supposed to happen, and I hope it will never happen again.”
In the office where I am [right now], I have a humongous American flag that they flew all day long in my name. I’m very respectful. Hey, I’m a wetback, but I love this country, so I don’t fool around with politics.
If you had to choose one thing only, singing, acting, or guitar, which would you choose?
It would definitely be guitar. Guitar is my friend and when I am depressed – there are days when you wake up and think “I am not beautiful” – I don’t take drugs, I don’t smoke, I just pick up the guitar. I find a place where nobody is going to find me and I try to write music. Or if I am tired, I practice or just play. I play flamenco. I am crazy for a concerto called Concierto De Aranjuez by J. Rodrigo – it’s on my CD. The second movement is the most beautiful music you will ever hear. If ever you have a bad day, whenever you think there is no tomorrow, trust me, listen to this music and have a glass of wine and there is a tomorrow.
If you weren’t an entertainer, if you couldn’t do what you do so well, what would you do?
I would be a doctor. Oh, yes, I love medicine. Every time I walk into an office of a doctor, they say, “Uh, oh, here she comes.” I ask questions, I read
about it, I am fascinated. The reason I’m not a doctor is because my family did not have the money for my career. I could have been a hell of a good doctor. I don’t watch stupid TV, but the Discovery channel is my passion. It’s strange [laughs].
When you’re not dancing and singing, what do you do for fun?
You’re going to be so disappointed; I don’t have fun.
No, I mean it. What do I do for fun? Wait a minute. There’s horseback riding. One time I broke my ass. [laughs] But I love it. When you ride on top of a horse that knows you, it’s good. If the horse doesn’t know you, you’re in trouble. Don’t go too crazy, but just a little riding is so beautiful.
I like to spend a lot of time alone. When I have free time I play my guitar, or read about medicine, or spend quality time. Of course, my family is my priority. I am a good mother, at least I think so.
Tell me about your son.
I am lucky my son likes me. He makes me laugh, my husband, too, but I am lucky I can communicate with my son because I think younger than I am. He finds me amusing. I was looking for him to be a – are you ready? – a doctor! But he said, “No.” He graduated in philosophy. He’s a musician and a composer. He’s six feet two and looks like a combination of Brad Pitt and Val Kilmer and he just turned twenty-four and now he’s into acting. My dream of a doctor went to the toilet.
You’ve had an impressive run as an entertainer.
When I came to this country, I didn’t want them to kick me out. My father was a writer and had twenty-four hours to leave Spain otherwise he would be executed by Franco. So, when I got a job to come to America, I grabbed it like people do when they are drowning. I did love this country and I do love this country very much.
My job was to say “Yes.” I like comedy. People know me by the cuchi cuchi and jumping like a jumping bean – they didn’t know the real me. But it’s OK. I make a living. I became an American citizen. My family is here and safe and eating every day with a good meal. And it paid off. That’s why I say now, “Enough is enough.” I’m going to go on with what I’ve been training for.