Charo keeps on pickin’

Though television appearances from “Laugh-In” to “The Love Boat” made Charo a household name by the late 1970s, the Spanish-born actress, comedian and performer has struggled to be accepted for her greatest passion: guitar.

“Back then, America was not ready for flamenco music, salsa music or anything even close,” says the classically trained musician. “The first time I said I wanted to play salsa, they thought I was talking about ketchup — something you put on your french fry.”

She’ll debut her new recording, “España Cañi” (“Gypsy Spain”), at the Herbst Theatre on Sunday in “The Return of Charo and Her Las Vegas Show.” In 2005, she sold out the room in a performance featuring music from the CD “Charo and Guitar.”

Before the show, she’ll be a celebrity grand marshal in Sunday’s LGBT Pride Parade, during which she’ll appear on a float accompanied by drag-queen look-alikes.

A star in her homeland by the 1960s, the buxom blonde was a Las Vegas staple by 1970. An appearance on “The Tonight Show” — well before she mastered English — gave Charo a reputation which continues to this day.

“When Johnny Carson asked me questions, and I didn’t understand one word, my way to survive was to say ‘cuchi! cuchi!’” she says, her accent still thick.

“People loved it,” she says. “I was this crazy girl, jumping around like a jumping bean, shaking my body, saying ‘cuchi! cuchi!’”

Though the image made Charo an international star — at one point more than 70 percent of Americans recognized the singer — it was also a burden. Management scoffed at her desire to return to guitar.

Even recording her biggest commercial hit, the 1977 disco-inspired top-20 hit “Dance a Little Bit Closer,” proved a struggle. Of her decision to sing in Spanglish, the artist says, “They thought I was crazy.”

Abiding management’s decisions most of her career, Charo says a return to her musical roots stayed in the back of her mind. Her dream finally came true with the 1996 release of “Guitar Pasion.” Considered among the year’s best albums, the recording led Charo to twice be voted the world’s best flamenco guitarist by readers of Guitar Player magazine.

Subsequent releases garnered equal critical and commercial success, winning Charo all-new audiences. A third-season stint on MTV’s “The Surreal Life” — opposite porn star Ron Jeremy and late televangelist Tammy Faye Messner — gained young fans for the colorful star.

IF YOU GO

Charo

Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $40 to $100

Contact: (415) 392-4400 or www.cityboxoffice.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police release an image a cracked windshield on a Prius that Cesar Vargas allegedly tried to carjack. Vargas, who was shot by police a short time later, can be seen in videos jumping on the windshield and pushing a Muni passenger who disembarked from a bus. (Courtesy SFPD
SFPD releases videos of deadly police shooting

Cesar Vargas killed after reports of carjacking with knife

New legislation would make sure supportive housing tenants don’t pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner))
Supportive housing tenants could get more help paying the rent

Supportive housing tenants struggling to pay rent could soon see their payments… Continue reading

Organizers of the San Francisco International Arts Festival had planned to use parts of Fort Mason including the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery to host performances by about a dozen Bay Area arts groups. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Arts festival sues city over permit denial

Organizer says outdoor performances should be treated like demonstrations, religious gatherings

An oversight body for San Francisco’s mental health programs may be restructured after questions were raised about its management and lack of effectiveness. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Behavioral health oversight body looks for new start — and staff — after mismanagement

Members of an oversight body for San Francisco’s behavioral health programs said… Continue reading

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and… Continue reading

Most Read