Charo explains how she came up with that ‘cuchi-cuchi’ catchphrase

Charo's movie and TV credits date back to the '60s. (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

The first time Charo remembers delivering what became her signature phrase, it was a way to flatter The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s ego, as a publicist had advised her to do with men. After he asked her questions full of sexual innuendos, she responded with a wiggle and the line, “cuchi, cuchi, cuchi!”

And it stuck. For decades. She’s actually pretty tired of it.

People continue to assume Charo’s a “stupid cuchi-cuchi,” she told the New York Times in a profile published Wednesday. She has felt underestimated “all the time, all the time.”

Still, she’s continued to give audiences what they want.

“It never gave me a complex,” she said. “I have fun. As long as people enjoy it, I don’t care. Because once I have that, I have the power of the stage.”

Charo — born María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, and nicknamed Charo by her grandmother just after she was born in Spain — elaborated on the origins of the phrase in a June 2014 appearance on Oprah’s Where Are They Now?

“What cuchi-cuchi come from, it is such a disappointment for everybody if they know,” she said. “Because everybody thinks that it’s sex… Cuchillo, that was the name of my dog. He was a mix between a Saint Bernard and a Pit Bull. I make a joke about that, ‘First he bite you, and then he run for help.’ But I call him Cuchi.”