Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday: Xavier Cugat!

Xavier Cugat(1 January 1900 – 27 October 1990),  was trained as a classical violinist and played with the Orchestra of the Teatro Nacional in Havana. On 6 July 1915, Cugat and his family arrived in New York as immigrant passengers on board the S.S. Havana.

Cugat was married five times. His first marriage was to Rita Montaner (1918–1920). Was a Cuban singer, pianist, actress and star of stage, film, radio and television. In Cuban parlance, she was well-known in Mexico City, Paris, Miami and New York, where she performed, filmed and recorded on various occasions. She was probably the best-loved female star in Cuba of the period 1920–1960; they called her Rita de Cuba. Though classically trained, her mark was made as a singer of Afrocubanist salon songs.

 His second was to Carmen Castillo (1929–1944). His third to Lorraine Allen (1947–52). His fourth to singer Abbe Lane (1952–64). Lane, began her career as a child actress on radio and from there she moved on to singing and dancing on Broadway.

His fifth to Spanish guitarist and comic actress Charo (1966–78). His last marriage was the first in Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.

Entering the world of show business, he played with a band called The Gigolos during the tango craze Later, he went to work for the Los Angeles Times as a cartoonist. Cugat's caricatures were later nationally syndicated.

Cugat put together another tango band and by the early 1930s, he began appearing with his group in films. He took his band to New York for the 1931 opening of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and he eventually replaced Jack Denny as the leader of the hotel's resident band. One of his trademarks was to hold a Chihuahua while he waved his baton with the other arm.

For 16 years Cugat lead the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel's orchestra. He shuttled between New York and Los Angeles for most of the next 30 years, alternating hotel and radio dates with movie performances in some of my favorite films: You Were Never Lovelier (1942), Bathing Beauty (1944), Week-End at the Waldorf (1945), On an Island with You (1948), and Neptune's Daughter (1949).


  1. I love Xavier Cugat - his music is one of my alltime favourites! And my favourite song ever: Perfidia!!! *sigh*

  2. Frl. Irene Palfy, I will see if I can find the Xavier Cugat, version.

  3. I would like to see a photo of Cugie's first wife, Carmen Castillo. I don't believe Cugie was married to Rita Montener. At least she is NOT mentioned in Cugie's autobiography, Rumba is My Life. If you have photos of Carmen please contact me at