viva cugat!

Born January first 1900 in nearby Girona, Xavier Cugat's life was filled with the stuff that legends are made of. Aged 4, his family had to leave the country in a hurry for political reasons. Forty days on a steamer later they arrived in Cuba where Xavier started to play violin. By 15 he was proficient and went to the States on tour with Renato Carusso. Unfortunatelly, Carusso died before the tour kicked off and young Cugat found himself stranded, penniless and without speaking a word of English in big bad NYC. He fiddled his music for food in restaurants and painted, his true vocation according to himself.

When the twenties started roaring Cugat moved to LA, switched from classical to popular music, created his combo The Gigolos and sketched for the LA Times.
Soon he was composing soundtracks for some of the first talkies and landing a position as band leader at the mythical Cocoanut Grove, where Hollywood stars mingled, dined, danced, were discovered and got in trouble.

Clutching his chihuahua in one hand and leading the orchestra with his violin bow in the other, Cugat was not only becoming a star himself, he was also unleashing the Latin craze that became all the rage for the next two decades.

Soon his orchestra went resident at the Starlight Room in New York's Waldorf Astoria, where they played for 16 years, and he started living a bicoastal  lifestyle. His career was starting to snowball frantically: World tours, lots of records, lots of movies alongside names such as Mae West, Rita Hayworth, Tallulah Bankhead, Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Esther Williams....

His private life wasn't boring either. Five wedings,five divorces -his last one from latin starlet Charo of cuchi cuchi fame-.

When Cugui had his first stroke in the early Seventies he decided to stop everything and go back home. His Hollywood friends couldn't believe it. Home was Barcelona, the place he left when he was 4!

He settled at The Ritz and led a quiet life painting and relaxing with the ocasinal night out in true Hollywood style: young beauties entourage, big limo at the door.

Did home feel like it to old Señor Cugat? I always thought he was rather ignored, treated like an extravagant has been, and was denied his due recognition. They wouldn't even give him a permit to open a radio station... Not nice.
The fact that there isn't a good biography or even a cool coffee table book about him is beyond my comprehension.

He died at 90 in 1990. Not many celebrities, or even local personalities, at his funeral in his hometown Girona... except for Frank Sinatra; Sinatra was there showing respect to the man that helped him launch his own career when he was a kid.

Now repeat after me: VIVA CUGAT!

All images found on the web.

2 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...


marie-France dijo...

wooow visca Xavier Colgat ! i la Charo Baeza !

y a vivir, que son cuatro dias !

y que me quiten lo bailaoooooooooooooo !