You might not know his name, but chances are, you know his music. As a composer, director, song writer, and actor, Xavier Cugat made his mark on Hollywood and the world. Having released over 30 albums, Cugat is responsible for bringing Rumba music to America.
For a short while, Cugat had his own television show in 1957. He also directed Italian TV programs while he was in Europe.
Xavier is of Hispanic ethnicity and was a Roman Catholic.
Xavier owned several restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
Xavier's music can be heard on "Radio Espantoso" in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Xavier, who was bald, began wearing a toupee once he became a successful bandleader. He was rarely photographed without his toupee.
In 1946, Xavier's band, Cugat and His Gigolos, was the highest paid band working out of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. They made $7,000 per week plus a percentage of the cover charges.
Xavier started a rumba craze across America in the early 1930s with his hit song "El Manicero." He came out with two other hits: "Perfida" in 1940 and "Babalu" in 1944.
Xavier was friends with opera singer Enrico Caruso, the man responsible for bringing him to the United States.
In 1957 Xavier made his Broadway debut playing "The First Mate" in the musical The Captain's Paradise.
In 1928, when sound first came to motion pictures, Xavier spent $35,000 of his own money to produce a "talking picture" in Spanish. After the movie was complete, he learned that Latin America did not yet have the technology to play the film.
For 16 years Xavier broadcasted his own radio show from the famous Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
Xavier was often depicted holding a chihuahua and a pipe, although he never smoked in real life. He used this publicity as a way to sell his own line of pipes and to start his own chihuahua breeding business.
As a trained classical violinist, Xavier played with the Orchestra of the Teatro Nacional in Havana, Cuba. He received his first violin, when he was only 3 years old, from a neighbor as a Christmas gift.
Xavier has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which is located at 1500 Vine Street for his work on television. He has another star at 1601 Vine Street for his work as a recording artist.
In 1971, Xavier suffered a stroke and retired from show business. Seven years later he moved to Spain, where he remained until his death in 1990.
After his band, The Gigolos, broke up for the first time, Xavier worked as a cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times.
Xavier: (on his many marriages) If I had it to do all over, I'd marry the same ones. We always divorced for our careers. You cannot play the violin in Philadelphia when your wife is in Rome making a movie with Marcello Mastroianni.
Xavier: (referring to Waldorf-Astoria in a 1951 interview) That's where I started in 1930 with seven men at $700 a week. They soon had me down here, where the name bands play. Now I'm back with 20 men, most the hotel has ever had at the highest salary they've ever paid.
Xavier: (on choosing to be a musician over being a cartoonist) When they tell you to be funny by 10:30 tomorrow morning... I can't do it--I finally quit, and get these six guys to play commercial music with me.
Xavier: (on coming to the United States with friend Enrico Caruso) [Caruso died] shortly after I got to New York... and there I was, no friends and not a word of English. And not much money.
Xavier: (on his love life) I like women--all women.... Also, there is my temperament. I am Latin. I excite. For me, this is life.
Xavier: I play music... make an atmosphere that people enjoy. It makes them happy. They smile. They dance. Feel good--who be sorry for that?
Xavier: I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve!