Margo Rodriguez, half an innovative mambo duo, dies at 89

Margo Rodriguez, half of the husband-and-wife team Augie and Margo, who danced the mambo on television and before presidents and helped it evolve from a nightclub craze into popular entertainment, died Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Fla. She was 89.

Her son, Richard, said the cause was pneumonia.

Augie and Margo’s dance career took shape at the Palladium Ballroom, a haven for Latin music in midtown Manhattan, where they often danced to the music of Tito Puente and his orchestra.


In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Augie and Margo were among mambo’s best-known ambassadors, dancing on concert stages, on television, and in nightclubs around the world. They appeared repeatedly on “The Steve Allen Show,” “The Arthur Murray Party,” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” and opened for entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin in Las Vegas.

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At the height of their fame, they danced in London for Queen Elizabeth II and at the White House for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Margarita Bartolomei was born in the Harlem section of New York City on April 6, 1929, to Mencia (Madera) and Santiago Bartolomei. Both her parents were originally from Puerto Rico. Her father, who was of Corsican descent, worked for an import-export company, and her mother was a homemaker.

Margarita started dancing when she was about 10. She met Augustin Rodriguez in 1949, and he became her dance partner at the Palladium. They won a slew of amateur dance competitions, earning as much as $100 for their prowess at traditional mambo, and married in 1950.

In addition to her son, Margo Rodriguez is survived by two sisters, Alice and Gladys, and two grandchildren.


Augie and Margo mostly retired from professional dancing in 1980, but they spent several years after that producing dance shows for cruise ships. Her son said their last professional engagement was in the first decade of this century, when they performed in Las Vegas with Cirque du Soleil.

In that show, Augie and Margo at first posed as spectators, then came to the stage when the performers asked for volunteers from the audience.

“They would go up,” Richard Rodriguez said, “and bring down the house.”