woman who popularized topless dancing, passes at 78
She and her silicone-enhanced 44DD breasts, known as the "Twin Peaks of San Francisco," made her performances at the Condor Club famous
Her entrance each night was about as "grand" as a performer could imagine: She was brought to the stage at the Condor Club in San Francisco from above, as she danced atop a white grand piano while it was lowered from the ceiling. While she was attractive and a talented singer, it was a wardrobe suggestion that would catapult her to international renown. Davey Rosenberg, the club’s publicist, purchased a “monokini” swimsuit by Rudi Gernreich (which, unlike today, meant that the breasts would be fully revealed), the avant-garde designer, and suggested, “Try this in the act.” That was June 19, 1964, and the reaction was overwhelming. Not only did it usher in the era of topless clubs, it turned Doda into an overnight celebrity.
“When the (beatniks) were handing the torch to the hippies, a girl named Carol Doda changed the world from a pole at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Broadway,” her friend, Lee Housekeeper, said (as quoted by multiple sources). "In a funny way, Carol's impact on the history of that era was as great as Lenny Bruce."
Carol Doda, whose 44DD, silicone-enhanced breasts became known as the "Twin Peaks of San Francisco," passed away on Monday, November 9th, from kidney failure, at age 78. She danced topless at the Condor Club for over 20 years, giving her final performances in 1985 (she also performed bottomless on occasion as well, a practice which she first dared in 1972). Within that 20-year span, she was a full-blown Bay Area celebrity. That fame came immediately, as just a few days after that initial topless performance, attendees from the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco flocked to the Condor.
“The minute I knew I existed in life was the night I started the Condor thing,” Carol said in a 2009 newspaper interview. “The only thing that mattered to me was entertaining people. That always drove me.” Earlier this year, Ms. Doda told the website babyboomerdaily.com
, “I was the first to go topless in 1964 and started a sexual revolution that spun as fast as twirling tassels.”
Doda's act became so popular that she decided to undergo her first (and not last) breast enhancement, spending $1,500 to boost her bust from 34B to 44DD through silicone injection (which, at the time, was mulsified silicone, the chief component of Silly Putty). Not only did her "twins" become co-stars of her show, they helped garner her roles in major motion pictures. She was allegedly the inspiration behind the Russ Meyer’s film “Mondo Topless.” and appeared (as Sally Silicone) in Bob Rafelson’s 1968 flick “Head,” which also starred the Monkees. She was even profiled in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, “The Pump House Gang.”At one point, it was said that her bust was insured for $1.5 million.
Carol Ann Doda was born in Solano County, in Northern California, on Aug. 29, 1937, and raised in San Francisco. Her parents divorced when she was 3. “I thought the only way to make it was to be a cocktail waitress, so that’s what I did when I was 14,” she once stated. “You can make yourself look older if you use your hair and makeup right.” She said she avoided doing drugs, drinking heavily or prostitution. “Underneath this blonde hair, I do think logically,” she said in another previous newspaper interview. “I know how to survive.”
Ms. Doda’s only arrest in the profession came in 1965, when police raided the Condor on indecency charges. She was found not guilty and continued to dance until 1985, when she quit, saying she was never paid enough (though she reportedly earned today's equivalent of about $4,000 a week).
After leaving the Condor, she started a rock band, the Lucky Stiffs. She eventually went on to open a lingerie shop in San Francisco called Champagne and Lace, and also did comedy, singing and dancing—albeit, with her clothes on—at North Beach nightclubs near where she had once danced topless. She, and her audiences, continued to enjoy these performances until her health began to fail earlier in 2015.
Ms. Doda, who had told the San Francisco Chronicle she never married, is survived by her son, Tom Smith, and grandson, Westin T. Smith, both of Napa; and seven cousins.