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Carol Doda

Carol Doda

Carol Ann Doda (August 29, 1937  November 9, 2015) was an American topless dancer based in San Francisco, California, who was active from the 1960s through the 1980s. She was the first public topless dancer.[1]

Carol Doda
Doda in 1965
Carol Ann Doda

(1937-08-29)August 29, 1937
DiedNovember 9, 2015(2015-11-09) (aged 78)
OccupationTopless dancer

In 1964 Doda made international news, first by dancing topless at the city's Condor Club, then by enhancing her bust from size 34 to 44 through silicone injections. Her breasts became known as Doda's "twin 44s" and "the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco".[2]

Early life

Carol Ann Doda was born August 29, 1937,[3] in Vallejo, California,[4] and grew up in San Francisco.[5] Her mother's maiden name was Hoss.[3] Her parents divorced when she was three, and Doda dropped out of school and became a cocktail waitress at age 14.[6]

Topless entertainer

Condor Club Sign, San Francisco featuring Carol Doda, 1973, note blacked-out areas

Doda attended the San Francisco Art Institute and worked as a waitress and lounge entertainer[6][7] at the Condor Club, at the corner of Broadway and Columbus in the North Beach section of San Francisco.[8] Doda's act began with a grand piano being lowered from the ceiling by hydraulic motors; Doda would be atop the piano dancing,[1][9] as it descended from a hole in the ceiling.[10] She go-go danced "The Swim" to a rock and roll combo headed by Bobby Freeman as her piano settled on the stage. (In 1983 Assistant Manager James "Jimmy the Beard" Ferrozzo was crushed to death by the hydraulic piano while lying atop his naked stripper girlfriend, Theresa Hill.[11]) From the waist up Doda emulated aquatic movements like the front crawl. She also performed the Twist, The Frug, and the Watusi.[12]

On June 19, 1964,[10] when Doda was 26 years old, the Condor's publicist, "Big" Davy Rosenberg[13] gave Doda a "monokini" topless swimsuit designed by Rudi Gernreich.[6] She performed topless that night, the first noted entertainer of the era to do so. The act was an instant success.[6] Two months after she started her semi-nude performances, the rest of San Francisco's Broadway was topless, followed soon after by entertainers across America.[7] Doda became an American cultural icon of the 1960s. The Republican National Convention was held in San Francisco, during the summer of 1964; many of the delegates came to see Carol Doda.

She was profiled in Tom Wolfe's 1969 book The Pump House Gang[14] and appeared that same year as Sally Silicone in Head, the 1968 film created by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, and featuring The Monkees. The movie was produced by Columbia Pictures.[15] She appeared in a Golden Boy parody with Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, and Davy Jones.[16]

Encouraged by her success, Doda soon decided to enhance her breasts with silicone injections, going from size 34 to 44. Doda became renowned for her big bust, and was one of the first well-known performers to have her breasts artificially enhanced. She had 44 injections, a large dose of silicone,[7] at a cost of US$1,500.

For the topless and waterless Swim, Doda wore the bottom half of a black bikini and a net top which ended where a bathing suit generally began.[8] She performed 12 shows nightly so the management could keep crowds moving in and out. A large illuminated sign in front of the club featured a cartoon of her with red flashing lights representing her nipples.

Bottomless entertainer

Historical marker at the original Condor Club site. Full text: "The Condor; Where it all began; The birthplace of the world's first topless & bottomless entertainment; Topless – June 19, 1964 Bottomless – September 3, 1969 Starring Ms. Carol Doda; San Francisco, California"

On September 3, 1969, Carol Doda began dancing bottomless (i.e., totally nude) at the Condor.[17][18] She danced bottomless until the California Alcoholic Beverages Commission passed a rule in the autumn of 1972 prohibiting nude dancing in places that served alcohol.

In 1969, Doda performed with The TAC squad, a bottomless all-girl band at Carol Doda's at 430 Broadway in San Francisco.[19][20][21]

Court appearances

On April 22, 1965 Doda was arrested along with Pete Mattioli and Gino del Prete, owners of the Condor Club. They were cleared when two judges instructed not-guilty verdicts. Judge Friedman's memorandum to opposing attorneys reads, "Whether acts ... are lewd and dissolute depends not on any individual's interpretation or personal opinion, but on the consensus of the entire community ..." Doda and del Prete were arrested during police raids to stop bare-bosom shows in North Beach.[22] Peter Mattioli owned the Condor Club by 1967 and Doda still appeared in shows there.[23]

In 1969, Doda was a witness during the trial of two all-nude dancers who were arrested for "indecent exposure and lewd and dissolute conduct". The defendants were dancers at the Pink Pussy Kat in Orangevale, California. Presiding Municipal Court Judge Earl Warren Jr. moved the trial, temporarily, from the courtroom to Chuck Landis Largo club. There Doda performed to live song and dance numbers, along with a movie titled Guru You. She was cross-examined by a deputy district attorney about what she hoped to convey to audiences in her act. Doda was dressed in a red miniskirt with dark blue piping and beige boots. She responded that the movie represents "a satire of pornography ... it's to show people the humorous side of sex". Several members of the 10-man, 2-woman jury kept in check their smiles as Doda explained the 17-minute movie. The deputy district attorney opposed asking her to perform, considering it irrelevant to the case. He was overruled by Warren.[24]

Later career

From the late-1960s through the late-1970s, Doda was the spokesmodel for what is now the San Jose, California television station KICU-TV Channel 36, then known as KGSC-TV. Filmed from the waist up and wearing clothes which amplified her most prominent physical attributes, she became known for saying "You're watching the Perfect 36 in San Jose." She would also occasionally appear on-air to do a double entendre laced editorial commentary on the issues of the day.[25]

Doda appeared as Sadie Thompson in "Rain", at the Encore Theater SF, beginning January 1968.[26][27][28][29]

In 1982 Doda was again dancing at the Condor three times a night.[30] She was 45 and performed to rock 'n' roll, blues, and ragtime. Each act was the same, with Doda appearing in a gold gown, traditional elbow-length gloves, and a diaphanous wraparound. Her clothing was removed until she wore only a g-string and the diaphanous wraparound.[31] In the final portion she was attired in only the wraparound. Her small body looked slimmer without clothes, a perception which was emphasized by the dwarfing effect of her breasts. At the time she was taking dance and voice lessons but had no definite plans for her future.[7] Doda quit in December 1985.[28]

During the 1980s, Doda performed throughout Bay Area dance night clubs with her band The Lucky Stiffs.[32][33]

Doda retired from stripping in the 1980s and subsequently ran Carol Doda's Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique, a lingerie shop in San Francisco.[34]

As of 2009, one could be sure to find Doda on any given evening at Gino & Carlo bar in North Beach. She also had been performing clothed for several years at several San Francisco North Beach bars and clubs, including Gino & Carlo, Amante's and Enrico's Supper Club.[6]

Personal life

On November 9, 2015, Doda died of kidney failure at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco after a long stay.[35][33] Doda said she was never married. While very young, she gave birth to two children with whom she had little contact: daughter Donna Smith Terzian, who predeceased her, and son Tom Smith.[33]


In Yosemite National Park, Doda Dome was named for her.[36]



  1. Levy, Alan (March 11, 1966). "A Morality Play in Three Acts". Life. Vol. 60, no. 10. Time Inc. pp. 79–87. ISSN 0024-3019. Archived from the original on June 17, 2016. "But this is June 1964 and The Condor is going broke." (p. #?) "And that same night Miss Carol Doda, 23 — a former prune-picker, file clerk, ballroom dance instructor and cocktail waitress whose measurements at the time are 34-25-36 — dances The Swim bare from the waist up." (p. 79) "Here are the two pioneers of Toplessness: Big Davey Rosenberg — who thought up the gimmick — watching Carol Doda, the girl who first danced that way in public." (Photo caption, p. 79)
  2. Hamlin, Jesse (August 1, 1999). "Where Are They Now? Doda's Body of Work Only Got Bigger". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on July 29, 2013.
  3. "The Birth of Carol Ann Doda". Archived from the original on 2018-01-09.
  4. "Celebrity San Francisco Stripper Carol Doda Led Quiet Early Life in Vallejo". San Jose Mercury. 20 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  5. Roberts, Sam (November 11, 2015). "Carol Doda, Pioneer of Topless Entertainment, Dies at 78". The New York Times. p. B18. Archived from the original on July 6, 2017.
  6. Fagan, Kevin (August 23, 2009). "After 45 years, stripper still packs 'em in". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on April 14, 2015.
  7. "Silicon [sic] made topless dancing blossom", Chicago Daily Herald, April 28, 1982, Page 21.
  8. "Nudity, Noise Pay Off in Bay Area Night Clubs". Los Angeles Times. February 14, 1965. p. G5.
  9. Berger, Arthur (Fall 1970). "Varieties of Topless Experience". Journal of Popular Culture. 4 (2): 419–424. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1970.0402_419.x. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  10. "California Solons May Bring End To Go-Go-Girl Shows In State", Panama City, Florida News, September 15, 1969, Page 12A.
  11. Fagan, Kevin (May 28, 2009). "San Francisco's Top 10 sex scandals". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Image 5 of 8.
  12. "Topless Craze in S.F. – It's a Jungle of Sweaty Gyrations", Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1965, Page C11.
  13. "Carol Doda, 1960s Topless Stripper Dancer vintage original news press photo". eBay. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Doda & Rosenberg
  14. Tom Wolfe (1969). "The Put-Together Girl". The Pump House Gang. New York City: Bantam Books. ASIN B008H54QF0.
  15. "Movie Call Sheet", Los Angeles Times, March 11, 1968, Page C32.
  16. "Monkees Cavort In 'Head' at the Vogue", Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1968, Page G18.
  17. Date September 3, 1969 for this event is recorded on the plaque viewable on the outside of the Condor club
  18. "San Francisco - THE CONDOR Club, The Girl on the Piano, 300 Columbus Ave". eBay. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021. on address side: San Francisco Chronicle clipping on going bottomless
  19. "The Tac Squad Are Actually a Bottomless Band". The Times. 20 June 1969. p. 49.
  20. "San Francisco Theatres: The Phoenix Theatre".
  21. "Carol Doda's. Tarjeta Del Local". Mercado Libre. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  22. "Topless Suits in Shows OK", Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1965, Page 9.
  23. "S.F. Pair Plan Topless Club", Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1967, Page D15.
  24. "Judge Takes Another Look At 'Dodo's Indecent Dance'", Long Beach Press-Telegram, September 23, 1969, Page 32.
  25. "What's Cooking At Francesco's". Oakland Tribune. December 14, 1974. p. 18–E. "Carol Doda; the Perfect 36 (Channel 36's editorial voice and figure) has been in for dinner several times recently."
  26. "Carol Doda, publicity photo". eBay. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021. as sadie thompson in "Rain" Encore Theater SF, January 23
  27. "San Francisco Bay Guardian Issue 02.04". 1967.
  28. "Herb Caen made Carol Doda a fixture in his column". San Francisco Chronicle. 12 November 2015. Archived from the original on 2020-11-29. Retrieved 9 September 2021. Starting Jan. 20, when she will play Sadie Thompson (Sonny Tufts!!??) in a Keith Rockwell-Phil Sinclair production of “Rain” at the Encore Theater on Mason. ... played a bit part (is that possible?) in the new Monkees-Victor Mature picture ... Carol Doda signed a new one-year contract at the Condor, having got the raise she was threatening to hold in for. ... Channel 36 has dropped Carol Doda, the perfect 44, as its theme girl because she wanted a bit more loot ... Carol Doda’s twin 44s will soon become part of the permanent collection at the SF Museum of Art ... Carol Doda quit the Condor last month but her name is still up in lights so she has commanded her lawyer, Haig Harris Jr., to file suit against Condor owner David Benson. ...
  29. "Poster advertising Carol Doda in the musical Rain, Encore Theater, San Francisco, Calif. (graphic)". Bancroft Library. Retrieved 9 September 2021. "Carol Doda, in person as Sadie Thompson. Kieth Rockwell presents W. Somerset Maughan's Rain - A Rainmakers, Inc. enterprise. Produced by Phil Sinclair, directed by Arthur Meyer. At the Encore, 422 Mason nr. Geary
  30. "Condor: CAROL DODA TOPLESS DANCER POSTCARD". eBay. 9 September 2021. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  31. "YGST-2227 VINTAGE B/W 8X10 1960'S ART POSED BUXOM STRIPPER CAROL DODA". eBay. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  32. Wagner, Paul (22 January 1988). "Carol Doda Rocks". Santa Cruz Sentinel.
  33. Fagan, Kevin; Whiting, Sam (November 11, 2015). "Legendary S.F. stripper Carol Doda dies at 78". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  34. Hyena, Hank (September 7, 1999). "Voluminous Femininity / Bra shopping at Carol Doda's boutique". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  35. Mabry, Jan (November 11, 2015). "Legendary SF Burlesque Performer Carol Doda Dies At 78". CBS San Francisco. Archived from the original on November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  36. Blitzo (October 13, 2007). "Doda Dome Rock Climbing". Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  • "Herbert Feinstein talks with Carol Doda, former topless queen of North Beach, who is starring as Miss Sadie Thompson in a play based on W. Somerset Maugham's short story "Rain." Doda discusses her past (including silicone injections) and her future plans for non-topless nightclub work."
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