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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Legendary Topless Dancer Carol Doda Dies

Posted By and on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 12:17 PM

click to enlarge carol_doda.jpg
Carol Doda, arguably the world's most famous stripper and an icon of San Francisco's counterculture, passed away Monday at the age of 78, friends and media reports confirm.

Born in Solano County in 1937, Doda was a 26-year-old cocktail waitress and piano-top go-go dancer in 1964 when, after some innovative surgery, she pioneered topless dancing at The Condor Club in North Beach. 

Doda's silicone-injection enhanced breasts — cup size 44D, if you must know — became known as the "new Twin Peaks of San Francisco." By transforming her body and donning a "topless bikini," she also transformed adult entertainment. 

"She blew up her breasts with emulsified silicone, the main ingredient in Silly Putty," as Tom Wolfe wrote in The Pump House Gang, "and became the greatest resource of the Sam Francisco tourist industry."

Doda remained a fixture in North Beach, where she lived, sang, and drank at Gino and Carlo's on Green Street up until the end. She died of lung and kidney failure, according to close confidant Dick Winn, who confirmed her death to the San Francisco Examiner.
Doda's shows were a sensation, and topless dancing soon spread to the rest of the North Beach clubs and across the country. In an interview with SF Weekly, she recalled a run-in with Andy Warhol: 
"He says, 'Let's go under the table,' and I said, 'Why?' and he said he wanted to take pictures of me," she recalls. "I was in my clothes, so I just thought it was kind of unusual."
Doda also described performing in San Francisco during the height of the women's liberation movement: "The women used to parade outside, saying, 'Burn your bras, burn your bras,' and I said, 'What are you talking about? I'm not wearing a bra!'" 

Doda continued dancing at The Condor until 1985, when she quit because she wasn't make enough money, according to the Chronicle. She went on to form a band, the Lucky Stiffs, and later opened a lingerie store on Union Street, Champagne and Lace. 

But for her most famous accomplishment — revolutionizing adult entertainment — she received very little in the way of financial compensation. In fact, she received next to nothing, aside from tips while working.

"Carol Doda changed the world more than the beatniks or the hippies, from a pole on the corner of Columbus and Broadway," said press agent and former music manager Lee Houskeeper. "For guys of a certain age, if you ask who changed the world more — Lenny Bruce or Carol Doda — they would say, 'Carol Doda.'"

"She was fearless and she was an amazing woman. And she never got a dime."

Tributes are pouring in from around the city and the world. 

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About The Authors

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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