Pioneering SF topless dancer Carol Doda dies

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Carol Doda, the nightclub entertainer who made waves in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood by becoming one of the first dancers to go topless in the early 1960s, has died. She was 78 years old.

Doda died Monday in the city from complications of kidney failure, friend Ron Minolla disclosed Wednesday.

Doda first went topless in 1964 at the Condor Club — a move that changed every nightspot on busy Broadway in San Francisco.

During its heyday in the early 1970s, the street in North Beach buzzed with more than two dozen clubs where carnival-like barkers beckoned passers-by to watch bare-breasted dancers. The era spanned some 20 years.

Doda later had an acting role in "Head," a 1968 film featuring the Monkees, and was profiled in Tom Wolfe's book "The Pump House Gang."

"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.

Doda rode onto stage atop a piano on an elevator platform, debuting her act the same day President Lyndon B. Johnson drew half-a-million people in a visit to San Francisco.

It wasn't long before the big news in town was "The Girl on the Piano."

Doda became a legend and the Condor Club had an illuminated sign carrying her likeness.

She also gained notoriety as one of the first women to have her breasts surgically enhanced after receiving silicone injections.

"She was much more than just dancing," Winn said.

"For me and my pals Carol will always be one of the boys," Housekeeper added.

Doda grew up in San Francisco and dropped out of school in the eighth grade. She became a cocktail waitress at 14 and later went on to dance at the Condor.

She never married or had children.

"In a funny way Carol's impact on the history of that era was as great at Lenny Bruce," Housekeeper said.