Exotic dancer Carol Doda held up by Peter Tork of The Monkees, and surrounded by the rest of the band (Davy Jones, far left, Michael Nesmith, left back, and Micky Dolenz, right) in 1968.
If you were coming of age in San Francisco in the 60s, you were probably swept up in a lot of things, including perhaps the scandalous news reported in June of 1964 about a woman by the name of Carol Doda. Doda was an exotic dancer who took off her top during a performance at the Condor Club (which also employed a young Sly Stone for a short time) in the San Francisco area of North Beach while on top of a piano. Why was this such big news you ask? Well, Doda has been credited by many as one of the first dancers to perform without her top in the U.S., making her a pioneer in the field. According to an interview with the New York Times in 1988, Doda says she was handed a topless bathing suit (a so-called “monokini” designed by Rudi Gernreich) and was told this would be her new “costume.” Doda mused about being “really stupid” but adding if someone told her to do something, she “did it.”
While this would be more than enough to propel Doda to stardom, she would further capitalize on her worldwide notoriety by injecting her breasts with silicone at the behest of her managers at the Condor Club. In twenty weeks and as many silicone injections, Doda’s bust went from a 34B to a 44DD for a mere 1,500 bucks. Soon newspapers were referring to Doda’s boobs as the “the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco.” However, not everyone embraced San Francisco’s topless establishments and at some point in the year following Doda’s topless debut, San Fran’s mayor at the time John F. Shelley made the following statement—which is unintentionally hilarious—about what was behind the alleged rise in crime in the North Beach neighborhood:
‘‘The topless craze is at the bottom of the whole problem.’‘
As funny as Shelley’s war cry on boobs was, it was followed the next day with action by the police who hit up different topless establishments, arresting the dancers for “lewd conduct” including Carol Doda. The crackdown wouldn’t stick, Doda and others were acquitted, and the topless craze spread like lightning throughout North Beach, which would soon welcome other topless spots such as an ice cream stand and a very busy shoeshine business. A few years later in 1969, Doda would take it all off much to the ire of California Governor Ronald Reagan who granted communities the legal right to stop topless clubs and such from opening in their area. Reagan launched his crusade against the topless industry shortly after winning the governorship in 1966. There was also an effort to try to ban the word “topless” for use on signage which failed.
Carol Doda proudly displaying the newspaper headline regarding her acquittal outside of the Condor.
In between all this Doda found herself cast in a role which would earn her a lifetime of recognition by joining the cast of the 1968 film Head (co-produced by Jack Nicholson)—the fantastically weird flick starring The Monkees, with Frank Zappa, Annette Funicello, and Doda as Sally Silicone. Doda would continue to perform sans clothing for over twenty years before retiring from the business, though she would remain a local fixture in SF. She fronted a band called the Lucky Stiffs in the 90s and later ran her own intimate apparel shop, Carol Doda’s Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique. She would continue making appearances (now clothed) at various clubs in North Beach until 2009 before passing away at the age of 78 on December 9th, 2015.
I’ve posted photos of Doda doing her thing below, as well as a few choice photos of her with her darling Monkees. Most images are NSFW.
Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Carol Doda in a scene from ‘Head.’
A photo of Doda from September 7, 1968, in Ramparts magazine, accompanying an article called “Bugging Cops.” The article provided a detailed profile of well-known San Francisco sleuth, Hal Lipset, an expert in miniature electronic surveillance.
Doda showing off her newly augmented breasts.