Groundbreaking exotic dancer Carol Doda, once known as "the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco," now graces the peaks of North Beach, as the nation’s first topless dancer receives tribute in a new outdoor mural at Columbus Avenue and Filbert Street.
North Beach strip club the Condor Club was recently made the first SF strip club to get Legacy Business status on the San Francisco Legacy Business registry, and did so largely on the heft of the historical accomplishments of Carol Doda, who danced there from 1964 to 1985. But now four blocks northwest of the Condor, the legacy being acknowledged is Doda herself, as JC Carlston at Broke-Ass Stuart reports on a new Carol Doda mural that was just completed on the exterior of the wine bar and bistro Bodega (700 Columbus Avenue).
The mural is by San Francisco artist Natalie Gabriel, who’s known for her pastel landscapes and she has plenty of process photos of the mural coming together in the Instagram post above. As the Broke-Ass Stuart website points out, the mural replaces what had been a set of fnnch lips.
This Carol Doda mural is freshly applied, so there will still be a mural premiere celebration and block party this Saturday, January 28, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The online invite promises a “Block party style gathering, with sweet tunes from the local record shop, 101 Music. Limited edition art prints, drinks, and snacks will be available!” Admissions is free, though RSVP is requested.
Gabriel says in an online artist's statement about the mural, “During my time painting this mural I had countless comments from people going by about how smart, how witty, and kind she was. Many of her friends thanked me for painting her, others shared stories of their time with her, and one even kept memorabilia, a postcard of her that the Condor Club would leave out on tables during her performances. I was impressed by how many people knew exactly who Carol Doda is and what she did for the neighborhood, and I was happy to meet so many friends of hers that are still around today.”
Carol Doda did indeed do the first non-underground topless dance in the U.S., on the evening of June 19, 1964, and yes she was lowered to the sage by the infamous Condor Club piano. Within two weeks, all of the North Beach strip clubs followed suit with topless dancing. Yet the SFPD raided the Condor in April 1965, which only catapulted Doda to further media fame, and her acquittal a month later led to the iconic “Topless Acquitted” headline photo. While her relationship soured with the Condor in the mid-1980s (over money), Doda would also appear in the Monkees’ 1968 film Head, and was known to serve meals to troops aboard U.S. ships during the Vietnam War. (Her photo was reportedly the most requested pin-up among those troops.) She performed through the 1980s with a local band called the Lucky Stiffs, ran a lingerie shop in Cow Hollow for the remainder of her years.
Carol Doda passed away in 2015 from kidney failure. She was 78.
Image: Dorothy O'Donnell, Hoodline