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article imageTopless pioneer Carol Doda dies in San Francisco at 78

By Nathan Salant     Nov 13, 2015 in Odd News
San Francisco - Pioneering topless performer Carol Doda, who sang, danced and stripped at a San Francisco nightclub that used a giant neon likeness of her to illuminate its doorway, died Wednesday at 78.
Ms. Doda, who inspired a new generation of exotic dance with her topless performances at the Condor Club in the city's once-bawdy North Beach district in the 1960s, died of complications from kidney failure, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Ms. Doda died Nov. 9, the newspaper said.
A memorial service for the world famous performer is planned for Nov. 22 at the Tupelo club and restaurant on Grant Avenue, just up the street from the Condor.
Ms. Doda rocketed to fame after she revolutionized go-go dancing by performing topless at the Condor and, a short time later, enhanced the size of her breasts from 34B to 44DD with silicone injections, which were nearly unheard of at the time.
“Carol Doda was a part of that early scene that transformed North Beach into what one would expect to see in New Orleans or in some of the areas in Paris,” former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown told the Chronicle.
“She was bright, able, beautiful, creative and outrageous," he said.
“San Francisco history is made up of characters, and Carol certainly was one of those,” said Charlotte Shultz, San Francisco's official chief of protocol.
“She changed Broadway and made news around the world," Ms. Shultz said. "People said, ‘Only in San Francisco,’ and we didn’t mind people saying that.”
But Ms. Doda was more than just a topless dancer.
She was a singer who fronted a band, the Lucky Stiffs, in the 1990s, a comedian and a great friend, her lifelong associate, Dick Winn, told the Chronicle.
“She was much more than just dancing,” said Winn, who performed show tunes with her in recent years.
“She was one of the fastest comedians I ever knew for coming back with wisecracks," he said. "She was a wonderfully caring person who listened to you and gave good advice.”
Her performances at the Condor usually featured a white piano that descended from the ceiling, with her atop it.
She would dance and sing a few numbers before the piano rose back to the ceiling with her still on it.
“She launched the topless craze that swept San Francisco and the nation in the 1960s,” said Ernie Beyl, author of the recently published book "Sketches from a North Beach Journal," that has a chapter titled "Carol Doda and her Swimsuit."
“It’s invigorating to live in a city where one of the most prominent citizens was a topless dancer,” Beyl wrote.
Shultz said that in 1964, when San Francisco hosted the Republican National Convention where Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater was nominated for president, "the big request from delegates was for reservations to see Carol Doda at the Condor."
“She was an important part of North Beach San Francisco,” said longtime publicist Lee Housekeeper, known for representing emerging rock bands like Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s
"She came at a time when the Beats were handing the torch to the hippies, and she turned the world upside-down,” he said.
Ms. Doda, who said she never married, is survived by her son, Tom Smith, and grandson, Westin T. Smith, both of Napa; Calif.; and seven cousins. She was preceded in death by her daughter, Donna Smith Terzian.
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