BACKSTORY: Carol Doda is the subject of a cherished family story. She plays a very important role in the story of how Susie met her soon-to-be brother-in-law Waldie. She was originally going to take him to a classical music concert, but got the days mixed up and the tickets were for a different night. Waldie being Waldie, he said he knew a place he wanted to go and off they went. It turns out the places that Waldie was talking about was the Condor Club, a topless (and for a while, bottomless) bar in North Beach, San Francisco. It was the 1960s. The music started, and Carol Doda was lowered from the ceiling.
At Waldie’s memorial service this past summer, Susie spoke and included the story of how they first met. She referenced Carol Doda by saying “She was the most well-endowed woman I had ever seen” and received laughter and cheers from the family and friends that filled the Chapel at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
I have Carol Doda set on Google News Alerts, so expect to hear from her now and then…
Ex-stripper Carol Doda reflects on career, singing
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Carol Doda, once the most famous stripper in the world, first danced topless at the Condor Club on Broadway in 1964 and bottomless at the club starting a few years later. Doda now runs a lingerie boutique on Union Street and sings with a band at clubs around town.
Q: Strip clubs are common today, but when you were dancing, it was a scandal and a social revolution. What was it like for you?
A: It wasn’t a scandal at first. People liked it, and lined up outside. It was a scandal about a year and a half after I started, because the cops came in and said no more bottomless unless you move the tables back 5 feet. I had to explain to the people we can’t do bottomless and topless because the health department folks are afraid our pubic hairs will jump into your drinks.
Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in North Beach?
A: There are now lots of fights and gun action. When I was performing, husbands and wives would come, and bring friends from out of town. They said what I was doing wastitillating.
Q: Breast enlargements were uncommon at that time. How did you learn of it and come to do it?
A: I’d never heard of it, but my boss said, “There’s this doctor who’s enlarging breasts. Maybe you should check it out.” I went from a 36B to a 44D. I was full of silicone. The injections came from what looked like a horse needle. The audience liked the outcome. They’d come every week to see how much I’d grown.
Q: What is your breast size now?
A: Now? I haven’t measured myself. I guess I’m just a normal triple D.
Q: Which legendary locals did you encounter?
A: I used to see (Chronicle columnist) Herb Caen all the time. He’d be in Enrico’s and all around. He wrote about me in his column, and it kind of legitimized me.
Q: Today, you do an interesting performance that mixes song and stand-up.
A: I always sang in shows even when I was taking off my clothes. I wanted to get into show business. I started doing an act. I talked to the audience. I bought a costume. I’d sing. Then I’d take off my clothes.
Q: When did you open Champagne & Lace, your lingerie shop, and why?
A: I had a rock band called Carol Doda and the Lucky Stiffs. We did that in the late ’80s. In the ’90s, I don’t remember the exact date, Caen said I was going to open a lingerie store. Since he said it, I felt I had to do it. So I opened a lingerie store, here on Union Street. That’s exactly how it happened.
Q: Favorite vacation spot?
Q: What would you buy if you could?
A: You know what? I don’t think I want to buy anything. It’s all materialistic. Nothing, really. I’d pay off all of my credit cards (she laughs). My name isn’t Paris Hilton.
A: No, I like people. I enjoy entertaining.
Q: What would surprise people to know about you?
A: I’m kind of shy. But I wanted to be in show business all my life. The only way to be in show business was to show your business. I remember coming down on the piano (her act began with her being lowered from the ceiling atop a grand piano), I had to talk to myself. I said, “Do I really want to do this?” My answer was yes.
Q: Secret talent?
A: My singing. I took 10 years of voice training.
Q: What would you call your autobiography?
A: Sinatra already did it, his way. I’d have to think about it.
Q: Would you ever leave San Francisco?
A: This is where I live. I live in North Beach and I like it and, honestly, I don’t feel comfortable anywhere else. San Francisco is the only place I’ve felt was a part of me and I’m a part of it. So, San Francisco means a lot to me.
E-mail Julian Guthrie at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page E – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle