In 1964 Doda made international news, first by dancing topless at the city's Condor Club, then by enhancing her bust from size 34 to 44 through silicone injections. Her breasts became known as Doda's "twin 44s" and "the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco."
Doda was born in Solano County, California and grew up in San Francisco. Her parents divorced when she was 3. Although private about her personal life, she claims to have dropped out of school, and become a cocktail waitress at age 14.
Doda attended the San Francisco Art Institute and worked as waitress and lounge entertainer at the Condor Club, at the corner of Broadway and Columbus in the North Beach section of San Francisco. Doda's act began with a grand piano being lowered from the ceiling by hydraulic motors; Doda would be atop the piano dancing, as it descended from a hole in the ceiling. She go-go danced "The Swim" to a rock and roll combo headed by Bobby Freeman as her piano settled on the stage. From the waist up Doda emulated aquatic movements like the Australian crawl. She also performed The Twist, The Frug, and The Watusi.
On June 19, 1964, when Doda was 26 years old, the Condor's publicist, "Big" Davy Rosenberg gave Doda a "monokini" topless swimsuit designed by Rudi Gernreich. She performed topless that night, the first noted entertainer of the era to do so. The act was an instant success. Two months after she started her semi-nude performances, the rest of San Francisco's Broadway was topless, followed soon after by entertainers across America. Doda became an American cultural icon of the 1960s. The Republican National Convention was held in San Francisco, during the summer of 1964; many of the delegates came to see Carol Doda. She was profiled in Tom Wolfe's 1968 book The Pump House Gang and appeared that same year as Sally Silicone in Head, the 1968 film created by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, and featuring The Monkees. The movie was produced by Columbia Pictures. She appeared in a Golden Boy parody with Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, and Davy Jones.
Encouraged by her success, Doda soon decided to enhance her breasts with silicone injections, going from size 34 to 44. Doda became renowned for her big bust, and was one of the first well-known performers to be surgically enhanced. She had 44 injections, a large dose of silicone, at a cost of $1,500.
For the topless and waterless Swim, Doda wore the bottom half of a black bikini and a net top which ended where a bathing suit generally began. She performed 12 shows nightly so the management could keep crowds moving in and out. A large illuminated sign in front of the club featured a cartoon of her with red flashing lights representing her nipples.
Nicaraguan dictator General Anastasio Somoza Debayle paid an unexpected visit to the Condor Nightclub in November 1973, when seven limousines pulled up before startled parking attendants. About two dozen U.S Secret Service agents accompanied General Somoza's party of nine and guarded each door. Somoza sent a word to Doda backstage as he departed that he considered her performance "most outstanding".
On September 3, 1969, Carol Doda began dancing bottomless (i.e., totally nude) at the Condor. She danced bottomless until the California alcoholic beverages commission passed a rule in the autumn of 1972 prohibiting nude dancing in places that served alcohol.
On April 22, 1965 Doda was arrested with Gino del Prete, owner of the Condor Club. They were cleared when two judges instructed innocent verdicts. Judge Friedman's memorandum to opposing attorneys read Whether acts ... are lewd and dissolute depends not on any individual's interpretation or personal opinion, but on the concensus [sic] of the entire community ... del Prete and Doda were arrested during police raids to stop bare-bosom shows in North Beach. Peter Mattioli owned the Condor Club by 1967 and Doda still appeared in shows there.
Doda was a witness during the trial of two all-nude dancers who were arrested for "indecent exposure and lewd and dissolute conduct", in 1969. The defendants were dancers at the Pink Pussy Kat in Orangevale, California. Presiding Municipal Court Judge Earl Warren, Jr. moved the trial, temporarily, from the courtroom to Chuck Landis Largo club. There Doda performed to live song and dance numbers, along with a movie titled Guru You. She was cross-examined by a deputy district attorney about what she hoped to convey to audiences in her act. Doda was dressed in a red miniskirt with dark blue piping and beige boots. She responded that the movie represents "a satire of pornography ... it's to show people the humorous side of sex". Several members of the 10-man, 2-woman jury kept in check their smiles as Doda explained the 17-minute movie. The deputy district attorney opposed asking her to perform, considering it irrelevant to the case. He was overruled by Warren.
From the late-1960s through the late-1970s, Doda was the spokesmodel for what is now the San Jose, California television station KICU-TV Channel 36, then known as KGSC-TV. Filmed from the waist up and wearing clothes which amplified her most prominent physical attributes, she would coo "You're watching the Perfect 36 in San Jose." She would also occasionally appear on-air to do editorial commentary on the issues of the day.
In 1982 Doda was again dancing at the Condor three times a night. She was 45 and performed to rock 'n' roll, blues, and ragtime. Each act was the same, with Doda appearing in a gold gown, traditional elbow-length gloves, and a diaphanous-wraparound. Her clothing was removed until she wore only a g-string and the diaphanous wraparound. In the final portion she was attired in only the wraparound. Her small body looked slimmer without clothes, a perception which was emphasized by the dwarfing effect of her breasts. At the time she was taking dance and voice lessons but had no definite plans for her future.
For a few years in the early 80's Carol performed throughout Bay Area dance night clubs with her band "The Lucky Stiffs". Pop rock Star Greg Kihn was responsible for organizing her band for her and assisted her in her bookings. During one of her engagements at "The Odyssey Room" in Sunnyvale she was escorted by Gary Schmidt the club owner to a special VIP party held by Steve Wozniak of Apple Computer fame as the guest of honor but did not perform there. A Fashion show featuring her line of lingerie usually accompanied her music performances.
As of 2009 Doda had been performing (fully clothed) for several years at several North Beach (San Francisco) clubs, including Amante's and Enrico's Supper Club.
- Date of birth found on the California Birth Index 1905–1995
- Kevin Fagan (2009-08-23). "After 45 years, stripper still packs 'em in". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Hamlin, Jesse (August 1, 1999). "Where Are They Now? Doda's Body of Work Only Got Bigger". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Silicon [sic] made topless dancing blossom", Chicago Daily Herald, April 28, 1982, Page 21.
- "Nudity, Noise Pay Off in Bay Area Night Clubs", Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1965, Page G5.
- Levy, Alan (March 11, 1966). "A Morality Play in Three Acts". Life (Time Inc) 60 (10): 79–87. ISSN 0024-3019. "But this is June 1964 and The Condor is going broke." "And that same night Miss Carol Doda, 23 – a former prune-picker, file clerk, ballroom dance instructor and cocktail waitress whose measurements at the time are 34-25-36 – dances The Swim bare from the waist up."
- "Varieties of topless experience", Arthur Berger, Journal of Popular Culture 4(2) 419-24, 1970
- "California Solons May Bring End To Go-Go-Girl Shows In State", Panama City, Florida News, September 15, 1969, Page 12A.
- "Topless Craze in S.F. – It's a Jungle of Sweaty Gyrations", Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1965, Page C11.
- "Movie Call Sheet", Los Angeles Times, March 11, 1968, Page C32.
- "Monkees Cavort In 'Head' at the Vogue", Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1968, Page G18.
- Date September 3, 1969 for this event is recorded on the plaque viewable on the outside of the Condor club
- "Topless Suits in Shows OK", Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1965, Page 9.
- "S.F. Pair Plan Topless Club", Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1967, Page D15.
- "Judge Takes Another Look At 'Dodo's Indecent Dance'", Long Beach Press-Telegram, September 23, 1969, Page 32.
- "What's Cooking At Francesco's". Oakland Tribune. December 14, 1974. p. 18-E. "Carol Doda; the Perfect 36 (Channel 36's editorial voice and figure) has been in for dinner several times recently."
- "Valentine's Day shopping guide", by Cara Cutter, San Francisco Bay Guardian, February 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
- Carol Doda at the Internet Movie Database
- NNDB listing: Carol Doda
- Hamlin, Jesse (August 1, 1999). "WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Doda's Body of Work Only Got Bigger: Now she sings in a rock band, runs a lingerie shop and keeps stripping". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- Hyena, Hank (September 7, 1999). "Voluminous Femininity: Bra shopping at Carol Doda's boutique". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- California Births, 1905–1995 Carol Ann Doda
- "After 45 years, stripper still pack's 'em in", San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2009. Retrieved July 31, 2013.