Legendary San Francisco topless dancer Carol Doda dies at 78

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Legendary stripper and Bay Area institution Carol Doda, who helped introduce topless entertainment more than 50 years ago, has died at 78.

Doda died Monday in San Francisco of complications related to kidney failure, according to friend Ron Minolla.

Doda went topless in 1964 at the Condor Club and soon changed every nightspot on busy Broadway in North Beach. She left the club in 1985, joined a rock group and later owned a lingerie store.


Known for her augmented breasts, which were insured with Lloyd’s of London for $1.5 million, Doda rode on stage atop a piano on an elevator platform, debuting the same day President Lyndon B. Johnson drew half a million people in a visit to San Francisco.

It wasn’t long before the big news in town was “the Girl on the Piano.”

An illuminated sign on the club in Doda’s likeness became a landmark.

The Condor Club, considered the birthplace of topless entertainment and Doda’s home stage for years, shifted gears in 1988 and replaced its burlesque fare with a song-and-dance revue of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast.

Even the neon sign bearing Doda’s likeness, complete with two flashing red lights on her chest, was toned down when workers painted a shirt and blouse over the figure’s bikini.