Our Review

           Movie:  CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT                                      THE CONDOR

     Rating:  R, Some Sexual Material, Drug                        Content, Language, Graphic                              Nudity Throughout

                           Length:  1:40

               Release Date: March 22, 2024

Jeanne: Carol Doda was an icon, a legend, a

trailblazer --- there are a plethora of adjectives one could use to describe a remarkable woman who wasn’t afraid to break barriers. Unfortunately, the documentary CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT THE CONDOR is not the eye-opening revelation she so desperately earned.


Carol Doda at the age of 15 had a vision --- she was meant to be in the entertainment industry. But at that time, she didn’t know how, when or where. Fast forward and she begins her career as a cocktail waitress in a North Beach establishment in San Francisco called the Condor. Soon she has patrons enthralled with her wild and fun dancing while she’s serving their drinks.


Then the owners of the Condor come up with the idea of her dancing on a white baby grand piano while it’s being lowered from the ceiling. That evolves into Carol dancing topless, America’s first, which sets a trend for all the night clubs in the area. 

CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT THE CONDOR introduces the audience to the phenomenon of the 60s led by Doda and a few others. To attract bigger crowds, Doda believed she needed bigger breasts. She and a couple of her fellow dancers embarked on the silicone breast injection journey --- adding quite a few inches to her original size. But, of course, when topless becomes the norm, to keep the crowds coming, the dancers went bottomless.


CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT THE CONDOR does an acceptable job documenting Carol’s domination of the period. Unfortunately, it gets bogged down in storytelling not relevant to Doda, which diminishes its effect.


Directors Marlo McKenzie and Jonathan Parker’s film is a tad too long with the second half lacking the same intensity of interest generated in the first part of the film. Carol was extraordinary --- both she and her groundbreaking attitude deserve better.


Opinion: Wait for VOD

David: Most people don’t possess the nerve to get up on a stage and perform for an audience of strangers. This is especially true if that performance includes showing off one’s body in various forms of nudity.


But Carol Doda was not a fearful person. In fact, based on the documentary about her life as a topless dancer in a San Francisco bar, the Condor, in the 1960s, dancing nude or semi-nude in front of an audience was essentially the only time she felt alive. One can’t help but feel a little sad for her after viewing CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT THE CONDOR.


She never married although it is revealed that she gave birth to two children out of wedlock. However, they were taken from her when very young. Her only close relationship occurred over a 10-year span with a man named Jay North --- not the actor who played “Dennis the Menace” in the late 50s and early 60s.

The Condor was one of many drinking establishments that dominated San Francisco’s North Beach. Carol shifted from her job as a waitress at the Condor to become the main attraction as she danced atop a piano that descended from the ceiling, clad in a skimpy bikini. When she opted to receive silicone injections to enlarge her breasts, she was really the star, and her lack of modesty as the first topless dancer in America signaled the beginning of the sexual revolution.


The movie contains many interviews with Carol’s inner circle. These include women who danced at the same time as Carol, at least one of whom remembers her as
“a wonderful person”. In the archival tapes of interviews she sat for, Carol certainly comes across as intelligent and a kind young woman. We also hear from former colleagues, now elderly, like bartenders and former owners of the club.


The first part of CAROL DODA TOPLESS AT THE CONDOR is fascinating as it capsulizes what was happening in the U.S. while Carol was making history. We see brief archival footage of MLK making a speech, protests of the war in Vietnam and the new dance craze called The Swim.


At only 100 minutes, the documentary should not have become tiresome. But the latter part of the film proves to be redundant. Varied reactions of the subjects being interviewed, including Carol herself, offer no new insights into her life. Still, the film needs to be appreciated for presenting a mix of old footage and individuals who knew Carol on a very personal level. She truly was a pioneer.


Opinion:  Wait for VOD