North Beach used to be part of the Barbary Coast, a district known during the gold rush days for prostitution and crime. During the 1960s, adult entertainment returned to Broadway, San Francisco, as a sort of cheeky celebration of those Wild West days. The Condor Club opened in 1964 as America’s first topless bar. Carol Doda would make her grand entrance dancing seductively atop a piano, which was lowered from on high. She enhanced 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”. Much later in 1983 this same piano would accidentally rise to the ceiling, crushing to death “Jimmy the Beard” Ferrozzo who was lying atop his girlfriend.
Art Norack owned or was a partner in almost every club along the strip.
Art’s list of establishments on Broadway included El Cid, the Peppermint Tree, Pierre’s and Basin Street West. To name a few entertainers who performed at these venues–there was Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Dave Brubeck, Janis Joplin, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, Ike & Tina Turner, all at Basin Street West and Little Richard at the Peppermint Tree and “Topless Mother of Eight” Gaye Spiegelman at El Cid. Tom Sullivan remembers he and two buddies dancing on stage with a topless performer at the Peppermint Tree. The girl was cooperative, perhaps enjoying the attention her act received from the street. No less than thirty Japanese sailors in their white uniforms stood head-piled-atop-head within the doorframe.
- Next time we will revisit 1960’s Broadway with more stories. Stay tuned. Cheers!