1975. San Francisco. I was standing next door to the Condor Night Club, the place made famous by Carol Doda and a photograph of her dancing topless for delegates at the 1964 Republican Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater as it Presidential candidate. Doda was the Eighth Wonder of the World after she had silicone injections in her breasts, one of the first augmentations in the U.S.A. It is widely reported that because the silicone was not contained in bags, it would not stay in place and each night before she was lowered from the ceiling on a baby grand piano, she would have to massage the miracle liquid back into shape.
By 1975, there were many topless clubs in North Beach near the corner of Columbus and Broadway. I had gone to Ferlenghetti's City Lights Books, a mecca for bohemians as was all North Beach having served as the west coast base for so many beat poets, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg among them. These were the streets where Neal Cassady was arrested for sharing a joint with an undercover cop. Etc. And so, camera in hand, I wandered, searching for roots, meaning.
"Hey, fella, you want to take my picture."
Sure, I said, and timidly snapped my camera into place while she struck salacious poses in the darkened doorway. I was shy like a boy on a first date and only took a few before I struck up conversation. I told her with nervous enthusiasm that I had just graduated from college and was traveling around the country like Kerouac. Turned out she had a master's degree in literature and I was over my head on all fronts.
Then a gruff voice called from inside and she got nervous. "What are you doin'?" One more pose, his hand on her breast, and she moved quickly inside.
A dancer with a master's degree. I should have learned something from that.