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Carol Doda Mural Replaces Fnnch Lips In North Beach

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Natalie Gabriel working on her Carol Doda mural. The unveiling party is January 28th, from 2 to 6pm at 700 Columbus. Photo by Tim Marsolais

There is a new mural in North Beach adorning the corner of Filbert and Columbus at Bodega SF, tying into the rich history of the neighborhood and those who made North Beach what it is. My favorite neighborhood in San Francisco. Gone are the lips previously painted by Fnnch. For those who may find themselves longing for overproduced art on public display, the same mural can be found on the side of The Dorian in the Marina and multiple garage doors throughout the city.

Before the Fnnch lovers jump in, I’m not hating, I’m just sharing my perspective. I didn’t involve myself in all that Ricky Rat nonsense. Although it was cute watching the chase during the pandemic. I follow Fnnch and appreciate his art for what it is. He is a talented artist. That being said, I was lucky enough to see first hand a few of the many screws Twist, aka Barry McGee, threw up all over the city in the 90’s. It was reproductive art like the honey bear but for real ones. No two were alike and done under the cloak of darkness. Murals mean something. The Mission has been and still is, a walk through history and culture displayed on walls in vibrant colors. To me, murals aren’t meant for reproduction. They are meant for community, talking pieces or just a dope ass original piece of art.

Natalie Gabriel working on her Carol Doda mural. Photo by Tim Marsolais

Natalie Gabriel did that with her “Miss Carol Doda” homage. Placing Carol in a sunrise or sunset depending on how your chakras are aligned. For me it’s a sunrise. For others it’s midday with a glass of wine at Bodega SF. I won’t go into all the deep details of what Carol Doda means to not only North Beach but the country and women’s rights in general. There are plenty of articles written about her you can find including here on this very website. Long story short, she was the first topless dancer in the US and this wasn’t done with permission.

In 1964, at the Condor Club on Broadway, Carol decided to strip away the pasties and tassels and let them things fly. This built her legend and obviously made her the biggest show in town. She was subsequently arrested shortly after for the act, sparking national debate. She was acquitted and free to perform. This in itself added to the allure of what we and James Harden now call strip clubs. Sorry James low hanging fruit.

This included Natalie’s own father who attended a show as a student at UC Berkeley in the 80’s. Safe to say, hella jealous. While it was a one off for a birthday, he had a seat. I love Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac but nobody, I mean nobody, brought people to North Beach like Doda did. You could combine all the greats, they had nothing on Carol. None of them drew the members of the RNC who were holding a convention at the Cow Palace, let alone locals just trying to see what the “Doda” Condor craze was all about.

Natalie Gabriel working on her Carol Doda mural. Photo by Tim Marsolais

That’s why this mural is so special. Natalie Gabriel hit the streets to find those who knew Carol, including those at the Condor Club, to ask how Carol would like to be remembered? Those answers are in the art. It’s not lips, it’s tits and Carol brought them all out. With a neighborhood of streets named after men, I feel like Carol deserves one, Aaron Peskin we’re looking at you.

Come out January 28th, from 2 to 6pm at 700 Columbus to celebrate this fine piece of art, live music, and the people who make the city what it is. RIP Miss Carol Doda. You live on.

The finished mural. Photo by Tim Marsolais

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JC Carlston

JC Carlston

JC is a freelance writer of untypical nonsense and former co-owner and founder of Lower Branch (art blog/nomadic curating group) and the Lower Branch Gallery in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. A sports nerd with an appetite for all things art and absurd. He can easily be found bopping around all corners of the city with a beer and burrito in hand, keep an eye out and say hello.

2 Comments

  1. Ray Mullen
    January 23, 2023 at 6:51 pm — Reply

    “Before the Fnnch lovers jump in,”
    Wait, there are Fnnch lovers?

  2. Conor
    January 24, 2023 at 12:59 pm — Reply

    Anything that covers FNNCH’s pathetic excuse for art is amazing in my eyes. This is brilliantly done and Doda deserves all the love and recognition!

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