New Barker in the Neighborhood 17


Carole Jean 1972

Carole Jean 1972

I had a visitor the other day. As soon as we sat down on the patio to enjoy a peaceful visit, she said: “Oh, there’s a new barker in the neighborhood!” Where I live in Atenas, Costa Rica, the rolling hills create an acoustic phenomenon much like that of the Sydney Opera House. The house below us at the bottom of the hill has a new tenant with a barking dog. He barks day and night, and it sounds like he is on the patio just outside the door of my house. I’m hoping the annoying sound will turn into white noise.

When my friend said “barker”, my mind did that swooney thing that took me back to the 70s in San Francisco. I had just moved to the city from the Virgin Islands. Actually, I took an apartment in Sausalito on Bridgeway, the main drag, because the dotted hillside reminded me of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, a similar dotted hillside overlooking the harbor. I was pounding the pavement of San Francisco looking for a job.

I had a folded up newspaper in my hand with several ads circled in blue pen. I don’t remember the exact dress I wore, but I do remember my shoes; white high heels  – much too high for negotiating the steep San Francisco hills on foot. I would never admit that, of course. I held my head high, looked straight ahead, and wondered how I had gotten to this neighborhood of topless dance clubs. I was headed toward Broadway on Kearny Street to follow up on an ad in the “help wanted’ section.

There was an Italian looking guy lurking in a doorway trying to get my attention. “Eh!”  he grunted. I looked straight ahead. “Hey, miss!” I kept trucking up the hill toward what I believed to be Broadway – my destination. I was looking for a place called “Enrico’s” which advertised for a waitress.

The guy in the doorway stepped forward into my pathway and smiled. I had no choice but to stop, and look at him. He looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with a sweet demeanor, and a soft voice. “You lookin’ for a job?”

“Well, yeah”…as I held out my folded newspaper with the circled ads to prove it.

“My name is Bronco. I’m the manager here; we need a cocktail waitress.”

I looked at the photo display window behind him and said: “Wait a minute. This is one of those topless clubs, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah … but you won’t be topless. The uniform is a white angora dress with a turtleneck.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure, I’m sure. You’ll make a lotta dough. It’s easy. Carol Doda does a show here. There’s a 2-drink minimum. All you have to do is bring the 2 drinks at once, collect the money and get a big tip. They usually don’t order any more. Then you do it again for the second show, and you’re done for the night. The money’s good, I’m tellin’ ya! Wanna start tonight?”

“Are you sure it’s not topless? If I show up and it’s topless, I’m walking out the door.”

“You wanna see the uniform now?

“Yes, I do.”

O.K. come inside, take a look around and I’ll bring one of ’em out. You’ll see. We run a classy joint here. The only topless are on stage or on these round tables. None of our waitresses go topless.”

I was apprehensive, but Bronco (what a name) seemed innocuous and I was flat broke. Even if I only lasted one night, it would put some cash in my pocket if he was telling the truth. I said I would show up and give it a go. We agreed that if, after the trial, if I didn’t like it, that would be the end of it. It occurred to me that I wasn’t quite sure of where I was and If I could find the place after dark. “By the way, what’s the name of this place?”

“This is the Off Broadway Club. We was gonna name it the Carol Doda Club, but Gino, you know Gino del Prete, he owns the Condor. He don’t want to confuse people. See ya tonight.”

As I walked away, I wondered who this Carol Doda was. I didn’t have far to go to find out. I made it up the hill to Broadway, decided not to stop at Enrico’s, but to keep it in reserve in case this one didn’t work out. I continued up Broadway, and as I approached a major intersection, I looked up to see a giant sign on the corner of Broadway and Columbus. Ahhhh, that Carol Doda!

Condor, Big Al's

Broadway Topless Clubs in the early 1970s

I hope they don’t make me go topless tonight. I won’t do it, that’s all. I walked down the street to the cacophony of the barkers touting their club’s wares. Suddenly, I snapped to as the new neighbor’s dog in Roca Verde barked me out of my reverie.

 

What happened at the Off Broadway? Part 2 coming soon!

 

 

 


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