Naked in Vegas at the Pussycat A’ Go Go in 1966

LAS VEGAS HOTELS AND LANDMARKS IN 1966

A Two Night Stand at the Cat

Major Las Vegas hotels and landmarks in October 1966 for Look Back In Love, memoir of A Naked Car Thief

When Stark Naked and the Car Thieves came to play the Pussycat A’ Go Go in 1966, there were twelve major hotels on the Las Vegas strip. The Cat was behind a race book, on ground that is now covered by the Wynn Hotel, south of the Desert Inn. It’s sign was a slyly smiling silhouette of a cat that stood high above the boulevard. Continue reading…

Stark Naked at the Galaxie 1966

Recently, Dave sent me some photos that had come to light. This one show our band in early 1966, I’m going to guess about February or so. Dave Rapken, was the club owner of one of the hottest topless bars in North Beach, back when the naughty but nice atmosphere brought celebs of every stripe over to the original Barbary coast, when he hired us to play at his club for a year. Though he never said, I am certain that the name Stark Naked and the Car Thieves really appealed to him. It had been a joke name to us but there was no changing it now.

Most of us were vocalists, recently arrived from Indianapolis, and we’d formed a band with some available musicians and played a couple of bay area, (mostly dive bar) clubs for a few months. Dave Rapken insisted on suits, as you can see in the publicity picture he arranged for. He also hired a pretty tough guy who had many years experience in Las Vegas. Eddie taught us stagecraft, virtually at gunpoint. Usually we did what he asked since he made such a point of it but on occasion, we slipped.

Sharing a dressing room with six topless dancers over a year was an education there was no way to prepare for, let alone if you were a recent emigrant from the Midwest. It was all part of growing up as A Naked Car Thief.

Across the top: Mac, Dave, Larry; across the bottom, Leonard, Les, Jack. I still can’t believe we were ever that young.

Book cover for A Naked Car Thief

First Draft of My Life as A Naked Car Thief Completed

Book cover for A Naked Car ThiefIt has been a long slog that began a long time ago for research, and nearly full time writing around a year ago. I’ve written enough words for two and a half books but I have finally completed the first draft of My Life as A Naked Car Thief. I must admit there are a couple of caveats: there are some unfinished chapters related to playing the Crown Room at the International Hotel while Elvis was in the main room. I am so pleased that Jim and Jan Seagrave are dipping into their vast resources to try and help me find the correct dates. And there is a slight hiccup with our Caesars Palace dates, which are minimal. It has been surprising to me the dearth of information about the Las Vegas of our era.

The final four chapters actually got written simultaneously for the most part; and there are some rough parts but it all works. The most exciting thing to me, something you just really can’t know until you finish a draft, is that there is a very real story of some pretty ordinary guys, okay I’ll just speak for myself here, an ordinary guy, since there was a lot of talent around me, from the Midwest who fell through the rabbit hole of the sixties and landed in San Francisco where they formed a band that lasted for a lot of years. My fear now is not about the story, it’s only in my own ability to do it justice. Though it is set in the drug-laced and culture-shifting sixties and the music and entertainment business of California, Las Vegas, and Honolulu, it’s mainly about people and how they struggle to survive and flourish, and fail and succeed, in such a maelstrom. It’s about a journey of time and place but also of growth, from callow youth to maturity. It’s about love and loss and living when you’re not sure you can. About realizing that what you get is sometimes worth more than what you want.

I may have to take a small break to get my breath back, I was pounding out many, many pages a week during the last couple of months as I sensed the finish line, but I’m looking forward to diving into the next, the really hard phase, shaping the second draft of these words into a readable story. I want to thank everyone, really everyone, that I have come in contact with during the process who have been so supportive, positive, and helpful in getting me this far. I’d just like to point out a few, my wife, Laurie, Christine and my brother writers from the Coffee House Writers Group, the band mates and wives I’ve been in touch with and some I haven’t, and the tens of people who I’ve contacted for research information. And, of course, the tubes of the World Wide InterWeb. It’s been a great to have so much help.

What is a memoir? And why I chose to use it.

Last August I began writing “A Naked Car Thief” as a remembrance of the years I was a member of our band, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves. Prior to that, I spent about four months in intense research and writing certain scenarios that I vividly remembered like when we opened Nero’s Nook at Caesars Palace. I was testing to see if I could develop the skill to write something worth the effort it would take and if I could actually dedicate the time and effort and will to finish it. Though I have previously worked as a technical writer professionally for over eight years for three Fortune 100 companies, started an unfinished novel and a few short stories (one published in a game sci-fi magazine), I had never taken on anything like the scope of this project. Of the number of books I have absorbed in trying to develop this skill set, I realize that I should make clear the expectations and limits to what should be expected in a memoir, what it means for my goal, and why I chose this form. I am quoting below from one of the influential books that is guiding me.

“Memoir is a rendering of lived life, as filtered through memory and the wider net of the needs of narrative. Memoir just tells the story, no explicit thesis here. Memoir examines a life, a self, and does so through a period of time, say early childhood or the month you spent with Grandpa in France. Like novels and short stories, memoirs tend to operate in time and space, tend to have a story arc, rising action leading to a climax, a balance of scene and summary. A reflective voice might tell the story, might analyze events, but it tends to stay in the background, tends to let the action do the work. Research can support the storytelling, but the point isn’t a display of facts or information. A memoir lays out the evidence of a life, lets the reader make the conclusions. The mode ranges from pure, plain storytelling to more reflective storytelling. Some memoirs get so reflective and analytical that they move close to and overlap with the personal essay. A few pages, a book, a few volumes, memoir is an expansible form.”

— Roorbach, Bill (2008-06-17). Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature.

I chose this form specifically because I am dealing with a time now well over 40 years ago, where memory does it’s best but cannot mirror specifics. Time and again, after relating vignettes about our group’s adventures people would say “you ought to write a book”, even sometimes a band mate. But as I got further into the project I realized that the story I had to tell, was really about my specific adventures through the lens described above; the band’s story and the story of the times and places had to become the background of my story. It had to become my story, not the band’s.

At first it was for a practical reason, it had become clear that some members of the group had glaring differences in interpreting the memories of our shared experiences. As my goal was to get at the truths that were seminal to my growth through those years; accuracy was bound to take a hit so I dedicated those early months to research and I continue to do spot research during the writing to be as accurate as possible. I also don’t want to take the stance of invalidating anyone else’s recollections so by personalizing them as mine and mine alone, though I make every effort  to find common ground, I am only responsible to being true to my own sense of this experience.

But more importantly I have come to realize in this much more personal approach I am uncovering things that go beyond the band and into my relationships with family and friends with far-reaching consequence. I also realized that I wanted to write a story, a book, that anyone could pick up and read for the adventure and journey of several fairly ordinary guys who combined their talents  in a leap of faith, and ended up experiencing extraordinary events at extraordinary places at an extraordinary time, the middle to the end of the 1960’s, in music and culture.

The Lemon Tree – Honolulu Hawaii

In spring of 1968 our band found itself in Honolulu, Hawaii, playing in a club at the very tail end of Waikiki. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget and not just because the girl I was going to meet here. It was the height of the Vietnam war and maybe 80% of the guys in our club were military, either stopping here before heading to the jungle, back for R&R and returning to the jungle, or finishing their tour here before heading home from the jungle. We were in a bubble, neither going or coming but a little piece of home to them. I nearly lost my life here, discovered how good but how sick Blue Hawaii’s can make you, how high gange from southeast Asia could get you, discovered how magical and exotic a tiny speck of land on the top of an undersea mountain can be and brushed across people in the International sex trade. Hawaii was the most beautiful and the most dangerous place I’d ever been in, and that includes Las Vegas. How much of this will make it into the book, that is already so jam-packed with our adventures I cannot say but the memories come flooding back as I write. The Lemon Tree, Honolulu, Hawaii, Kalakaua Ave at Liliuokalani Avenue

In researching the background for this section of A Naked Car Thief, I Google Earthed myself to the island to view again Sandy Beach and other places where we went to on the island. The last time I had been in Honolulu, I had looked for the site of the Lemon Tree, the club we played at, and the hotel that was just across a narrow alley from the club. I remembered the club as huge, directly across the street from this incredibly beautiful but usually deserted beach directly across Kalakaua Avenue. But I couldn’t find it. Yet with the magic of Google Earth I found the corner of Kalakaua and Liliuokalani Boulevard and there it was. Of course the building was smaller and cut up into smaller stores, the most prominent a McDonald’s. But behind it was that creepy, ramshackle hotel we stayed in, now some kind of a Korean barbecue restaurant. Even the curved columns from the old hotel showed up. It was great to look down nearly 45 years later on this fateful corner of the world and the feelings it brought back from the bones of these buildings. I’m sharing a screen capture of this corner for all my old band buddies.

Naked Car Thief Imposter Caught By Dog On Video

Really? A naked car thief steals a Hummer limo? Really?

The moment a naked man was tackled to the ground by a German Shepard police dog after he allegedly stole a limo in Irvine, California was caught on video. Around 8 p.m. police and the California Highway Patrol used cars and a helicopter to track the giant 4×4 on a late night car chase through nearby Whittier through residential streets.

‘He came to a stop, he’s bailed,’ an officer is heard saying as he watches the man from the helicopter. Then, in shock, he adds: ‘He’s naked!’ Waving his arms, the alleged thief sprinted through a residential area but was promptly captured by a police dog, who tackled him to the ground until two officers restrained him and took him away.

Irvine police spokeswoman Lieutenant Julia Engen said, “We alerted nearby authorities and turned the pursuit over to the California Highway Patrol when the vehicle went into the area of Whittier. We cannot tell you why he was not wearing clothes. All we know is that he was wearing them at the scene of the original crime so he must have taken them off along the way.’ The chase ended at 9.45 p.m. when the driver was taken into custody near Valley View Avenue and Alondra Boulevard in Los Angeles County.

Lt. Engen added the man could still be in custody at Orange County jail. Hopefully he has been treated for scratches and dog bites in various unexposed areas on his body.

Just to set to rest any speculation, especially since it took place on December 13, of last year, no it was not me, nor any of my band mates, on one last rampage. To the best of my knowledge all of us were accounted for. This is obviously a stunt from one more, in a long line of imposters, trying to gain notoriety at our expense.

Larry Lamb of Las Vegas Died in 2006

[Note] This is mainly of interest to the guys who were in Stark Naked and the Car Thieves in 1968 through 1970, when Larry spent a lot of time following the band. He was certainly an interesting character in those years when the Lamb family was at the peak of its power in Las Vegas and Nevada. It’s sad to fine that another one of the colorful characters that illustrated our Las Vegas band days is gone.

Mar. 31, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Larry Lamb, who was 66, died at home in Las Vegas, two weeks after falling off a ladder in his garage, said Jan Smith, Larry Lamb’s longtime companion. The exact cause of his death was not known.

Larry Lamb was the youngest of 11 brothers in one of Nevada’s oldest families. The grandfather was one of five original settlers of the Pahranagat Valley, said his son, David Thompson.

Larry Lamb was the brother of Sheriff Ralph Lamb and two other brothers who were also in politics: the late Floyd Lamb, a former state senator, and Darwin Lamb, a former Clark County commissioner. Ralph Lamb was the first sheriff of the consolidated Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, from 1961 to 1978. The Lambs’ fame was mixed with notoriety. Floyd Lamb, a state senator who represented Las Vegas for 30 years, was convicted of accepting bribes in the FBI’s 1983 “Operation Yobo,” which netted another senator and two commissioners.

Larry Lamb was no stranger to trouble. In 1980, he shot and killed a man at a Christmas tree lot. Charges were dismissed, leading to criticism that Lamb was getting a pass because of his family’s connections.

The murder charge was reinstated, but Larry Lamb was acquitted by a jury. He said he acted in self-defense, claiming the dead man, Lee “Crowbar” McCambridge, was threatening him with a hand saw.

“Where the hell was I going to go?” Larry Lamb testified in the case. “I didn’t want to get hit with no saw.”

The large family of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members was close, said Thompson, a Las Vegas police officer. “It didn’t matter if you were running for president or getting out of jail; they’d stand behind you.”

Smith said Larry Lamb could be rowdy, but it was a character trait that was a piece of a self-styled cowboy of the old school.

“Easy? No. Fun? Yes. Loyal? Yes,” is how Smith summed up the man she’d known for nearly 50 years.

“He was colorful. He was never dull. He was a risk taker,” she said. “He was the old America that hadn’t gone all corporate.”

A prankster, Larry Lamb once filled the fountains in front of Caesars Palace with soap bubbles.

He was a bar owner and restaurateur who hosted his brothers’ political victory parties at his Las Vegas bar, the Cockatoo.

“He backed all his brothers, whether it was taking signs out, handing out literature or answering phones,” Smith said, saying he proudly pasted three stickers on a new car: “Ralph Lamb for Sheriff,” “Floyd Lamb for Senate” and “Darwin Lamb for County Commission.”

Larry Lamb is survived by Smith; sons Darwin and David Thompson; brothers Ralph and Darwin Lamb; sisters Wanda Lamb Peccole and Erma McIntosh; and three grandchildren.

Yvonne D’Angers – Off Broadway Topless Dancer – 1966

Off-Broadway-1966-Y'vonne-D.-AngersI just can’t help it. I am putting up another topless dancer picture. I have spent the last couple of days doing research for a final chapter on our experiences in the  incredible atmosphere of North Beach in San Francisco in 1966.

Originally the old Barbary Coast to the various and often scurrilous sea-farers of the 1800’s it became a major Italian neighborhood in the City, featuring outstanding Italian food and imposing Catholic churches. While known as the “Paris of the West”, in the forties and fifties it spawned the beat generation centered around the City Lights bookstore in North Beach.

As the Beatniks faded away two cultural revolutions began to rise in the cauldron that is San Francisco. One of them was, of course, the rise of the Hippies in the Haight brought on in part by the student population of nearby San Francisco State College. In roughly 1963-4, the mainly Russian neighborhood began to change to the “Drop out, drop in” culture that would reign for a few short years. It was the hotbed for musical expression of the philosophy of the young or as it’s motto states: “Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll”.

Meanwhile, over in North Beach in mid-1964, Carol Doda galvanized the world coming down in a bikini bottom on a piano at the Condor Club. This, of course, was the cultural stream we entered in late 1965 and it was without question a terrific time to be young and in music. Where the Hippie culture was re-defining music, we were reveling in the music of the era we loved. And we were surrounded by some of the best performers and musicians of our time.

But I was reminded in my Internet travels of this stunning lady, another iconic topless dancer of the era, Yvonne D’Angers, who performed at the Off Broadway. She was an Iranian-born blond bombshell who came to be known in the press as “The Persian Lamb”. She was a star witness in the 1965 trial over legality of topless waitresses but was much more famous for chaining herself to the Golden Gate bridge to protest her threatened deportation.

At least a part of the significance to North Beach to the City is trumpeted in a brazen newspaper ad: “Two of San Francisco’s three most famous landmarks … belong to Yvonne D’Angers, now appearing topless in North Beach at Off Broadway.” They fail to mention what that third one was.

Great San Franciscan Characters: #1 Carol Doda

THIS ARTICLE IS REPRINTED FROM THE BLOG BELOW. I am reprinting it because Carol Doda was the flash point for the North Beach Renaissance in the mid-sixties. So we have to thank her for starting that trend because it led to Dave Rapkin of the Galaxie Club on Broadway and Kearney to offer us a year contract there. Hopefully, our club was similar to others there; come for the exposed mammary glands stay for the music and entertainment.  As I remember it there was great entertainment all over that area. From Broadway where Ramsey Lewis, Bobby Freeman, Chubby Checker, and Joey Dee and the Starliters played as well as the nearby Hungry I and Purple Onion who featured at one time or another Barbara Streisand, Woody Allen,  and Mort Sahl, who later played with us at Caesar’s Palace.  Not to mention the Smother’s Brothers and The Kingston Trio and a host of other acts. The ‘naughty but nice’ atmosphere helped lend San Francisco a European city sophistication and attract celebrities and top level audiences. So thanks for getting everybody’s attention Carol; and thanks for remembering it, Tony!

 

January 17, 2011 by A Golden Gate State of Mind

Rather than start this series with a politician, business or military leader, important and influential in the city’s development though many have been, I thought I would focus on someone who epitomises the colourful, free spirited and boundary stretching personality of the city.

Carol Ann Doda was born of soon to be divorced parents on 29 August 1937 in Solano County, California, growing up in Napa.  She dropped out of school and become a cocktail waitress and lounge entertainer at aged 14.

Described by the Internet Movie Database as a “lovely, busty and curvaceous blonde bombshell” she achieved fame, or notoriety depending upon your point of view, on 19 June 1964 at the Condor Club at the corner of Broadway and Columbus in North Beach, by dancing in a topless swimsuit, the first recognised entertainer of the era to do so, and spawning similar exhibitionism across the nation’s clubs.  Such was her popularity that delegates from the 1964 Republican National Convention flocked to see her and she was given a film role as Sally Silicone in Head, created by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, and featuring The Monkees.  She appeared in another six films.

Wikipedia describes her act, which she performed twelve times nightly, thus: (it) “began with a grand piano lowered from the ceiling by hydraulic motors;  Doda would be atop the piano dancing.  She descended from a hole in the ceiling.  She go-go danced the Swim to a rock and roll combo headed by Bobby Freeman as her piano settled on the stage.  From the waist up Doda emulated aquatic movements like the Australian crawl.  She also did the Twist, the Frug and the Watusi”.

She later enhanced her bust size from 34B to 44DD through  a total of 44 silicone injections, earning her breasts the nicknames of “the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco”.  She had them insured for $1.5 million with Lloyd’s of London.

Doda created a further seismic impact in the entertainment industry on 3 September 1969 by dancing completely naked at the Condor, though she was obliged to put the bottom part of her costume back on again in 1972 after a rule was passed prohibiting nude dancing in establishments that served alcohol.

After appearing for more than a decade on KGSC-TV she returned to dancing at the Condor three times a night in 1982, “in a gold gown, traditional elbow-length gloves, and a diaphanous-wraparound.  Her clothing was removed until she wore only a G-string and the wraparound.  In the final portion she was attired in only the wraparound.  Her small body looked slimmer without clothes which was emphasised by the dwarfing effect of her breasts”.

Retiring from stripping later in the decade she formed her own rock band, the Lucky Stiffs. She now runs the highly respectable “Carol Doda’s Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique” in Cow Hollow.  Well into the new millenium, however, she was performing – with her clothes on – at a variety of North Beach clubs, including Amante’s and Enrico’s Supper Club, singing club standards like “All of Me”.

Despite the notoriety she earned by being the first dancer to break the topless / bottomless taboos in the U.S., her act was rarely regarded as sleazy.  As she herself said: “I always just wanted to give people a good time, have fun.  Nothing really dirty – just fun”.

And finally she has been truly immortalised in having a hamburger named after her at Bill’s Place on Clement at 24th in the Outer Richmond!

CROW CANYON ROAD