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The Mysterious Life of 1960s North Beach Starlet Yvonne D’Angers

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A glamorous woman with fake eyelashes leaning over a chair wearing a low cut top and her platinum blond hair high in a ponytail.
Yvonne D'Angers in November 1966. (UPI/Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

This is the story of a young woman who routinely bared her body, but never revealed much about her true identity.

Her name was Yvonne D’Angers — sometimes. Her birth name was rumored to be Mahviz Daneshforouz. Sometimes she went by Yvonne Donjay. Others knew her as Carmella Ettlinger when she worked as a cocktail waitress at bars around North Beach. Later, she adopted her second husband’s last name and became Yvonne Boreta. But at the peak of her fame in San Francisco, she was most affectionately referred to as “The Persian Lamb.”

D’Angers graduated from waitress to stage talent shortly after Carol Doda first went topless at the Condor. As North Beach venues scrambled to compete with Doda, the Off Broadway (located at 1024 Kearny) employed D’Angers — a large-breasted beauty who was rumored to be one of the reasons Doda first enhanced her chest with silicone. In 1966, at the peak of her fame, D’Angers posed for Playboy and played Cleopatra at the month-long opening party for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

D’Angers’ performances were not as strenuous as Doda’s. At the Off Broadway, she posed nude on stage while an artist named Nick Galin sketched her. She participated in topless “fashion shows.” She undressed behind a screen and then emerged for cheering audiences. Some of her performances lasted only five minutes. It mattered not. Newspaper ads for the Off Broadway promoted D’Angers as being in possession of “two of San Francisco’s three most famous landmarks.” During this same period, she was photographed topless in her dressing room by Diane Arbus. The image later appeared in Arbus’ posthumous monograph, published by Aperture.

During one 1966 interview, D’Angers spoke proudly of her job and the atmosphere at the Off Broadway. “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said. “I have never heard a nasty remark. I hear nothing but compliments. Lots of nice people come to this club. Businessmen, family men, married couples, office workers. They don’t bother me. I have dedicated myself to being a show business person.”

A blond woman in a white bikini poses, sideways on next to a headline that read 'virginity should be against the law.’
D’Angers gracing the cover of ‘Midnight’ magazine in 1967. (Midnight: A Parliament Publication)

D’Angers was born in either Tehran or Paris, the second of nine children. She became a model at the age of 14, and later studied — some say architecture, others say art — at UC Berkeley. She admitted to doctoring her birth certificate “any time it was necessary,” including when she got married at the age of 16 to a man named Howard S. Ettlinger who later claimed D’Angers paid him $200 to do so.

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Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, in multiple courts across the land, D’Angers waged war with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service as it tried desperately to deport her. D’Angers responded to this with a series of stunts. On Aug. 30, 1966, she chained herself, while clad in a hot pink catsuit, to the Golden Gate Bridge in protest, noting that she “felt like Joan of Arc.” Her antics attracted fascinated reporters who made a point to provide D’Angers’ measurements (“44-21-36!”) in almost every story.

A black and white image of a slender blonde woman in full make-up chained to a bridge railing.
On August 6, 1966, D’Angers chained herself to Golden Gate Bridge and tossed the keys into the water. The bolt cutters of a bridge worker were quickly employed to free her. (Bill Young/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

More than two years later, D’Angers arrived at the Immigration Service building at 630 Sansome with her attorney Melvin Belli and her husband Voss Boreta. Trailing behind them were 21 dancers, waitresses and supporters from Off Broadway and other North Beach clubs carrying protest signs that demanded: “Save Our National Monument,” “Don’t Bust the Bust” and “Keep America Beautiful — Save Yvonne.”

In 1965, D’Angers was also obliged to go to court to defend her right to be topless in public. This followed an arrest at the Off Broadway as she, in Life magazine’s words, “strut[ted] down the aisle modeling a topless parody of an evening gown.” Life quoted D’Angers as saying: “Being arrested does not bother me. San Francisco is so much like Paris. And I know that in Paris nothing will happen to a girl for doing this or more or less.”

She was right. D’Angers — alongside Doda and fellow topless performers, Kay Star and Euraine Heimberg — was acquitted of obscenity charges on May 8, 1965. D’Angers showed up to court wearing an electric-blue sequined dress.

D’Angers truly had a canny knack for getting herself out of trouble. Nowhere was this more evident than in June 1967 when she was stalked by a violent criminal from Oakland named James Reece. Reece, who had recently escaped from the Alameda County Jail and was wanted in five cities for a long list of felonies (including rape, kidnapping, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm), followed D’Angers in a stolen car one night after she left her shift at the Off Broadway.

“Following a high speed chase,” the Oakland Tribune later reported, “Miss D’Angers cut into a dead end street and skidded to a stop, her four-day-old Cadillac half over a creek embankment. Reece careened into a tree and his car flipped 100 feet to the opposite bank.”

Reece survived the accident on the quiet Marin County road, was quickly apprehended and transferred to the San Quentin prison hospital. D’Angers was unscathed, her love of the spotlight undiluted by the terrifying incident. A year later, the aspiring actress made her big screen debut in Sappho Darling, a lesbian exploitation flick that has since found a cult following. At the time of its release, however, the San Francisco Examiner issued a scathing review:

“[D’Angers] has been totally victimized by the glaring vulgarity of director Gunnar Steel’s sleazy little effort,” the review said. “Even her spectacular figure has been photographed disadvantageously and her voice (either her own or an inept dubbing job) sounds like a strident Betty Boop … When [a co-star] tremulously asks Miss D’Angers after a night of love: ‘Do you think I’m a lesbian?’ Yvonne smilingly recites quotations from Krafft-Ebing, Dr. Kinsey and Sigmund Freud … The scene is unintentionally hilarious.”

Following Sappho Darling, D’Angers worked with Russ Meyer on The Seven Minutes and Move, alongside Elliot Gould and Paula Prentiss. A few years later came Ground Zero, a thriller about a terrorist organization that plants a nuclear device on the Golden Gate Bridge.

A VHS cover featuring a fiery Golden Gate Bridge, close up of a man's face holding a gun and a woman in a bikini.
The home video cover of 1973’s ‘Ground Zero,’ which credits D’Angers as: ‘Ivonne D’Angiers.’ (Genesis Home Video)

By the time Ground Zero came out, D’Angers was living a much quieter life. In August 1973, the Oakland Tribune reported that she could be regularly found hanging out at her husband’s Plaka Taverna club in North Beach. “The D’Angers charm is contagious as ever,” the newspaper said, “though … she prefers to stay in the background and let husband Voss run things.” She was quoted as saying “I’m enjoying being a wife very much.”

D’Angers died on June 10, 2009 in Las Vegas; she moved there with Boreta in 1974, and the couple subsequently raised three children. How she managed to stay in the United States after multiple deportation orders — including two, in 1967 and 1970, from Washington, D.C.’s Immigration Appeals Board — remains a mystery.

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By the time of her death, D’Angers’ notoriety had been largely forgotten. In its obituary, the San Francisco Chronicle referred to D’Angers only as “an accomplished painter, model and college graduate.”

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