Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith had a heck of a lot of names, but was much better known as Bricktop. So named for her fiery red hair, she was an American dancer, singer, vaudevillian, and self-described saloon-keeper who owned the nightclub Chez Bricktop in Paris from 1924 to 1961, as well as clubs in Mexico City and Rome. She has been called "...one of the most legendary and enduring figures of twentieth-century American cultural history." Prior to going into the nightclub business for herself, Cole Porter, who hosted many parties, would often hire Bricktop as an entertainer, often to teach his guests the latest dance craze such as the Charleston or the Black Bottom. In Paris, Bricktop began operating the clubs where she started out as a dancer, including The Music Box and Le Grand Duc. He most well-know enterprise was Chez Bricktop. The "doyenne of cafe society" drew many celebrated figures to her club, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, John Steinbeck, Paul Robeson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Cole Porter song, “Miss Otis Regrets" was written especially for her to perform. According to several sources including Jean-Claude Baker, one of Josephine Baker’s children, Baker and Bricktop were involved in a lesbian affair early in both their careers. Bricktop broadcast a radio program in Paris from 1938–39, for the French government. During WWII, she closed "Chez Bricktop" and moved to Mexico City to open a new nightclub in 1944. In 1949, she returned to Europe and started a club in Rome. Bricktop closed her club and retired in 1961 at the age of 67, saying "I'm tired, honey. Tired of staying up all night." She continued to entertain in nightclubs and at charity events into the early 1980s. Ada “Bricktop” Smith died on January 31, 1984, in New York City at the age of 90.
Oh Ms. Bricktop. I will write about you one day, I swear it!