Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Smith, better known as #Bricktop , was an dancer, singer, vaudevillian, and self-described saloon-keeper who owned the nightclub #ChezBricktop 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." Born in 1894 in Alderson, West Virginia, she moved to Chicago where her mother managed rooming houses and worked as a maid. She began performing at the age of five, playing Harry in Uncle Tom’s Cabin at Haymarket Theater in Chicago. By age 14, she’d earned a permanent chorus role at the Pekin Theatre.
At age 16, Bricktop began touring with the Theater Owners’ Booking Association ( #TOBA ) and Pantages vaudeville circuits. It was during this time that she earned the nickname “Bricktop” which referred to her bright red hair and freckles. Throughout her 20s, she performed everywhere from San Francisco to New York. Baron’s Exclusive Club in Harlem became her regular venue where she convinced the owner to hire Elmer Snowden’s Washingtonian’s band, which included an undiscovered #DukeEllington .
She opened her own club , Chez Bricktop in 1926. The club regularly featured high profile guests like #NoelCoward , Duke Ellington, the #PrinceOfWales , #PaulRobeson , and #JosephineBaker with whom she became good friends. Known for smoking her signature cigars, became known in Paris as the doyenne of #CaféSociety .
The club thrived through most of the 1930s. However, as World War II approached Bricktop decided to return to New York, where she attempted unsuccessfully to recreate her club. It was not to be. Between 1943 and 1951 she opened and closed clubs in Mexico City, Paris, and Rome but none were as successful as her original Paris nightclub.
In 1972 Bricktop recorded her first and only song, “So Long Baby” with jazz artist #CyColeman . She continued to entertain in nightclubs