Ada “Bricktop” Smith, photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934
Bricktop was a dancer, singer, vaudevillian, and self-described saloon-keeper.
Born in West Virginia in 1894 to an Irish father and an African American mother, Bricktop made her stage debut at the age of five, in a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When she was a teenager, Cole Porter hired her to teach guests on his floating Venetian nightclub. Porter later introduced her to the Paris nightclub scene, where she became the toast of the town. 
Bricktop opened her famed nightclub, Chez Bricktop, in 1924. In addition to Porter, her friends included F. Scott Fitzgerald, King Farouk, Mabel Mercer and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Among her proteges were Duke Ellington and Josephine Baker (with whom, Baker’s son wrote, Bricktop had an affair).
When the Nazis occupied Paris in 1939, Bricktop moved to Mexico City, opening a club there in 1944. After the war, she returned to Europe, where she opened a new establishment in Rome. In 1967, Bricktop retired and returned to the United States. She continued to perform in cabarets well into her 80s. Bricktop died in Manhattan in 1984.

Ada “Bricktop” Smith, photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934

Bricktop was a dancer, singer, vaudevillian, and self-described saloon-keeper.

Born in West Virginia in 1894 to an Irish father and an African American mother, Bricktop made her stage debut at the age of five, in a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When she was a teenager, Cole Porter hired her to teach guests on his floating Venetian nightclub. Porter later introduced her to the Paris nightclub scene, where she became the toast of the town.

Bricktop opened her famed nightclub, Chez Bricktop, in 1924. In addition to Porter, her friends included F. Scott Fitzgerald, King Farouk, Mabel Mercer and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Among her proteges were Duke Ellington and Josephine Baker (with whom, Baker’s son wrote, Bricktop had an affair).

When the Nazis occupied Paris in 1939, Bricktop moved to Mexico City, opening a club there in 1944. After the war, she returned to Europe, where she opened a new establishment in Rome. In 1967, Bricktop retired and returned to the United States. She continued to perform in cabarets well into her 80s. Bricktop died in Manhattan in 1984.