Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ada "Bricktop" Smith
I mentioned yesterday on the blog that Ada Smith was a famous lady who was also born in Alderson, WV. Here is a brief synopsis of her story.

Ada Beatruce Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith (1894-1984) was born in Alderson, West Virginia, the youngest of four children. When her father died, her family relocated to Chicago. It was there that saloon life caught her fancy, and where she acquired her nickname, 'Bricktop,' for her flaming red hair and freckles. She began performing when she was very young, and by sixteen, she was touring with TOBA (Theatre Owners' Booking Association) and on the Pantages vaudeville circuit.

At age twenty, her performance tours brought her to New York City. While at Barron's Exclusive Club, a nightspot in Harlem, she put in a good word for a band called Elmer Snowden's Washingtonians, and the club booked them. One of its members was Duke Ellington.

Her first meeting with Cole Porter is related in her obituary in the Huntington (West Virginia) Herald-Dispatch: Porter once walked into the cabaret and ordered a bottle of wine. 'Little girl, can you do the Charleston?' he asked. Yes, she said. And when she demonstrated the new dance, he exclaimed, 'What legs! What legs!'" She frequently taught her patrons the dances known as The Charleston and the Blackbottom.

She owned the famous Paris nightclub known as Chez Bricktop from 1924 to 1961 as well as clubs in Mexico City and Rome.

Her patrons included Cole Potter, the Duke and Duchess of Winsor, F. Scott Ftzgerald, Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, and many others. Bricktop was know for her signature cigars.

She died in her sleep in her apartment on New York's West Side in 1984.

Check out her obituary at


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