Ada Bricktop Smith

Listen to “Miss Otis Regrets” as performed by Ethel Waters

Ada “Bricktop” Smith

1894-1984, Alderson, Monroe County

Born Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith in Alderson, Bricktop was a dancer, singer, vaudevillian, and self-described saloon-keeper who owned the Paris nightclub Chez Bricktop. She has been described as “one of the most legendary and enduring figures of 20th Century American cultural history.”

After working as a chorus girl in Chicago and Harlem, Bricktop moved to Paris around 1924 to escape the racial tension in the U.S. Soon, Cole Porter hired her to entertain at his parties. His song, “Miss Otis Regrets,” was written specifically for her to perform, and Hot Jazz innovators Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli wrote a song titled “Bricktop.” Bricktop’s drew many celebrities including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck. Her protégés included Mabel Mercer and Josephine Baker, and she employed Langston Hughes as a busboy.

Leaving Paris during WWII, she then opened nightclubs in Mexico City and Rome. In 1961, at age 67, she retired to the U.S. Bricktop made a cameo appearance in the 1974 film Honeybaby, Honeybaby and the 1983 Woody Allen film Zelig.

She continued to perform as a cabaret entertainer well into her 80s. In 1972, Bricktop made her only recording, “So Long Baby,” with Cy Coleman.