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Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Smith, aka "Bricktop," Patron of the Stars

née: Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Smith
Saloon keeper/vocals
b. Alderson, W. VA, USA.
d. Feb. 1, 1984, New York (Manhattan), NY, USA.

Her red hair and cigars were her signature. She numbered Cole Porter, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and writer F. Scott Fitzgerald among her friends. Her proteges included Josephine Baker, Mabel Mercer and Duke Ellington. While still a child, she once told her mother, "I want to be in the back room of a saloon." And, when Ada grew old enough, she went north to New York city and Harlem. There, she would sing and dance at such fabled clubs as 'Baron Wilkins Club' and 'Connie's Inn'. Composer Cole Porter once walked into the cabaret and ordered a bottle of wine. "Little girl, can you do the Charleston?" he asked. "Yes", she said. After she demonstrated the new dance, Cole exclaimed, "What legs! What legs!" Porter hired her on the spot to give Charleston lessons to his guests. He took her to Venice, Italy, where she sang and danced at private parties on his barge.

By 1926, she had opened 'Chez Bricktop' on Paris' famed Rue Pigalle, a club that would become the talk of Paris and the world. In 1939, as the Germans marched down the Champs Elysee, "Bricktop" left her beloved Paris. In 1944, with the help of American heiress Doris Duke, she opened a cafe in Mexico City which closed a few years later. In 1949, she opened another on the Via Veneto in Rome. In 1961, she closed Bricktop's for good, and retired to New York city where she died peacefully in her sleep, at age 89.
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