Ada "Bricktop" Smith
@ National Portrait Gallery
DescriptionIn the 1920s and 1930s the flame-haired entertainer known as "Bricktop" reigned as the cabaret queen of Paris, where her chic nightclub attracted the cream of the café society set. Raised in Chicago, Ada Smith got her start in vaudeville and then worked as a saloon singer in the Windy City until 1922, when she moved on to Harlem. Dubbed "Bricktop" by the owner of one of that district's popular nightspots, she performed in Harlem clubs until 1924, when she seized the opportunity to take her career to Paris. Embraced by that city's cadre of American expatriates, she opened her first Chez Bricktop nightclub in 1926. There, she not only charmed a clientele that included Cole Porter, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, but helped to nurture the careers of such performers as Mabel Mercer and Josephine Baker.
Gelatin Silver Print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution