Published On: Fri, Aug 8th, 2014

Background of Alderson’s Bricktop and Cole Porter

Cole Porter was a famous composer of the 1920s to ‘50s. He wrote the music and lyrics for such musicals as Anything Goes and Kiss Me Kate. Songs included, “Night and Day,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Love for Sale.” Many of these songs were sung by singers like Frank Sinatra.

Cole Porter and his wife, Linda, lived in Paris most of the time. One evening in 1925, Cole showed up at Ada “Bricktop” Smith’s club. It wasn’t until after he left that she found out who he was. Brick panicked because she performed one of his songs and he was very particular about how people sang his songs. But he returned the next night and hired her to teach the Charleston at a party which included nobility.

That was the start of a lifelong friendship. Cole Porter was a shy man and Bricktop was anything but. They respected each other and their differences. She travelled with Linda and Cole quite often. He loved buying her gowns and furs.

Cole brought all his friends to Bricktop’s clubs and he was the only person to have a private table. Even the Prince of Wales didn’t have one.

In 1932, Cole Porter wrote a song for Brick called “Miss Otis Regrets She’s Unable to Lunch Today.” A few days before they had talked about a lynching that took place in the United States. She had said to Cole, “Well, that man won’t lunch tomorrow.” So, he wrote the song based on that conversation. It was the only song he wrote for her. It became a hit.

On Aug. 24, on the Alderson Memorial Bridge, Susanna Robinson-Kenga of Lewisburg will perform “Miss Otis” and other songs performed by Bricktop and singers of the era. The concert is 6:30-8 p.m. More information next week.

(Source: “Bricktop by Bricktop” with James Haskins; Welcome Rain Pub. 1983: available at Alderson’s Store.)