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01 May 2012

Sascha Brastoff (1917 – 1993) performer, designer, artist.

Samuel Brostofsky danced several seasons with the Cleveland Ballet while still a teenager, where he was encouraged to change his name to Sascha. He was awarded an art scholarship to the Cleveland School of Art, where he studied ballet and art.

He moved to New York City where he worked as a window dresser at Macy’s department store. A gifted ceramicist, at age 24 he had a successful show of his terra cottas, and sold items to major New York museums.

With the US entry into World War II he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and served in the Special Services Events Division, where he designed costumes and scenery for USO shows. He was known for his impersonation of Carmen Miranda, which he repeated in the play and later film Winged Victory 1944 where his costume was designed by Howard Shoup out of a mix of cartridge belts and bananas.

Howard and Sascha fell in love, became a couple and lived together until Howard’s death in 1987.

After the war Sascha was signed to a design contract with 20th Century Fox by Darryl Zanuck, where among others he designed for the real Carmen Miranda.

In 1947 he opened a decorative ceramic factory in Los Angeles, and soon his wares were selling to actors and studio executives, especially after millionaire Winthrop Rockefeller fell in love with Sascha and financed him so that he could move to larger premises and employ a staff. Sascha became one of the top ceramic artists in the US. He was one of the originators of 1950s functional design. He did design for the 1956 film, Forbidden Planet.
Every year Howard would design a costume for Sascha to wear to the Los Angeles Artists and Models Ball. Sascha continued his Carman Miranda act and was featured so dressed in Harpers Bazaar magazine in 1952. The real Carmen Miranda was reported to have said:
“I don’t like zis boy: he looks more like me zan me”.

Sascha 1950
When not being obviously the other Carmen Miranda, Sascha passed quite effectively as a woman, and enjoyed giving blow jobs to young men whom he encountered at parties, a favor he also did for the Santa Monica chief of police (see Bowers).

Sascha left his beloved studio in 1962 and concentrated on pastel and oil painting, and experimented with magnesium sculpture. In 1967 he was commissioned to create the 13 foot by 7 foot gold plated crucifix (and altar pieces) for St. Augustine By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica. Then Sascha and Howard did the design for the Esplanade Mall in Santa Monica.

In the 1970s Sascha created jewelry for Norman Merle Cosmetics, bathroom accessories for Melard, Inc, and silver for Franklin Mint. In the 1980s he was restrained by poor health.

He died of prostate cancer at age 75.
  • Steve Conti. Collector's Encyclopedia of Sascha Brastoff: Identification & Values. Collector Books, 1995.
  • William J. Mann. Behind the Screen: How gays and lesbians shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. Viking, 2001: 240-3.
  • Kimberly Limbergs. In Search of Sascha Barstoff“”. Movie, May 12, 2011.
  • Steve Conti. “Sascha Brastoff - a mid-century modern DaVinci”. Art & Design Matters.
  • “Sascha Brastoff & Carmen Miranda”. Empire of the Image.
  • Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg. Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Grove Press, 2012 : 231-4.

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