Friday, October 31, 2008


I thought everyone might enjoy seeing these out-takes from one of the "dollsandreams" catalog photography sessions.
I call this little series "Red Meets Red" as the little redheaded girl meets her redhead Sasha counterpart. (click on image to enlarge)


The charm of a Sasha doll is its ability to evoke a sympathetic response in both children and adults. We see in Sasha some reflection of our own moods and emotions. Children are especially drawn to the "woeful child" aspect of the face because children are not always smiling -- not always blissfully happy. So a Sasha doll becomes an understanding companion. Not one of those perpetually smiling dolls with a gleaming white perfect smile.
Watching children interact with a Sasha doll is an amazing experience -- a door opening into a hidden and magical world. The world of Sasha.
As adult collectors we can enter that world as well and recapture some of that innocence -- some of that quality of the woeful child we all once were.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


By 1986 I had stopped collecting Sasha dolls. My life had taken several turns and the demands of family and business took over. The delightful Saturday afternoons at "dollsandreams" ended when our family moved to San Francisco. I became more and more involved with the world of TeddyBears.
The years slipped by until several years ago when I discovered eBay. One of the first searches I did was for "Sasha dolls" and I was amazed by the number of dolls for sale.
I was unfamiliar with the newer dolls created by Gotz and decided to do some research. After visiting the various websites listed in a Google search I stumbled on one site that was selling a doll named ALBERTO. I thought he was delightful and very expensive. I bookmarked the website and tried to forget about him. A foolish move.
The next day I adopted him and waited for him to arrive. I was used to a more immediate form of doll gratification so the days dragged by until he finally arrived. Suddenly I remembered the excitement of opening a Sasha tube and carefully removing the promise of delight from within. He was perfect.
I confess that I still prefer the earlier Trendon Sasha dolls -- first love I suppose. But, Alberto and his sister Maria are now cherished members of my Sasha family.
I think he completely reflects the look of Sasha's studio dolls -- a young ragtag boy with freckles and impish eyes.


One of the great things about the Sasha dolls is that there are as many variations in the boy's clothing as there is in the girl's. Usually the boy dolls get only a few outfits while the girl's seem to have an endless supply -- a bit like real life.
My GREGOR models three outfits. First, a sailor suit from "dollsandreams" with a sailor hat I created. Next, a "LOVE" T-shirt from "dollsandreams" with a denim newsboy cap, matching bell-bottom trousers, and duffle bag I created. And finally an ivory Irish cable-knit sweater with a blue Tartan hat, scarf, and trousers set I created.
Over the years I have designed lots of outfits for both Sasha and Gregor. They are the best dressed kids on the block.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


One of the delights of creating for a Sasha doll is discovering bits and pieces of things that are "in scale."
Since the Sashas are children it is often difficult to determine exactly what is actually "in scale" since we don't know how tall their parents are.
Clothing is the easiest because if it fits then it is OK. Backpacks, purses, duffle bags etc are simply a matter of "if it looks OK then it is OK."
Sewing for a Sasha is another challenge because it requires an "eye" for pattern scale and if it looks right or if it looks wrong. Of course many designers find interesting ways to play with print scale and go oversize, but "make it work" to quote Tim Gunn from PROJECT DOLLWAY.
The dress in the photo is made from a remnant of cotton sheet fabric. There used to be a great remnant store in Brooklyn that sold pieces by the pound. You would load up your shopping cart with brocades, velvets, laces, embroideries, or basic cottons, and they would just weigh it all and announce the price -- about a dollar a pound.
I found a small bolt of this designer print on sheeting material and bought three dollars worth. My Sasha was the first to have a dress made from it but over the years a few other dolls and teddybears have enjoyed this print as well.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I've heard that there have been several Sasha calendars over the years but I have never seen one. However, during the time that I was photographing dolls for the "dollsandreams" catalog I was also shooting pictures for the gallery show.
Here are two versions of the same doll as a CATALOG girl and a CALENDAR girl -- a very 1940s Hollywood style calendar girl.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


My grandmother, Nana Laura, was an avid doll and teddybear collector. Her living space on the top floor of our home was filled with Madame Alexander dolls and Steiff teddybears. When I was about 12 years old we met Madame Alexander for the first time when she visited FAO SCHWARZ. She was very impressive and the first successful business woman I ever met.
Years later, after Nana Laura had gone to that great doll club in the sky, I would loan her collection to FAO SCHWARZ when Madame Alexander made an appearance. Over the years we had many wonderful conversations.
In 1952, I became a Creative Director for Helena Rubinstein cosmetics. She was known as Madame Rubinstein after she married a Russian prince. From time to time I found myself in the company of both these business "Madames" and was fascinated by their interaction as two women who had made it in "a man's world."
While the public perception of businesses like dolls and cosmetics might have been that they were the natural domain of women, that was not the case. Actually, very few women had important positions in either world. Alexander and Rubinstein were exceptions rather than the rule and both had to fight to maintain their positions.
What I learned from both of them was the importance of a clear vision of what they each wanted from their business. What their concept was. And both had very clear concepts.
I never got to know Sasha Morgenthaler but from what I have read, and what those who knew her have told me, she had a very clear vision of what she wanted from her dolls. What message they would carry out into the world.
At first glance, one might think that there is a vast difference between the Alexander dolls and the Sasha dolls -- there isn't. The message of both these creative women was basically the same -- children are universal the world over. They come in every skin color and while their costumes may vary, their hearts do not. They all laugh and they all cry and they all play.
Even Rubinstein shared that vision when she said, "All women can be beautiful." She created cosmetics that were intended to make women feel better about themselves -- more confident and successful.
Those of us old enough to remember the world of the 1940s and 50s understand how extraordinary these women were and how progressive their thinking was. Years before the Civil Rights movement Madame Alexander had dolls of every skin color from every nation. Sasha was making dolls that reflected the same universality.

The photos are of Madame Alexander and the FAO Schwarz buyer and some of Nana Laura's doll collection. And me.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I suppose it was LASSIE who first impressed me with the urge and desire to get back home again.
And, it seems that there are many Sasha dolls who have that same urge to return home. Or perhaps it is their new adoptive parents that want to bring them back.
A couple of years ago a particular member of "Sasha Mart" -- the Yahoo group -- wanted to bring home a Sandy Hiker but the American seller was unwilling to ship across the pond. So I agreed to help Sandy get back home with a brief stop-over in The Big Apple.
I had never seen a Sandy Hiker so I was more than delighted to have him as a guest. After I examined him (and found him to be in "perfect health") we went up to my rooftop -- 33 stories up in the air -- to see the sights.
Sandy was particularly impressed by the Chrysler Building and its gleaming Art Deco tower. I explained to Sandy that my Grandfather had done some of the decorative bronze work on that building as well as the Empire State Building which we could see from the opposite side of my rooftop.
Then Sandy made the journey back home to England where the mist rolls over the lush green countryside.


As I mentioned before, many of the black and white images on this blog are from a photography exhibit presented in the mid 1970s. I was completely captivated by the way the Sasha dolls were able to pose and offer a range of expressions both in person and in photographs.
The incredible simplicity of their sculpt and face painting plus the perfection of their balance added up to the ideal doll for both children and collectors.
I wanted to capture some of that on film and over the course of several years I photographed my Sashas hundreds of times.
I am always amazed and enchanted by the variety of expressions a Sasha doll has and that fascination continues to the present day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


In 1965, the pop singer, Jackie DeShannon, hit the music charts with a Burt Bacharach song titled "What the Word Needs Now is Love." It became an instant hit with the growing "Love Generation" and probably was one of the many influences behind the creation of these Sasha "LOVE" T-shirts and Hippie bell-bottom, two-tone blue jeans that were one of the most popular items at "dollsandreams" in the late 1970s.
This is one of the catalog images from that time.

"What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of..."


Creating the "dollsandreams" catalog was an act of love. By 1979 I had become something of a regular in the shop and godfather to Yvonne and Bruno's two children -- Dani and Stephen.
Actors say there are two things to avoid when making a film -- dogs and children. As a photographer I preferred dolls and models past puberty. So the idea of photographing a gaggle of screaming, drooling, hyper-active kids playing with toys had "nightmare" written all over it.
But, the kids were fantastic and for once my daughter even behaved herself. After that photography session I never expected her to actually grow up to become a high fashion model strutting the catwalks of Paris and New York. Time does fly by.
And so on a lovely Saturday afternoon we turned the kids loose with Sasha dolls, toy trains, and an assortment of stuffed toys. I got behind the camera and began shooting them at play. It was a delightful afternoon and every child behaved beautifully.
At day's end they were tired and a bit cranky but perked up considerably when told their reward was to choose any toy they wanted.
There were other catalog photo sessions, but that first afternoon with half a dozen local kids will always be my fondest memory.

And, speaking of the photos, many of the black and white images on this blog were taken for catalogs and ads for "dollsandreams."
Others are from a Sasha photo exhibit I had in a local gallery.


A model's life is never easy and not always full of smiles.


One of the more delightful aspects of "dollsandreams" was the weekly arrival of new handmade fashions. Unlike the commercial fashions, which were limited in scope and usually only introduced once a year, the handmade fashions arrived just in time for every season of the year.
Here are two of the winter coats created especially for "dollsandreams."
The dark brown fur coat and matching beret was fashioned of synthetic "mink" and had the look of luxury. The forest green tweed coat also had a matching beret. My Sashas loved them

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


There have been many wonderful women in my life -- including my wife and daughter. However, over the years there have been many others whose lives and wisdom and talent have changed my life and the way I lived it.
Back in the 1960s there was a tiny little shop on First Avenue in New York City just a few blocks away from the United Nations. The shop was called NANCY'S FANCY and was owned by a feisty lady named -- Nancy.
Nancy was Church-Mouse poor and supported herself by refinishing discarded items into works of whimsy. The shop also sold an assortment of stationary and party goods for the last minute hostess, but the real goodies were Nancy's delightful creations. The neighborhood children flocked to the shop where Nancy dispensed saucy wisdom and broken animal crackers.
Like "dollsandreams" it was a safe haven for a slightly disenfranchised business type like me. After a day of snotty, snarling clients, Nancy's delightful smile let me know that the world was in balance.
Once she told me that on her day off she dressed up and went to all the great shops on Fifth Avenue starting with FAO SCHWARZ and working her way down the street hitting TIFFANY'S and SAKS.
Knowing how poor she was I asked her if it wasn't a little depressing to look at all those fantastic items she could never afford to buy.
"Oh, no," she replied with a bright smile, "I just pretend they are all museums."
This was a woman who definitely made sweet lemonade when life gave her lemons.
She had one Sasha doll -- a blonde Gregor named "William or Mary Depending" -- depending on how he/she was dressed. That doll was so beloved it is difficult to imagine another who had more love lavished on it. Nancy created an endless wardrobe of fashions that were as imaginative as her recreated "former" furniture and objects.
There I was, successful and wealthy, with dozens and dozens of Sashas to delight me and I don't think I was ever as happy as Nancy and her one Sasha.
CoCo Chanel often extolled the virtue of "less is more" and I thought that Nancy embodied that idea in the way she saw life and delighted in it.


The blondes might have more fun but the beautiful brunettes always seem more serious -- even more mysterious.
Of all the first Sashas I adopted there was one distinctive brunette with deep v-shaped bangs that almost covered her eyes.
Whenever I photographed her she became someone different and her mystery deepened. Her blonde sister also had deep bangs but they did not create the same effect. They just made her sweeter.
Both girls were lost in a move years ago and I miss them. I keep hoping that one day I will find another mysterious brunette with deep bangs that come to a point over the bridge of her nose.
I often wonder about her hair stylist at the Trendon factory and what bit of whimsy was involved with her hair cut that day.
The fashions in these photos were created especially for "dollsandreams" by the talented home sewers that arrived every Saturday morning with their latest designs. That was long before eBay and the delightful creations created by today's talented designers.
Back then they were treasured by everyone fortunate enough to secure one or two.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


In 1983, I was a contributing writer for DOLLS magazine and in the summer issue I wrote a story about the Sasha dolls. Soon after the story appeared I received a delightful note from Sara Doggart thanking me for the article. It was the first Sasha story published in DOLLS.
By that year, the Sasha dolls had been through many changes both in production and acceptance by the public.
In that same issue of DOLLS there were ads for the new KILTIE doll with retail prices ranging from $140 to $125.
Only ten years earlier, Sashas generally sold for about $20 in most shops.

This is the DOLLS story. If you click on the image you can see a larger version. If you would like a printable version just drop me a note at


Back in the 1950s, CLAIROL ads asked this question, "Do blondes have more fun?" and I often wonder if the blonde Sashas have more fun than the brunettes and redheads. At least their hair doesn't fall out.
If the number of blonde "played with" waifs is any indication then the answer is "yes" -- the blondes seem to be the more popular play doll.
My grandmother, Nana Laura, was a huge influence on me in many ways -- including how I collect. Back in the 1940s and 50s she surrounded herself with hundreds of Madame Alexander dolls -- many of them were exact duplicates.
Ah, ha -- the secret here is that there are no true duplicates in the doll world. There might be a few twins but even they have their own special look. In fact, even mass-produced dolls like Barbie have slight variations that make each doll unique -- like snowflakes or clover.
So, I followed in my grandmother's footsteps and spent hour after hour peering intently into the faces of dozens of "similar" blonde Sasha dolls.
Yvonne and Bruno found my "process" amusing and finally just let me loose in their stock room where I carefully opened each Sasha tube and slid out the fresh-smelling, factory new doll. I would line them up and "interview" them just as Nana Laura had years before.
After I had made my selection I returned the others to their tubes and put them back on the shelf in my own special sorting system so I seldom interviewed the same doll twice.
When Creative Playthings closed their doors, Yvonne and Bruno bought most of their remaining Sasha stock so I had many dolls to choose from.
And, in another twist of fate, I discovered that Bloomingdales was discounting their leftover Sasha Christmas stock and selling them for $8 each. I adopted about 25 of them sight unseen.
And so, at the end of my first year of collecting Sasha dolls I had close to 150 dolls and had to have cabinets created to house them. The cabinets lined the walls of my studio and the Sashas cavorted about happily while I worked away -- earning more money to support them and my new addiction.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The front of "dollsandreams" was painted a bright grass green color. It was a typical New York shop -- about 25 feet wide and quite deep. In 1970, Third Avenue was being revitalized with office buildings and apartments rising up from the street that once boasted the "Third Avenue El" -- an elevated railroad system that ran the length of the city. As a kid I loved to ride the El as it rattled past the tenement buildings where you could see into the second floor windows of shops and apartments. I often wondered about all the different people who sat in their windows or on the fire-escapes that clung to the building facades like giant spiders.
In the 1950s they dismantled the El and Third Avenue became more respectable, but not any less interesting. Dozens of tiny antique shops ran the length from East 34th Street well up into the East 70s. It had character and charm plus three Italian restaurants that all claimed to be THE "Original Joe's."
The Murray Hill section was mostly middle-class and there were lots and lots of young families living there where the apartments were bigger and the rents were lower than on Park Avenue or Sutton Place. So it was the perfect location for a toy shop like "dollsandreams" as well as the cobbler shop next to it.
The green facade was divided by two tall windows on either side of the front door. The windows were not very wide or deep but they were large enough to display a number of Sasha dolls at play.
After months of being a regular customer, I offered to create a special Sasha display for the shop. It was the first of many that followed. My father had created the first mechanical Christmas windows for Macy's back in the early 1930s so I guess it came naturally to me.
My first window consisted of a group of Sashas all dressed in outfits made of a farmer's red hankie pattern fabric. They were the first outfits I ever created for Sasha. There was a picnic table loaded with miniature food that Yvonne and Bruno had brought back from Europe. That window was a big hit with all the children and I was delighted every night when I walked home past the shop and discovered children with their noses pressed against the glass trying to be a part of the Sasha experience on Sasha Street.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


In 1973, when I was 41 years old, I lived on Manhattan's East Side in the section called Murray Hill. At that time I owned a successful package design firm and was involved with creating packages for various cosmetic companies. It was a stressful time in my life and after a long day in the office I liked to walk home and shake off the burdens of the day. One evening I passed by a tiny toy shop on Third Avenue called "dollsandreams" where I saw my first group of Sasha and Gregor dolls cavorting in the window -- one Gregor was even standing on his head. Suddenly I was transported back to my childhood when life was as simple and stress-free as it was for those dolls at play. Every evening after that I made a point of stopping to look at the Sashas playing in the window. After a couple of days I finally went in and met the owners, Yvonne and Bruno. And, I adopted my first Sasha doll -- a brunette Gregor who looked like my son, Adam. Over the weeks and months that followed I adopted many, many more Sasha dolls until the shelves in my studio were filled with them.

These are our stories.


As a young boy, my Grandmother would take me on a weekly shopping spree to FAO Schwarz where she would interview and adopt various Madame Alexander dolls and Steiff Teddy Bears.
It was a precise and complex process involving close examination of each hand-painted face until one "spoke" to her. Back then I never really understood the process but I loved Nana Laura and was always delighted to escort her each week. After she finished adopting new dolls and bears we went across the street to the Plaza Hotel and took "high tea" in the famous Palm Court.
In the weeks that followed my first Gregor adoption I found myself opening dozens of Sasha tubes and interviewing the dolls hidden inside. Often there were ten or more lined up for inspection and I imagined Nana Laura laughing at me in Heaven.
This is my first Gregor and he has the same dark skin and deep chocolate eyes that Adam has. Even their haircuts were the same.