Bernard Johnson; Costume Designer


Bernard Johnson, nationally lauded costume designer for such films as “New Jack City” and Broadway hits such as “Raisin in the Sun,” has died. He was 60.

Johnson, a dancer as well as designer who taught jazz dance and costume design at UC Irvine, died Wednesday in New York City of pneumonia.

Other films with his bold and dramatic costuming included “Identity Crisis,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Hanky Panky” and “Willie Dynamite.”

On Broadway, Johnson designed the flamboyant wardrobes for “Bubbling Brown Sugar,” “Ain’t Supposed to Die of Natural Death,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Eubie!”


He had recently designed costumes for a planned Southern California production of “Jezabel.”

Johnson first earned fame as a dancer. Born in Detroit, he began dancing as a child and once performed the mambo and samba onstage with the legendary Josephine Baker.

He was lead dancer with the New York Negro Ballet/Ballet Americana, performing the Bluebird pas de deux from “Sleeping Beauty.”

On Broadway, he danced key roles in “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and “Hallelujah Baby!”


On television, he performed in Belafonte Productions’ “The Strolling Twenties” and “A Time for Daughter.”

Johnson danced in his own cabaret act called Cleo and Bernard, which performed at Harlem’s fabled Apollo Theater.

In addition to UC Irvine, Johnson taught jazz dance at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, the American Dance Festival, Clark Center for the Performing Arts and the New Dance Group Studios.

He was featured in the current issue of Dance magazine and has been honored for his costume design by the Smithsonian Institution.


Survivors include a son, Byian; two sisters, Doris Watlington and Georgina Franklin, and one grandson.