Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Senior Producer on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

On a daily basis, she produces, edits and reports arts and cultural segments that air on NPR News magazines including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Her recent stories explored the rise of public humiliation in popular culture, consumers' changing media habits and the intersection of the arts and education.

In this position that she has held since 2003, Blair's varied work has included profiles of actor Neil Patrick Harris, rapper K'Naan, and the band Pearl Jam. She has written and produced long-form documentaries on such cultural icons as Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday. Blair oversaw the production of some of NPR's most popular special projects including "50 Great Voices," the NPR series on awe-inspiring voices from around the world and across time in, and the "In Character" series which explored famous American fictional characters.

Over the years, Blair has received several honors for her work including two Peabody Awards and a Gracie.

For three and a half years, Blair lived in Paris, France, where she co-produced Le Jazz Club From Paris with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the monthly magazine Postcard From Paris.

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Music Interviews
3:03 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Delta Rae: Modern Folklore Music

Delta Rae puts a new spin on loss throughout Carry The Fire.
Smallz and Raskind Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 2:14 pm

Love songs are like the meat and potatoes of most rock and pop music, but sometimes you need something different. For the band Delta Rae from Durham, N.C., inspiration for new material comes from stuff like graveyards and being stuck in the wrong job.

Delta Rae is a six-piece band that includes three siblings: Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes. Their music is like a kind of modern folklore.

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Around the Nation
1:24 am
Wed September 5, 2012

The Strange Story Of The Man Behind 'Strange Fruit'

Abel Meeropol watches as his sons, Robert and Michael, play with a train set.
Courtesy of Robert and Michael Meeropol

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 1:37 pm

One of Billie Holiday's most iconic songs is "Strange Fruit," a haunting protest against the inhumanity of racism. Many people know that the man who wrote the song was inspired by a photograph of a lynching. But they might not realize that he's also tied to another watershed moment in America's history.

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Remembrances
1:29 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Comedy's Self-Deprecating Pioneer Phyllis Diller Dies

Diller poses with a photo at her Los Angeles home in 2005.
Chris Pizzello AP

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 4:02 pm

A queen of comedy has died. Phyllis Diller had audiences in stitches for more than five decades with her outlandish get-ups and rapid-fire one-liners. She died at her home, where she had been in hospice care after a fall. She was 95.

Diller was glamorously outrageous — or at least the character she created was glamorously outrageous, the one who wore wigs that made her look like she had her finger in an electrical outlet, who wore gaudy sequined outfits. She was known for her laugh and those nasty jokes about her dimwitted husband, "Fang."

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The Record
12:15 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Marvin Hamlisch, Movie And Broadway Composer, Has Died

Marvin Hamlisch (left) with Liza Minnelli and Barry Manilow in 1987.
Time & Life Pictures Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:22 pm

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Arts & Life
2:44 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Monroe's Legacy Is Making Fortune, But For Whom?

Marilyn Monroe's will reveals a quieter, more complicated side to her legacy.
Evening Standard Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 4:06 pm

Marilyn Monroe, a global symbol of beauty, glamour and sex, died on Aug. 5, 1962. Fifty years later, she's still in style — and making more money than ever. Monroe's come-hither expression is emblazoned on posters, T-shirts and refrigerator magnets. She's become a multimillion-dollar brand, but that may never have happened if not for the will she left behind, a document that reveals a much quieter — and more complicated — side to her legacy.

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London 2012: The Summer Olympics
1:03 am
Wed July 18, 2012

For Olympic Committee, Marketing Is No Game

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps signed an endorsement deal with Subway in 2008, but because Subway is not an Olympic sponsor, Phelps isn't allowed to appear in a Subway ad from July 18 to Aug. 15 2012.
via SubwayEatFresh365/YouTube

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 3:57 pm

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Dead Stop
12:57 am
Tue July 17, 2012

Looking For Lady Day's Resting Place? Detour Ahead

Queen Esther stands in front of Billie Holiday's gravesite in New York City.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Sat July 21, 2012 7:58 am

When Billie Holiday died in 1959, thousands of mourners attended her funeral at St. Paul the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in New York City. The overflow crowd lined the sidewalks. Honorary pallbearers included such jazz greats as Benny Goodman and Mary Lou Williams. Newspapers and magazines ran heartfelt tributes.

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American Dreams: Then And Now
1:50 am
Thu June 21, 2012

Native American Comic Living The 'Indigenous Dream'

Comedian Charlie Hill says he's achieved the American dream, but that it's been out of reach for many fellow Native Americans.
Courtesy of Charlie Hill

Originally published on Thu June 21, 2012 7:53 am

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Music News
8:47 pm
Sun May 20, 2012

Bee Gee Robin Gibb Dies Of Cancer At 62

Robin Gibb performs at the Dubai International Jazz Festival in 2008.
Tracy Brand AP

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 6:35 am

Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees has died.

Gibb died Sunday after a long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery, according to a statement on his official website.

"The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time," the statement said.

Robin and his brothers Barry and Maurice Gibb racked up dozens of hit songs in their five decade career. Robin Gibb, who had cancer, was 62.

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Remembrances
7:48 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

In Writing, Fuentes Shed Light On Poverty, Inequality

Mexican author Carlos Fuentes poses for a photo after a news conference in Mexico City on March 12. Fuentes died Tuesday at a hospital in Mexico City. He was 83.
Alexandre Meneghini AP

Originally published on Wed May 16, 2012 8:08 am

Carlos Fuentes was the son of a Mexican diplomat and spent years living abroad, including in the United States. But Mexico — the country, its people and politics — was central to his writing.

Fuentes, one of the most influential Latin American writers, died Tuesday at a hospital in Mexico City at the age of 83. He was instrumental in bringing Latin American literature to an international audience, and he used his fiction to address what he saw as real-world injustices.

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Movies
12:57 am
Thu May 10, 2012

'Dark Shadows': The Birth Of The Modern TV Vampire

In the influential Dark Shadows, a 1960s ABC soap opera with a gothic and supernatural bent, Jonathan Frid played Barnabas Collins, a vampire who returned to claim his coastal Maine manor.
Dan Curtis Productions The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 9:20 am

When it comes to monsters on television, vampires have the market more or less cornered. Think about it: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries ...

Vampires' enduring popularity on TV may not be eternal, but they have been appearing on the small screen for decades. Mark Dawidziak, who's written books about vampires and teaches a class at Kent State University on their appearances in film and TV, says that part of the way vampires have remained a force in popular culture is through their evolution on TV.

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The Record
2:00 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Andrew Love Of The Memphis Horns Has Died

Andrew Love (left) and Wayne Jackson pose for a studio portrait in 1965.
Gilles Petard Redferns

Saxophonist Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns has died. Love, who had Alzheimer's disease, died on April 12 at his home in Memphis. He was 70 years old.

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Movies
2:00 am
Fri March 30, 2012

Bullying Movie Is Released With No Rating

The Motion Picture Association of America was going to give Bully an R rating for language, but the movie's producer decided to send it out with no rating. The nation's second-largest cinema chain AMC will show it, but Cinemark, the third-largest chain will not.

Performing Arts
4:03 am
Sat March 24, 2012

Basil Twist: A Genius, With Many A String Attached

Puppeteer Basil Twist poses with Ballerina, the marionette at the center of a tragic love triangle in his adaptation of Petrushka.
Doriane Raiman NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 8:56 am

Basil Twist has been called a genius. The art he's a genius at? Puppetry — which he knows can be a hard sell.

"It's not of this time," he says. "It's not of the world we live in now."

But Twist, a highly trained practitioner, brings this art of the past to the present with innovative creations beyond the likes of the Muppets or their foul-mouthed cousins on Avenue Q.

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Theater
1:00 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

'Edith Can Shoot' Centers On Precocious Young Girl

Isabella Dawis plays the protective 12-year-old Edith in the Mu Performing Arts production of Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, by Rey Pamatmat.
Michal Daniel Mu Performing Arts

Edith is "too old to be talking to a stuffed frog and too young to be carrying a gun."

That's how Rey Pamatmat describes the main character — who carries both items — in his play Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them.

Pamatmat's play premiered at the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky last year. Since then, it's been playing at regional theaters around the country.

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The Record
12:00 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Disney Songwriter Robert Sherman Has Died

Composer/lyricist Robert Sherman (left) and his brother Richard stand next to the car used in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The brothers wrote the songs for the movie, as well as a musical version that began running in 2002.
Ezio Petersen UPI/Landov

Originally published on Wed March 7, 2012 12:33 pm

Robert Sherman — one half of the songwriting team behind Disney movies and major hit musicals — has died. He was 86. The Oscar-winning Sherman Brothers, Robert and Richard, wrote some of the most enduring Disney songs of all time. Their output was astounding: Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Aristocats.

John Lasseter, of Pixar and Disney, once said, "You cannot forget a Sherman brothers song for your life."

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Television
10:01 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

For 'Black Nerds Everywhere,' Two Comedy Heroes

Key & Peele, premiering Jan. 31 on Comedy Central." href="/post/black-nerds-everywhere-two-comedy-heroes" class="noexit lightbox">
Jordan Peele (left) plays President Obama and Keegan-Michael Key (right) plays his "anger translator" in a sketch from Key & Peele, premiering Jan. 31 on Comedy Central.
Comedy Central

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 10:28 am

Comics Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have known each other for years. They were both in the cast of MadTV. Now they're starting their own sketch-comedy series, due to launch on Comedy Central on Tuesday.

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Performing Arts
2:00 am
Tue January 17, 2012

Is It OK To Leave A Show During Intermission?

Originally published on Wed January 18, 2012 5:47 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

There is no law against walking out the door during intermission, but it can be a dilemma. You're at a concert or a play and for whatever reason decide you don't really want to go back for the second half of the performance. If enough people think the same thing, it can mean a lot of empty seats after the break. It's something audience members do think about. And as NPR's Elizabeth Blair tells us, so do theaters and orchestras, some of which are tightening up their act.

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Art & Design
1:00 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Eisenhower Family Objects To Design For Memorial

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 3:16 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A controversy, now, in our nation's capital. It's over plans for a memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, members of the Eisenhower family object to the design by architect Frank Gehry, and they now want to stop the process altogether.

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Television
10:01 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Oprah Winfrey Network Still Finding Its Footing

Oprah Winfrey talks to reporters during a press tour that followed the launch of her cable network, OWN, in January.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Ratings have been a major disappointment for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), but that could change now that Oprah Winfrey is about to debut her own show on the cable channel.

When Winfrey ended her longtime show on broadcast TV earlier this year, there were lots of tears and endless tributes to the queen of daytime talk.

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The Record
12:30 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

Music In Holiday Concerts Thorny Subject For Public Schools

A choir in Little Rock, Ark., performs.
dlewis33 istockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon December 19, 2011 10:59 am

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Business
2:00 am
Tue December 13, 2011

Lowes Cancels Ads On Muslim Reality Show

Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 10:29 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Criticism against the home improvement chain Lowes isn't letting up. It started after Lowes dropped its ads from the reality TV show "All-American Muslim" in response to pressure from a conservative Christian group. Now an online petition has nearly 20,000 signatures calling on the store to reinstate the ads. Lowes, in a statement, says simply, it is committed to diversity. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has the story.

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Monkey See
6:57 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Beyblades: A New Spin Puts An Old Toy Back On Top

The hot holiday gift Beyblades are seen in the FAO Schwarz store in New York City.
Mario Tama Getty Images

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Games & Humor
2:00 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Beyblades: Hot New Toy Borrows Ancient Concept

This Christmas, the Beyblade is sure to be a popular stocking stuffer. What's a Beyblade — it is a sophisticated top. Hasbro has taken the simple concept and added all kinds of cool features.

NPR Story
4:16 am
Thu November 24, 2011

'Prince and The Show Girl'

In 1956, two icons — Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier — got together in London to make a movie, The Prince and the Showgirl. It was a comedy about the lonely Prince Regent of Carpathia, who meets a flirty American showgirl. The film was a royal flop. Now a new movie, My Week With Marilyn, recounts the miserable time had by all on the set. It's the story of one week during the film shoot, with behind-the-scenes clashes, misaligned acting styles, and the pursuit of personal ambitions. Michelle Williams plays Monroe and Kenneth Branagh plays Olivier.

Fine Art
10:01 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Wal-Mart Heiress Brings Art Museum To The Ozarks

A model shows a view of the Crystal Bridges pavilion some museum staff refer to as "the armadillo" because of how its curved, copper bands resemble the animal's shell.
John Horner Crystal Bridges Museum of Art

The American art world's biggest event in decades is happening this week — but it's not where you'd expect it to be.

Bentonville, Ark. is home to Wal-Mart headquarters and, starting Nov. 11, it will also be home to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and what some critics are calling one of the world's best collections of American art.

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2 Languages, Many Voices: Latinos In The U.S.
10:01 pm
Mon October 10, 2011

The Subtleties Of Marketing Beer To Latinos

Heineken USA

Originally published on Fri January 6, 2012 5:05 pm

Any industry looking for major growth in the U.S. market can't ignore Latinos, who make up 16 percent of the U.S. population. As the Latino population grows, beer marketers are trying more nuanced ways of influencing this key segment.

"They love beer," says Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer for Crown Imports, which distributes Mexican beers including Corona and Modelo. "Hispanics are 19 percent more likely to purchase beer than the rest of U.S. consumers." On top of that, Hispanics will make up a large portion of the legal drinking-age population in the future.

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