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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Books News & Features
3:44 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Hilary Mantel First Woman To Win Booker Prize Twice

Originally published on Tue October 16, 2012 5:06 pm

Writer Hilary Mantel has won her second Man Booker prize. She was recognized for her book, Bring Up The Bodies. Mantel is the first British writer and woman to win the award more than once.

Music Interviews
2:48 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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Religion
3:58 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Anti-Islam Film May Be Connected To Libya Attack

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to hear more now about the film that was, at least in part, the catalyst for the violence in Libya, as well as protests in Egypt. Some news outlets are saying the filmmaker has gone into hiding.

As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, very few people have actually seen the supposed two-hour movie, if it exists at all.

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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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Around the Nation
5:35 am
Sat July 21, 2012

In Movie Theaters, How Much Security Is Enough?

The tragedy at the showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., has theaters around the country beefing up security this weekend. Movie theaters make their own decisions about what level of security they need. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, security experts say it's usually not enough.

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

One record expected to be broken at the London Summer Olympics is the size of its audience — an expected 4 billion people. For advertisers, that's a golden opportunity. But there are also strict rules about who can use the Olympics to promote their products.

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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

Native American comedian Charlie Hill says he's living the American dream.

Actually, make that the "indigenous dream," which he prefers to call it.

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Television
4:28 am
Fri May 25, 2012

Why Cable Channels Don't Mind Airing Reruns

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 8:09 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

TV is chock full of reruns, from the recent "CSI" to the vintage "I Love Lucy." It's been that way for years, and is especially so on cable. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, one result is that syndication deals have become a much bigger part of the TV business.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Reruns are no longer seen as filler. Case in point: repeats of "The Big Bang Theory" on cable channel TBS.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BIG BANG THEORY")

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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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Movies
2:54 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Young Dancers, Aiming For 'First Position'

In First Position, dancer-turned-filmmaker Bess Kargman seeks to challenge stereotypes about ballet dancers. Kargman says she didn't fear the challenges of being a first-time director because her subjects' stories were so compelling.
IFC Films

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

First Position follows in the spirit of such competition documentaries as Spellbound and Mad Hot Ballroom, tracking seven young dancers as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious ballet contest.

The first competitor we meet is a mature 11-year-old named Aran Bell. His father is in the military. He likes to skateboard and jump on his pogo stick.

Aran began dancing when he was 4, and when he hits the stage, he turns and leaps with the poise and fire of a professional.

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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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The Record
1:32 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Johnny Otis, Rhythm And Blues Pioneer, Has Died

Johnny Otis was many things over his career, including a bandleader, producer, radio and TV host and composer. Additionally, Otis launched the careers of many of R&B's finest singers. Otis died on Tuesday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 90 years old.

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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

Public school music teachers are heroes. They coach tiny fourth graders to play violins. The get 60 restless middle schoolers to play the same music at the same time. But their trickiest task of the year might be making selections for the winter concert.

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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

It's toy season. For boys, one of the hottest items on the market this year builds on an ancient concept: the spinning top. The tops are called Beyblades, and I discovered them on the playground of my son's elementary school, where I saw this pack of boys, huddled around something that looked possibly illicit. I was suspicious, but now I let them do the same thing at home.

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