Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Senior Producer/Reporter 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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Media
2:40 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

For Super Bowl Ads, More Social-Media Savvy

Deutsch LA

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 5:17 pm

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Movies
12:46 am
Fri January 25, 2013

For Would-Be Sundancers, Kickstarter Can Fuel Films

A scene from 99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, a Sundance documentary that raised more than $23,000 on Kickstarter.
Ari Ress Sundance Film Festival

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 7:14 am

If you want to make a movie, you generally need a lot of money. And filmmakers have to be creative about raising it.

Just ask the filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival, taking place this week in Park City, Utah. Some 10 percent of the films selected for this year's iteration of the prestigious festival raised money through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

In the three years since the website launched, Kickstarter-funded films have been nominated for Oscars, picked up by Showtime and HBO, and honored with awards at Sundance, South By Southwest and Cannes.

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Books News & Features
1:20 am
Tue January 15, 2013

Hold On To Your Tighty Whities, Captain Underpants Is Back!

Cover image

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 2:22 am

Let's face it. When you're a kid, sometimes adults can be a real drag. The new Captain Underpants book puts it this way: "Did you ever notice how grown-ups hate it when kids are having fun?"

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History
3:34 am
Sat January 12, 2013

World War II Exhibit Asks Visitors, 'What Would You Do?'

Using touchscreens, visitors decide how they would make wartime choices.
Courtesy National WWII Museum

Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 10:08 am

For many, the stakes and the scale of World War II are hard to fathom. It was a war fought around the world, against powerful, determined regimes in Europe and the Pacific; some 65 million people died. And as the number of people who have actual memories of the war dwindle — as of next year, there will be fewer than 1 million living veterans — the mission of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans becomes all the more urgent.

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Music
2:18 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Remembering Fontella Bass, Voice Of A Soul Classic

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 3:06 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The voice of a great soul classic has died. Fontella Bass sang the 1965 hit "Rescue Me." She was 72 years old and died from complications caused by a recent heart attack. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: It's a perfect song with a perfect voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESCUE ME")

FONTELLA BASS: (Singing) Rescue me. Take me in your arms. Rescue me. I love your tender charms. I'm rather lonely and I'm blue. I need you and your love, too. Come on and rescue me.

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Television
1:51 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

Beyond 'Downton': BBC Imports That Got Away

Trixie (Helen George, left), Chummy (Miranda Hart), Jenny (Jessica Raine) and Cynthia (Bryony Hannah) are midwives serving London's poor East End in the 1950s.
Laurence Cendrowicz PBS

Originally published on Tue December 25, 2012 5:50 am

There was so much great stuff in arts and entertainment this year that we just couldn't report on all of it as it was happening. So we're playing a little catch-up on the ones that got by us.

In 2012, the BBC delivered some thrilling new TV dramas to its two primary outlets in the U.S.: PBS, which has been programming its shows for decades, and the cable channel BBC America.

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Business
1:21 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Etsy Crafts A Strategy For Staying Handmade And Profitable

Etsy, which began as a place for home crafters and small businesses to sell their goods, has experienced growing pains as it surpasses 800,000 sellers.
Courtesy of Etsy

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 7:03 am

Etsy has gotten very big, very fast. This year, sales are at about $800 million.

"Their growth on all the major metrics you want to look at has accelerated really consistently," says journalist Rob Walker.

Walker recently wrote a story for Wired Magazine with the headline, "Can Etsy Go Pro Without Losing Its Soul?" Here's why: Etsy makes money from its sellers: 20 cents every time they list an item and 3.5 percent of every sale. Today, there are some 800,000 sellers.

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Performing Arts
3:43 am
Sat December 1, 2012

Hispanics Call For Kennedy Center Honors

Honorees (from left) James Levine, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Simon, Chita Rivera and James Earl Jones stand beside first lady Laura Bush and President George W. Bush during the 25th Kennedy Center Honors in 2002. Rivera was the last Hispanic recipient of the award.
Shawn Thew AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 1, 2012 8:41 am

This weekend, some big names are coming to Washington for a red-carpet event. Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Makarova, blues guitarist Buddy Guy and the British rock band Led Zeppelin will be receiving the annual Kennedy Center Honors.

It's a prestigious award given to only a handful of performers each year. But over the past few months there's been controversy surrounding the awards. In its 35-year history, only two honorees have been Hispanic, despite the fact that Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States.

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Television
3:04 am
Fri November 30, 2012

The NFL's New Target Demographic: Kids

Eleven-year-old Ish Taylor is charged with protecting the NFL — and the world — from a scheming supervillain in NFL Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians.
Nickelodeon

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 5:05 am

When the NFL wants to make a play for a particular demographic, they go long. To attract Latinos, it forged partnerships with Univision and Telemundo. To keep women happy, it came out with a clothing line featuring shirts that actually fit better than those boxy jerseys.

Now, to engage children, the NFL is going where kids go: Nickelodeon. NFL Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians is a new series rolling out Friday, co-branded by the NFL and Nicktoons.

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Movies
1:23 am
Tue November 20, 2012

When 'Unfilmable' Books Make Memorable Movies

A Bengal tiger named Richard Parker plays a central role in Life of Pi, a new movie adaptation of a novel some might describe as unfilmable.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Tue November 20, 2012 6:10 am

The centerpiece of the film Life of Pi is a boy adrift on a lifeboat with a tiger in the middle of the ocean. That's easy enough for Yann Martel to describe in his novel — but hard to make happen on the set of a movie. As it happens, Pi is in theaters with another movie based on an "unfilmable" novel: Cloud Atlas, with six different plots in six different time periods.

Some books are challenging to film because they're challenging to read. Take Ulysses, James Joyce's stream-of-consciousness masterpiece, published in 1922.

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Monkey See
3:14 am
Mon October 29, 2012

Impersonating The President: From Will Rogers To Obama's 'Anger Translator'

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele cooperate to impersonate President Obama in Comedy Central's Key and Peele.
Ian White Comedy Central

Political commentators will be working overtime in the countdown to the presidential election. So will political comedians, including the candidates' impersonators.

Impersonators have been part of the political landscape for so long, it's hard to imagine a time without them: Rich Little, Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, Dan Aykroyd, Darrell Hammond, Tina Fey and other comedians have all famously done their turns as candidates. Remember "I can see Russia from my house"?

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Movies
4:37 am
Sat October 20, 2012

A Look At 'The Girl' Who Caught Hitchcock's Eye

Tippi Hedren (played by Sienna Millier) starred in two of Alfred Hitchcock's (Toby Jones) films: Marnie and The Birds.
Kelly Walsh HBO

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 7:24 am

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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.

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