Susan Stamberg

Hanukkah Lights: 2020

Dec 10, 2020

Hanukkah is a time to share light, miracles and faith. It's been a difficult year and these stories will reflect that. They're darker than usual. But we hope the miracle of Hanukkah casts its light through these stories. We think the tales will resonate with you because of their mixture of sadness and strength.

Dwight David Eisenhower was one of the towering figures of the 20th century: A five-star general, he led the D-Day invasion and helped defeat the Nazis. A two-term president, he brought stability to postwar America.

Since his death in 1969, memories of the man called Ike have faded. But this week, the dedication of an Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., will bring him vividly back to mind.

This memorial is not like any other presidential monument in Washington. No sky-piercing white obelisk (George Washington), no massive, looming statue (Abraham Lincoln.)

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Hanukkah Lights 2019

Dec 22, 2019

Hanukkah is a time to share light, miracles and faith. We discover new insights and heartwarming tales to share with those nearest and dearest to us.

Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz read original stories from authors Dvora Zipkin, Temim Fruchter, Ellen Orleans and David Ebenbach. Listen to the full special above or hear individual stories below.


For decades, I've managed to sneak my family's controversial, Pepto-Bismol-pink cranberry relish recipe onto the air, and 2019 will be no exception. This year I went straight to the source: Bobby J. Chacko, President and CEO of Ocean Spray.

To start off, I want to know: Has he ever stood in a bog? "Absolutely," he answers. "It's one of the most exciting feelings when you're in waders and in water and all you have around are cranberries."

Standing in a sea of crimson, up to his hips in berries and cold water, Chacko says he feels like a kid again.

Los Angeles jazz singer Judy Wexler has no record label. She is like many musicians in that way. But unlike many others, every few years, Wexler puts together and circulates a CD herself. That's right — not a streamed album, but a physical CD.

André Previn, a celebrated musical polymath, died Thursday morning; he was a composer of Oscar-winning film music, conductor, pianist and music director of major orchestras. His manager, Linda Petrikova, confirmed to NPR that he died at his home in Manhattan.

There are three pianists involved in making the music of the Oscar-nominated film Green Book. The first is Don Shirley, who was popular in the 1950s and 60s, both in person and on vinyl. The second is actor Mahershala Ali, who portrays Shirley in the film but does not play piano. And so, the third pianist is Kris Bowers, who does all the playing for Ali in the film.

Love it, hate it, or just hate the traffic, everyone has an opinion about Los Angeles. A new literary olio gathers hundreds of those opinions together, in a book called Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018.

Editor David Kipen has dug up centuries' worth of excerpts about California's largest city. The book, he says, is "a collective self-portrait of Los Angeles when it thought nobody was looking." The excerpts he's picked roughly divide up between Los Angeles as heaven and Los Angeles as hell.

Sam Gilliam found inspiration for his signature artworks in an unlikely place — a clothesline. In a Washington, D.C., studio that was once a drive-through gas station, the 84-year-old artist works surrounded by yards of vividly-painted fabric, hung like laundry from a line. The sheer, silky polyester puddles to the floor, catching light on the way down. The idea, he explains, is "to develop the idea of movement into shapes."

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Rufus Hale was just 11 years old when artist David Hockney painted his portrait. Rufus' mother was making a movie about the prolific, octogenarian artist, and brought her son with her to work one day. He was sketching in the corner of the studio when Hockney asked, "Why don't I paint you?"

Now Rufus' portrait is among 82 currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in an exhibit titled "82 Portraits and 1 Still-life."

For the past almost-50 years, I've been sharing an old family Thanksgiving recipe with NPR listeners. Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish comes from my late mother-in-law Marjorie Stamberg, who served it in Allentown, Pa., when I was brought there to be inspected by my future in-laws.

In 1880, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, age 41, wrote to a friend that he was in a riverside town near Paris painting oarsmen. He'd been "itching" to do it for a long time: "I'm not getting any younger," he wrote, "and didn't want to defer this little festivity." Now that painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party, is the star of a new exhibition at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

One hundred years ago Tuesday, in a working-poor neighborhood of Newport News, Va., a laundress and a shipyard worker had a baby girl. The father soon disappeared, and the mother and child moved north to New York. The mother died. The girl ran away and became one of the most important singers of the 20th century.

Ella Fitzgerald could sing anything: a silly novelty song, like her breakthrough hit, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." A samba that scatted. A ballad, spooling out like satin.

By day, Ron Boustead works as a mastering engineer: He makes the final masters from which records are duplicated. He once worked at a Hollywood company that handled artists like Prince, The Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra. Now, he's got a record of his own, Unlikely Valentine, which he's been promoting locally in Southern California.

If you've ever spent an afternoon with "Under the Sea" or "A Whole New World" or "Be Our Guest" stuck in your head, you can thank composer Alan Menken.

Menken scored The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and many other Disney classics. He says he prefers his songs "to be hummable."

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In Paris, a really old dress has sold for more than $150,000. Now, if that sounds like an unreasonably high price tag, keep this in mind: The 1730s dress is in mint condition, it might have been worn at Versailles, and it was part of a fashion revolution.

Known as a robe volante — or flying dress — the long, luscious yellow brocade gown is patterned with silver thread. It's loose-cut, with soft pleats in the rear, a deep V in front and graceful flow-y sleeves.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper and George Bellows were very different artists, but they did have at least one thing in common: They all studied with painter William Merritt Chase. Now, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., is marking the centennial of the artist's death with a retrospective.

"You walk around these galleries and the paintings are gutsy and bold and scintillating and brilliant," says Dorothy Kosinski, director of the Phillips.

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One of the world's most precious volumes starts a tour on Monday, in Norman, Okla. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is sending out William Shakespeare's First Folio to all 50 states to mark the 400th anniversary of the bard's death. Published seven years after he died, the First Folio is the first printed collection of all of Shakespeare's plays.

Editor's note: For more years than we can remember, the Friday before Thanksgiving has meant that NPR's Susan Stamberg would try to sneak a notorious and, yes, weird family recipe into NPR's coverage. And 2015 is no exception. Here's Susan.

Smack in the middle of all the political clatter in Washington, D.C., stands a solitary, serene woman in a pale blue satin jacket, reading a letter. She's from the 17th century, and her visit marks an important anniversary for the National Gallery of Art.

She was painted by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer around 1663. Twenty years ago, in 1995, the National Gallery put on the first Vermeer retrospective ever, featuring 22 of only some 35 Vermeers known to exist. The show was a hit — despite some pretty serious hurdles.

The first president of National Public Radio has died. Don Quayle was 84 years old. He had a long career in public broadcasting — both television and radio. NPR's Susan Stamberg reflects on his impact.

Don Quayle gave me my first radio job. It was the early '60s and he was head of the Educational Radio Network — the precursor of NPR — a skinny little network of 12 East Coast stations that developed a daily drive-time news show. He hired me to help produce it. When this national network arose, he was an obvious choice to run it.

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Dripping in diamonds and shimmering in silks, the movie stars of the 1930s and '40s dazzled on the silver screen. Now, some of their costumes and jewels are on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There, a film clip runs on a wall behind gorgeously gowned mannequins lit by sconces and chandeliers. The clip is from 1932's No Man of Her Own, starring Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Nearby, co-curator Michelle Finamore points to the actual gown Lombard wore. It's long, made of slinky silk crepe and covered in teeny gold-colored glass beads.

The request was forwarded to me from a distant (fifth floor — I'm on the fourth) division of NPR.

It came from Justin Lucas, the head of NPR's Audience and Community Relations team. He's the go-to person here for requests from listeners, for information or permissions.

He'd gotten a letter from Beth Hansen, owner of Soup and Salad, a small sandwich shop in Easton, Md., a charming old town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Justin read me an excerpt of the request: "I'd love to make and sell Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Chutney. A portion of the proceeds ... "

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