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Andrew Limbong

Andrew Limbong is a reporter and producer for NPR's Arts Desk, where he reports, produces, and mixes arts and culture pieces of all kinds. Previously, he was a producer and director for Tell Me More. He originally started at NPR in 2011 as an intern for All Things Considered.

The Small Business Administration yesterday launched with great fanfare a long awaited portal that would allow arts venues closed down by pandemic to apply for grant money to cover rent, utilities, insurance and other accumulated expenses. The site went live at noon, but was wracked with so many technical issues that the SBA decided to shut the portal down indefinitely.

Updated April 9, 2021 at 1:47 PM ET

Earl Simmons, better known as the rapper DMX, died Friday at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, N.Y., according to a statement from his family. He had been on life support for the past few days following a heart attack. He was 50.

The long-awaited lifeline for live venues impacted by the coronavirus shut downs is finally here. Owners of small music venues, independent movie theaters and some museums can now apply for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant — a $16 billion grant program set up and run by the Small Business Administration.

Music festival season seems ready to go on in 2021. The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has posted its lineup, scheduled to run September 2-5. This year's event marks the 20th year of the Manchester, Tenn. festival, which, like everyone else, cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

Jessica Walter, who played the hilariously incisive matriarch Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, died in her sleep Wednesday in New York City. She was 80 years old.

Her daughter, Brooke Bowman, a senior vice president at Fox Entertainment, said in a statement, "It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica. A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off."

Most people in the live music industry were ecstatic when Congress passed the bipartisan Save Our Stages Act in December. It created a $15 billion grant program, run by the Small Business Administration, that would help rescue an industry badly wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic.

But then there were skeptics like Matt Garrison, co-founder of Shapeshifter Lab, a small music and arts club in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Updated at 4:10 p.m. ET

Rising country star Morgan Wallen has been suspended by his record label, Big Loud. The label posted the news on its social media platforms Wednesday afternoon, saying, "In the wake of recent events, Big Loud Records has made the decision to suspend Morgan Wallen's recording contract indefinitely."

This decision comes after TMZ posted a video Tuesday night of Wallen using the N-word with a group of his friends.

Dustin Diamond, the actor known for his role as Screech in the hit sitcom Saved by the Bell, died Monday from cancer. According to a statement from his manager, Roger Paul, "he was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution." Diamond was 44 years old.

Actress Evan Rachel Wood has identified Brian Warner, better known as the industrial-rock musician Marilyn Manson, as the abuser she had refrained from naming in previous testimony. In a statement posted to Instagram, the Westworld actor alleged that Warner, with whom she was in a relationship between 2007 and 2010, "started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander, or blackmail."

French designer Pierre Cardin, who extended his brand far beyond the fashion world, has died at age 98. The son of Italian immigrants worked with luminaries such as filmmaker Jean Cocteau and designer Christian Dior before launching his own fashion house, drawing on his love for futuristic design.

Cardin's family announced his death to Agence France-Presse on Tuesday. The French Académie des Beaux-Arts also issued several statements mourning his passing.

Publishing company Simon & Schuster has been sold to its competitor Penguin Random House. The news was announced Wednesday by Simon & Schuster's parent company, ViacomCBS.

The $2.175 billion sale is expected to close in 2021, pending regulatory approvals.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One night in the 1950s Diane di Prima was at a party at Allen Ginsberg's place in New York City. It was usual poet stuff — talking, reading, smoking, drinking — until 11:30 p.m. came around and di Prima said she was going home to relieve her babysitter. Jack Kerouac, also a guest, shouted, "Di Prima, unless you forget about your babysitter, you're never going to be a writer."

James Randi hated tricking people. Sure, as The Amazing Randi, he pulled off amazing escape acts and sleight of hand maneuvers faster than you could see — but it was all in service of proving that he wasn't magical in any sense of the word. He hated tricking people so much he made a career out of debunking so-called psychics, faith healers, and fortune tellers of all sorts.

Spencer Davis, the multi-instrumentalist and leader of the band that bore his name, has died at the age of 81. The Spencer Davis Group recorded such hits as "Gimme Some Lovin' " and "I'm a Man." Davis wasn't the lead singer on either song though, giving that job to a teenage Steve Winwood.

Davis died Monday while being treated for pneumonia, according to his tour manager and friend, Bob Birk, who worked with the musician for decades.

In a statement to NPR, Birk called him a "highly ethical, very talented, good-hearted, extremely intelligent, generous man."

Call it professionalism, but there are some things Cheryl Pilate just can't say. She's a criminal defense attorney in Kansas City, Mo., and toes a fine line between getting attention for her clients' stories and being bound by professional ethics.

"As a lawyer, frequently I feel — and I know many others feel — constrained in the language that we use, " she says. "We're mindful of our professional responsibilities and how we need to carry those out."

Conchata Ferrell, who played the gruff, straight-talking maid, Berta, on Two and a Half Men, has died. She died Monday in Sherman Oaks, CA following complications from a cardiac arrest. Her manager confirmed the news to NPR. She was 77 years old.

In what was originally planned to be a two-episode arc in the show's first season, Ferrell's Berta became an integral part of the show, seeing it through its entire 12-season run. She was nominated for two Emmys for Best Supporting Actress.

There will be no shows on Broadway until May 30 at least.

The news comes from the Broadway League, the trade association representing theater producers and owners. According to a press release, the specific dates for returning and new shows will be announced individually, depending on the production schedule for each show.

This is, of course, yet another economic blow from COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

This is what guitar sounded like when played by Eddie Van Halen.

(SOUNDBITE OF VAN HALEN SONG, "JUMP")

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a case alleging that the band Led Zeppelin plagiarized the opening of one of its signature songs, "Stairway to Heaven." This upholds a previous March ruling that landed in favor of Zeppelin, and possibly ends a legal battle that has gone on since 2014.

When big, important people die, it's easy to overuse the term "iconic," but the title fits Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Outside the halls of the Supreme Court, she had another life in pop culture as a symbol of both dissent and feminism. And maybe nothing has cemented her place there more than Saturday Night Live.

Actor Diana Rigg, best known for starring in the 1960s British TV espionage thriller The Avengers, died on Thursday at the age of 82 in London. According to a statement from her daughter Rachael Stirling, she was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

"My Beloved Ma died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family," Stirling wrote. "She died of cancer diagnosed in March, and spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession."

You've probably seen him by now — the thin, red lips. The big, expressive eyes. The deep green skin. Sometimes he looks innocent and sweet, like a friend crashing on your couch. Other times he looks like a smugly grinning jerk. The thing about Pepe the Frog is that he can be whatever you want him to be — a stoner icon, a symbol of hatred and bigotry, a beacon of democracy.

Months of practice fiddling with Zoom's virtual background feature primed the Internet for this moment.

When first lady Melania Trump appeared at the last night of the RNC Thursday, she wore a Valentino dress in a lime green shade — a green screen green, of sorts. And as she walked down the steps of the White House, everyone who spent the past four nights hate-watching the proceedings saw their time to shine.

Packing into a small, dimly lit room while you and a few hundred strangers dance and listen to your favorite artists is one of the many small joys we've been missing for months. For many of those spaces and their fans, that experience could be gone forever if a new piece of legislation called the Restart Act doesn't pass Congress before it goes on recess in August.

Rapper and fashion designer Kanye West posted, then deleted, a series of tweets Monday night claiming that his wife Kim Kardashian was trying to get him hospitalized.

"Kim tried to bring a doctor to lock me up with a doctor," he tweeted.

This was among a stretch of wide-ranging tweets where he claimed that the movie Get Out was based on him, said that actor Shia LaBeouf was supposed to do a shoot for his Gap clothing line but never showed up, and asked his mother-in-law Kris Jenner to call him.

The city of Oakland has settled a lawsuit with the victims of the 2016 "Ghost Ship" fire that killed 36 people. The total settlement is for $32.7 million — $23.5 million will go to families of people who died, and $9.2 million will go to Sam Maxwell, who survived the fire with lifelong injuries.

Nick Cannon — the actor, TV show host and musician — has been fired from his long-running comedy improv show Wild 'N Out. It comes after he made anti-Semitic comments on his podcast and YouTube show, Cannon's Class.

Wild 'N Out's parent company, ViacomCBS, released a statement saying, "We are deeply troubled that Nick has failed to acknowledge or apologize for perpetuating anti-Semitism, and we are terminating our relationship with him."

Actress Kelly Preston has died after a two-year battle with breast cancer, according to an Instagram post from her husband, John Travolta. She was 57 years old.

"She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many," the actor wrote. "My family and I will forever be grateful to her doctors and nurses at MD Anderson Cancer Center, all the medical centers that have helped, as well as her many friends and loved ones who have been by her side."

Dungeons and Dragons is reconsidering what it means to be evil.

The classic role playing game's publisher, Wizards of the Coast, recently announced some changes it was making to the game in response to the ongoing protests over racism and police violence. While this includes editing some past racist descriptions, as well as adding more diverse writers, the game's designers are also making a fundamental change to the way certain playable characters are portrayed.

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