Redskins I’ve Known And Loved

With the NFL Washington Redskins coming to New Orleans to play our Saints this weekend, you might think that this blog is about them and the game.

You would be wrong.

As any visitor to the Airlift Productions Studios (and quite a few ex-loves) through the years would attest, my sympathies for the wrongs perpetrated against America’s first people run strong and deep.

While my skin may be white, my heart beats pure red.

And as the white man today wrestles with petty politics, tax reform, retirement plans, NFL players disrespect for the flag, and sexual harassment in the workplace, few have a clue.

A clue as to the not-so-distant genocide and ethnic cleansing of one of the most noble, resourceful, courageous, and spiritual cultures to ever inhabit this ‘pale blue dot’.

What an incredibly painful price the tribes paid so the white man could today surf the internet on his smart phone, shop at Sears on Sunday, and wax his BMW in the driveway.

Manifest destiny? Really?

While Americans talk of jingoistic pride, heritage, and protection for our “borders”, are you aware that, by conservative estimates, historians claim the Cherokee people inhabited what we call the mountains of the Carolinas for over 15, 000 years?

Before the time of Jesus of Nazareth, before King David & Solomon sat on the thrones of Jerusalem, before the time of father Abraham.

Millennia before.

Sitting Bull, the holy man of the Hunkpapa Sioux; Black Elk, the mystic of the Ogalala Sioux;  Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce; Geronimo, Cochise, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud… round-up the ‘usual suspects’.

And the United States military sure did.

And for what?

“They made us more promises than we can remember. But they only kept but one. They promised to take our land.  And they took it.” ~ Chief Red Cloud.

Do you know what General George Armstrong Custer’s nickname was to the Ogalala/Hunkpapa Sioux?

“Baby Killer”, because General Custer (dead last in his class at West Point, and first class a–hole) believed that if he put the “little bastards” to the sword as babies, he’d never have to deal with them as adults!

Oh, and I hear you, “But this is all history, Micheal.”

Yes, and a history where all the books have all been written by all those who hanged, raped, mutilated, tortured, and slaughtered heroes.

American History books call it “the Battle of Wounded Knee” in 1890… two-hundred-fifty unarmed Lakota mostly women and children dead in the last ‘battle’ of the Indian wars.

And at this point in history (“his story”/and you’d think the white man would be more enlightened) Thomas Alva Edison (by 1878) already had patented the phonograph.

Today? While the white man’s headlines are full of political pissing, sex scandals, and National Football League controversies – The Tribes, collectively, have the highest rate of alcoholism and suicide of any minority in these great United States.

Allow me to close with one more touch of irony.

Today, in 2017, America goes to war in Apache and Kiowa helicopters… fires Tomahawk missiles from its  aircraft carriers… screams “Geronimo” as it jumps out of its planes … and closes its national anthem at every 4th of July firework festivity & NFL game with the words, “… and the Home of the Brave!”

Webster’s dictionary defines the word “brave” as “ready to face and endure danger or pain” …. AND as … “an American Indian warrior”. 

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So, Pray for the USA.

Oh, and I almost forgot … Geaux Saints! And a Happy, Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  • Micheal G. Ziants

 

Airlift Mike Mixes It Up With Todd Rundgren

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WKBO Radio in Harrisburg, PA’s ‘3-Ring Circus’ 1974 promotion featured Todd Rundgren (left) and Harry Chapin, for a “meet & greet” day at the Harrisburg East Mall

Alrighty then, avid blog readers, let’s lace-up the Nikes for yet another jog down memory lane … now forty-three years in the rear view mirror, the year is 1974, in a far-off land known as Pennsylvania.

My previous blog on the late Harry Chapin only tangentially mentioned the very-much-still-with-us ‘Wizard & True Star’ Todd Rundgren, so let’s elaborate on Todd and pick it up there….

As WKBO afternoon air personality John Saint John, I acted as host that fateful day for a Warner Brothers-Elektra-Atlantic label ‘meet & greet’ party we called the ‘3-Ring Circus’ as all of the state capital it seemed showed-up at the Harrisburg East Mall to welcome Todd Rundgren, Harry Chapin, and the group Cactus!

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WKBO Music Survey detailing the WEA 3-Ring Circus … along with Airlift Productions Micheal Ziants as that John Saint John guy – what a hood, huh?

While it’s not totally visible in the above picture of Todd & Harry, Todd Rundgren was sporting quite the ‘do that day – he had his hair dyed … in four different colors & shades!  Four separate quadrants – black, blonde, orange … and green! Really.

But all the snickers, jokes, and good-natured ribbing – to say nothing of jealousies – that day were reserved for Todd’s love life, as Harry and the Cactus gang just would not leave him alone about his babe  Bebe Buell!  Do yourself a favor and ‘google’ this girl.

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The WKBO staff pic – along with Rockin’ Rick Shockley (lower left), Harry Chapin (lower right), together with son Josh and Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as John St. John; plus a somewhat bemused Todd Rundgren

At this point in time, Todd was hot ‘n heavy with the ultimate groupie of all rock history!  Bebe was not only Hugh Hefner’s pick for the November Playboy mag playmate that year, she also went on to the bed of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and is, in fact, the mother of Hollywood actress Liv Tyler!  I kid you not.

Broke poor Todd’s heart is what she did.

But in 1974 – as the whole gang that day teased him endlessly about and would not leave him alone about – Bebe was all Todd’s.

AirliftProductionsRemembersToddRundgrenBebeBuellAliceCooper
(L-R) Todd Rundgren, Bebe Buell, Alice Cooper … mixing it up over a Bud backstage back in the day

But, hey, women may come, and women may go … so, what else is new?  The remarkable thing about Todd Rundgren was and IS his blazing and amazing talents – on both sides of the glass.

Todd would write every song,  play every instrument, sing every vocal track, produce the entire album top to bottom – and it was ALL HIM!  He was the talent, the producer & the engineer.  Damn!

Every time you hear “Hello, it’s Me”, “I Saw the Light”, or “We Got to Get You a Woman” on classic rock radio, or sing along to  the anthem “Bang the Drum All Day” at a sporting event – that’s Todd!

As producer and engineer, Todd also steered the careers of Meatloaf, Grand Funk Railroad, Badfinger & countless others … while Saturday mornings, his contributions to Paul Reuben’s ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ are legendary.  To detail all his input and impact on 20th century music would make this blog impossibly long.

The cutesy story of that amazing day in Harrisburg with Todd just has to be this one he gave me – the one about school desks at Upper Darby High School in Philadelphia still today carrying his rather unique and imaginative doodles and carvings.

As that little Pennsylvania boy just daydreamed his life away… as if!

 

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Todd’s Autograph to Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants (as that John Saint John dude) – across his hand, on the back of his “Something/Anything?” LP (remember those?)

Today, happily married to Michele with Upper Darby High School and Pennsylvania well in his rear view mirror, and living large on the island of Hawaii, Todd continues to mystify and amaze his planet-wide army of fans with tunes that stand the test of time.

“Aloha, it’s me!”

 

 Follow Airlift Mike and his latest Ad-Ventures & Misadventures on Twitter here – Airlift Productions & Airlift Mike on Twitter

Airlift PROductions Recording Studio ~ Making New Memories Every Day from NEW Orleans …. since 1984.

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Rhiannon Boulger & Airlift Mike at the Airlift Studios NOLA 1-6-17

“Thank you Michael for being so accommodating, and making my job truly enjoyable. I’ve recorded in many professional studios all around Australia throughout the years, but I felt right at home and was really impressed with the huge Airlift Productions recording space & booth you built. Recording with you was as easy as if I were in my own studio back in Australia – and that really makes for a successful session. All your wonderful compliments didn’t hurt the vibe either! My ego appreciates your generous, kind words. Thanks again for being such a gentleman.” — RHIANNON BOULGER, VoiceOver Artist & Aussie Voice for Shell Oil

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Airlift Productions ~ Telling America’s Great Stories from New Orleans since 1984

Woof! Airlift Productions Goes To The Dogs

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Airlift Productions NOLA’s Micheal & Ben Ziants along with The Shadeaux – his first Christmas 2006
The only problem with dogs is … that they don’t live forever!
 
And spelled either frontwards or backwards … Dog is still man’s best friend.
 
The Shadeaux, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal dogs, came to the Airlift Productions Studios and became our official mascot and ‘talent herder’ over Christmas 2006.
 
Near as we can tell, he’s eleven years old today and, truth be known, he picked us out at the SPCA that day.  Kind of like the Ziants boyz – a mutt; part German Shepherd, part Chow, part Border Collie … and all Love.
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Airlift Mike and The Shadeaux – ears back – after a long walk. Gee, this totally Zen dog doesn’t even return a bark for a bark! But he loves to give that mailman hell. 🙂
No, this is not his obituary (and even he’d appreciate the humor that the word ‘bitch’ is in that word), it’s more like a mid-life opus and testament to his otherworldly powers.
 
After all, the recording process can be somewhat intimidating to some, and capturing a stellar on-mic performance can feel a bit daunting at times – even to the pro!
And the Shadeaux has an uncanny way of throwing a ‘chill-out’ factor into the entire equation.
 
Little Quvenzhane Wallis (of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ fame) wanted to take him home with her (no chance), and James Carville’s ‘missus’ – Mary Matalin – could hardly tear herself away to get back to work on her audio book.
 
With a woof, a lick, and an appreciative tail wag – coupled with more fur than Liz Taylor at a pre-PETA-days holiday bash – the Shadeaux  has an amazing talent for making anyone feel comfortable, relaxed and right at home.
 
And when trying to record a stunning on-mic, on-point performance … what more could you ask for?
 
Except maybe that he’d live forever.
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  Airlift Productions … where EVERY day is ‘Take Your Doggie to Work Day’…  Airlift Mike with his fave, furry four-footed friend – and uncharacteristically shy, The Shadeaux  

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“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ~ Will Rogers
 
“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog & cat are not the better for it.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
 
“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” ~ Andy Rooney

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Micheal Ziants & Sean O’Shea, navigating the twists & turns of AudioBook production, Airlift Productions New Orleans, June 2017

“Airlift Mike was a saint, and ridiculously patient and supportive (and helpful!!) for this audio book virgin. In another environment, without the support, and with pressure to perform “right”, I probably would have completely fallen apart. So the MVP for this getting done goes 100% to Mike and the chilled out environment he’s cultivated…personally and within his studio.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to get this audio book out to you guys!! As challenging as it all was, the end result, I think, is amazing! 

Once again, a big heartfelt thanks to Mike and the years of expertise he brought to this project to ensure I sounded my very best. If you’re ever in Nola and need the best audio dude, and the best dude dude, holler at my man Mike with www.airliftproductions.com

Thanks for the great week my friend! :)”

— SEAN O’SHEA, Los Angeles-based Dog Trainer & AudioBook Producer

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984  … and going to the dogs since 2006

Airlift Mike & Trick Or Treat In Old New Orleans

Well, it’s that time of year again, when a morning dog walk through the ‘hood yields visions of ghosts, witches & goblins, all sharing front yard space with – the blessed Virgin Mary!

Only in New Orleans.

OK, possibly in other parts of America, but never more pronounced than here in a 300-year-old city predominately old Spanish, old French – and very Catholic.

So, in the spirit of Halloween, yours truly decided this past week to do a little bit of audio trick or treating of my own.

After spending quite a bit of time re-designing my Airlift Productions website, I went to work, trick or treating…

In an attempt to find some new folks to work with, some new “playmates in the sandbox”, the Shadeaux and I went to the internet, since no one really picks up a work phone anymore, and receptionists actually answering a phone is so last century.

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Airlift Mike & The Shadeaux at Airlift Productions, where Every day is ‘Take your doggie to work’ day

After doing a google search on the top advertising agencies in New Orleans, visiting each of their respective websites (amazingly, some had none), I wrote each one a rather succinct email, or simply filled-out their ‘contact page’ form.

I merely told each agency that I had been a voice talent, writer, studio owner, and audio production dude here in NOLA for the past 30 years and wanted to connect with them to discuss possible future work together.

These words were followed by an invitation for each of them to visit my website for corroborating material – audio, video, studio pics, and testimonials.

In closing, I simply asked, “May we talk?” And closed with a signature, phone number, and  the line “much respect”.

So, what happened?

After a substantial, decades-long contribution to the media DNA of New Orleans – years of audio production and voice work, shouldering the outdoor campaigns of WGNO and WNOL, WDSU and WVUE all old-school (reel-to-reel tape dubs in cardboard boxes), 17 years with the Lamarque Motor Company, ten years pro bono with the United Way, twelve years producing all the radio campaigns for The Esplanade Mall ….

Nothing.

Crickets…. Not a single reply.

Trick or Treat!?!

“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” … er, ah, a millennial. Wait a tick, I’m in the wrong holiday!

Either way, sorry, gang, but the way my mother raised me, I see this back-handed treatment as just downright rude.

Whether I’m considered (along with my formidable studio) irrelevant, old-school & ‘dated’ – or a threat, in the business world, of which advertising agencies sure are a part,  the courtesy of a reply is appropriate.

How about one more thought.

The prophet will always be without honor in his own land.

Oh, and a Happy Halloween to you and yours.

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984 

Airlift Productions: A Life Lived In The Hurricane’s Eye

AirliftProductionsInTheHurricanesEyeThe National Weather Service defines the “Eye” as the region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones.

Metaphorically, the ever-changing media & technology would be the tropical cyclones/hurricanes, and  Airlift Productions & I would be the ones who have for over thirty years resided… calmly, persistent & steady, in the hurricane’s eye.

Airlift Productions New Orleans Logo Re-boot 2012 by Ethan Anderson
The Airlift Productions logo, conceived & trademarked in 1984, and re-imagined for the 21st century

In 1984, the needs of my first full-time client – WGNO-TV/Tribune Broadcasting – gave birth to the Airlift Productions Studios. That very year Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, the compact disc was brand new, and top-rated  CBS affiliates WWL-TV WWL radio here in New Orleans were owned by Loyola University (“World Wide Loyola”) and… the Catholic Church.

From the changing complexion of the White House to digital music distribution (and piracy), TV/radio deregulation and consolidation,  and from Loyola’s WWL ownership to Gannett, Tegna & Entercom … my, how the media and technological winds have blown!

Meanwhile, through all the changes and through all the years, Airlift Productions and I have resided calmly and ever-persistent in the Hurricane’s Eye.

A recent Search Engine request for just two words “Airlift Productions” yielded the most remarkable result – in the Images section was an internet-search-generated montage of a Life lived in the Hurricane’s Eye…

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a Google image search for ‘Airlift Productions’

There was every studio I’d ever built – from the closet at Rock Creek Apartments to Iberville to Pomona.  There was Norman Robinson, Rich Lenz, Heath Allen, the Blue Angels, Morgus, Greg DiLeo, Sister Thecla,  Quvenzhane Wallis, even James Carville’s feet on my ping pong table.

From radio commercials, TV voice-overs, music projects & audio books, to educational software, industrial training & safety videos,  from cathode ray tubes to flat screens and broadcast to podcast – the Airlift Studios & I have shifted and tacked into the winds of change … while remaining calm & steady in the Hurricane’s Eye.

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A recent Google Search for “VoiceOver Production Blogs” – of over 7-Million possibilities, Airlift Productions resides on page One.

 

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence & Determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Coolidge/Ziants

 

                    *** Micheal Ziants AUDIO BOOK Demo ***

 

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Airlift Productions proprietor Micheal Ziants putting in another day at the office ~ along with studio mascot ‘The Shadeaux’

And the winds continue to blow! My grandfather John was born before the radio, my father Charlie was born before the television, and I was born before the internet & digital.

What’s next?

Well, whatever it is, you can rest assured that Airlift Productions and I will be there … in the Hurricane’s Eye.

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Airlift’s Micheal Ziants (Right) with actor Joe Renier, On-Camera with TLW Productions for Seacor Marine … deep in the Gulf of Mexico

“We’ve worked with Mike for almost 15 years, both as voice over and on-camera talent in more than 50 films.  Not only is he a great guy and a super talent,  but he has the coolest recording studio in the South.” ~ TIM WESTON, President TLW Productions, NOLA 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

… we’ll leave the light on for you.

DelGiorno, WTN Nashville & Airlift Mike in 2017

The email came into the Airlift Productions Studios to my attention, innocently enough, just last week from a producer at WTN Nashville with a simple question…

WTN Nashville’s Talk Show Host MICHAEL DELGIORNO at the studios, along with a close friend, Donald who?

Would I be able to make myself available for an interview the following morning with Michael DelGiorno?

Well, color me intrigued.

Of course I agreed, and then found myself back on the air in Nashville on October 4th, 2017 being “grilled, chilled and thrilled” (sorry Acme Oyster House) by Michael DelGiorno himself!

As the fates would have it, growing up in New Orleans as the son of famed WWL talk show host Bob DelGiorno, young Michael was an unabashed fan of that Q-93 Radio Mike McCann dude.

Really?

Dude, who knew?

WTN Nashville’s MICHAEL DELGIORNO with his  pop WWL’s BOB DELGIORNO

Together with stories about meeting me briefly back in the 1980s at the WQUE studios and the huge impact my on-air work had on him back in the day, he salt ‘n peppered-in probing questions about the way I dressed back then (my choice of jeans) – and even this choice one,  “Did you ever date (then-WDSU-TV Anchor) Lynn Gansar?”

 

It was all a lot of FUN. And very, very flattering.

We reminisced, caught up and laughed – HARD – about many things –  my early WGNO-Tribune TV announcer days, Scoot’s transition to talk radio (not pretty), and the times I recorded both his dad, for TV-radio spots, and his brother Bobby, for Ray Brandt TV-radio campaigns at the Airlift Productions Iberville location in the ’90s.

And it all came out of Nashville radios like this….

**** 10-4-17 WTN Nashville Interview with Mike McCann ***

Gee, the POWER of radio, huh?

As I traveled town-to-town all those years – Harrisburg to St. Louis, on into Nashville, then Philadelphia, and on to New Orleans, I always thought of myself as a modern day ‘Johnny Appleseed’, sowing little seeds and nuggets of wisdom & whimsy among the records I played.

But little did I know, until just last week, that one would find fertile soil in the heart, soul and mind of little Mikey DelGiorno.

I do now.

Chalk another one up to the powerful – yet intimate – MAGIC of radio.

Oh yeah, and a free dinner and Tennessee Titans game are now but a cell phone call and a road trip car ride away.

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L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions 2004

“For years, I have worked with Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions recording songs for Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network.  Mike’s attention to detail is legendary, but his commitment to the kids and the challenges they face goes far beyond that.  He gets it.   Professionally, he’s as good as it gets.  Everyone SOUNDS better after a session with Mike.  And no matter what the audio project, you FEEL better after a session with Airlift.  That’s “Z” truth! ~ Heath Allen, WDSU-TV Reporter, and veteran guitar picker

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Airlift Productions – Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from NOLA since 1984… we’ll leave the light on for you!

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist