WIFI-92, The City of Brotherly Love & John St. John: The Rear View Mirror

A 1980s era WIFI-92 Bumper Sticker & T-Shirt Design.
A 1980s era WIFI-92 Bumper Sticker & T-Shirt Design.

In 1982, Philadelphia moved to a different beat in a different world. And I was fortunate and blessed to make radio magic there, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the legendary late Don Cannon, radio wizard Tom Bigby, the wickedly talented Andre Gardner, and the sassy, smokey Liz Kiley.

Yes, in those prehistoric days before the internet, the web, and a digitally-connected world, RADIO was the thing. No iPads, iPods, iPhones… if you wanted to hear your favorite song, you turned on a radio!

In 1982, Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, ‘E.T” was huge at the box office, and my “office” was the morning drive chair 5:30 – 9:00 on WIFI-92!

One of my fave Rejection Letters during the post-WLAC 1981 Radio Job Hunt ~ just keep the Faith, Mike
One of my fave Rejection Letters during the post-WLAC 1981 Radio Job Hunt ~ just keep the Faith, Mike

Picked up on waivers from Nashville, out of work for nearly half a year due to Billboard Magazine’s fall ‘housecleaning’ at WLAC, I came to the attention of big Tom Bigby. He liked what he’d heard on an aircheck, called, we met during a layover at the Nashville airport – and he hired me.

It’s  really hard to find the words to describe the thrill of the morning call to the starting gate.  (Despite some mornings being the ‘snow plow’) I mean, what a challenge to be the first voice a person heard in the morning – in the bathroom, the kitchen, by the bed, under the car dashboard in the commute – in Phila-freakin’-del-phia!

Rockin’ the Cradle of Liberty ~ WIFI, Philadelphia.

Morning Drive Radio was exciting, pulse-pounding and very rewarding on many levels. But what I remember most about the Philly days/daze is Satur-days!

Airlift Mike (Ziants) aka John Saint John in the WIFI Production Studios 1982 (thanks to brother Andre Gardner for the pic)
Airlift Mike (Ziants) aka John Saint John in the WIFI Production Studios 1982 (thanks to brother Andre Gardner for the pic)

Every Saturday, from 10 am to 3 pm – the most listened-to weekend day part – I cranked up TURNTABLES, brought in the most amazing collection of VINYL and held court with “From Motown to the Philly Sound”!

It was my professorial, Dick Clark-ish, honky, white boy approach to the most sizzlin’, cookin’, excitin’, sex-citin’ hit music of the 20th century.

Temptations. Four Tops. Supremes. Junior Walker. Marvin Gaye. Martha & her Vandellas. Spinners. Harold Melvin & his Blue Notes. Barry White. Michael Jackson… all served-up with background, historical facts, dates, anecdotes – and fun!

** John Saint John Entertains Philadelphia on WIFI-92 ~ From Motown to the Philly Sound in 1982 **

“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end” … but they did.

mqdefaultIn early ’83, the Bala Cynwyd-General-Cinema corporate crew decided to hire a consultant out of Los Angeles (only the name has been changed/dropped to protect the guilty), go ‘Rock of the ’80s’, and fire that morning John Saint John jock because he’s way ‘too adult and mature sounding for the new format’!? Really? 

But you know, when you’ve found a way to take all the shit folks throw at you … and then throw it over your shoulder to use as fertilizer for tomorrow’s crops, you roll with it.

In the ashes of every defeat lie the seeds to a greater or equivalent benefit.  And I am a graduate – with honors – from the University of Adversity.

Besides, New Orleans …. and my destiny …. and Airlift Productions were calling.

Pardon me while I pick up the phone.

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“I had the extreme pleasure of working with Mike of Airlift Productions for a project in 2016. He was professional, courteous and most importantly, fun to work with. Mike is patient and very thorough with his recording, making sure that what you want is done before he powers down the gear for the day. 10/10, I would work with him again.”– JARED GARCIA, Sr. Recording Engineer for Blackstone Audio and Downpour.com

 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

The ART Of VoiceOver Demo Production

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An Airlift Productions’ VO session in progress with Steve Blaze of Lillian Axe fame at the hot mic

Of all the audio jobs produced at Airlift Productions, I think I enjoy creating Voice and VoiceOver Demos the most.

Whether working with a ‘newbie’ or a veteran, taking the written word on a page and using all the tricks in my audio producer’s bag to bring it to life, to create ART is indeed an art unto itself.

And today, in 2018, the Voice Demo covers the gamut – from commercial to animation, video games to the medical field, and from industrial narration to audio books.

Still today affectionately called a “reel”, I’ve seen the demo go from reel-to-reel tape… to audio cassette… to compact disc… to wave file and mp3.

Yet through all the technological changes, the heart of the art remains the same —

The copy has to ‘sing’, the reads have to be spot-on, music selection and editing, along with proper equalization, compression, reverberation, and normalization remain paramount.

Art, unlike science (although there is  a helluva lot of science involved here), is indeed a very subjective call.  And what is art to one … is shite to another.

The call here is obviously up to the reader of this blog.

Enter Exhibit A – JOHN DENNEY.

When Denney first rang my phone, he’d found my website in a Google search, had experience behind a microphone – he founded the Weirdos, an LA-based punk band in the ’80s – had moved here to NOLA, and had never done a commercial in his life.

I said, “Well, John, we’ll change all that!”

And change it we did. It began with a commercial demo (heard here); after he landed his first job within two weeks of production, he subsequently returned to produce an animation demo… and a medical demo.

** JOHN DENNEY VOICEOVER DEMO **

 

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Rachel Wulff records her VoiceOver Demo at Airlift Productions NOLA

Enter Exhibit B – RACHEL WULFF.

A longtime television news anchor and reporter, Rachel had moved to New Orleans just about ten years ago, and was, in 2017, looking to exit the TV scene and begin self-employment as a VoiceOver artist.

Again, like John Denney, she had a lot of on-camera and on-mic experience, but Rachel had no commercial background.

She does now.

  ** RACHEL WULFF VOICEOVER DEMO **

 

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Mary Rose Neumeyer having way-y too much fun at the Airlift microphones

Enter Exhibit C – MARY ROSE NEUMEYER.

Mary Rose is all of fourteen years old, has studied acting for some five years now, done some on-camera things, but was looking to spread her wings into the VoiceOver field.

After a brief pre-production meeting, she pulled together some copy, I then coached her through all the reads and edited her demo. 

It captures promo pieces as well as commercial copy, and I’d have to say, for a “newbie”, she states her case for an on-mic job most eloquently.

   ** MARY ROSE NEUMEYER VOICEOVER DEMO **

 

Finally, an entry from yours truly.

Enter Exhibit D – yours truly, MZ.

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New Orleans Voice Talent & All-around Audio Dude Micheal Ziants, Airlift Mike

As I pursue the AudioBook field, I’ve only recently compiled a demo targeted at this particular audience; a demonstration recording completely different from the shorter commercial ones.

It also differs from the previous demos, which were “manufactured” and produced from scratch, in that this demo is actually from a product being currently sold and marketed.

So, in this case, the demo is more of a ‘sampler’.

What follows here are actual excerpts from “Murder In Coweta County”, a true crime drama that took place in 1940s Georgia and shocked the nation.

Think ‘The Sopranos’ gone south!  With mysticism, race, murder, and the police all thrown into one big gumbo….

   ** MICHEAL ZIANTS AUDIOBOOK DEMO **

Commercial, AudioBooks, Industrial, Animation, Video Games, the Voice Demo in 2018 sure does cover a lot of ground.

Er, ah… make that “air”.

And make no mistake. Evoking this kind of emotion is an ART.

Or, is it a science?

OK, how about BOTH?

Well, whatever you want to call it…

Call on Airlift Mike and Airlift Productions to book yours.

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“For voice over actors, the demo serves as a calling card and is unquestionably the most important tool in the pursuit of voice over work. Mike Ziants and Airlift PROductions produced my first VO demo and within weeks I landed my first job in the industry. Airlift’s state-of-the-art recording studio combined with Mike’s wisdom and expertise provided me with an excellent demo as well as the confidence needed to achieve success.” ~ JOHN DENNEY, Founder/Lead Singer of the notorious LA-based punk band The Weirdos … and relatively new VoiceOver Artist

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“We’ll keep the mics hot…and leave the light on for you!”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airlift Productions – From Dream to Reality Brick by Brick on Iberville

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Airlift Productions 3927 Iberville Street location, under construction in 1989

If you ever recorded at or visited or got silly during Friday ‘happy hours’ at the now-the-stuff-of-legend Airlift Productions Iberville Street location … have you ever paused to consider what it took to create that remarkable space?

It’s not too bold a statement to say that my blood is quite literally in the mortar that holds the very bricks in this wall together!  For though I am not a mason or a brick layer, I certainly played one in 1989 on Iberville Street.

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants ~ like a proud papa ~ at the Airlift shingle, Iberville Street, NOLA 1992

With the help of just one other guy (Joe Delery now works in the crime division of the NOPD), I also pounded the nails, hung & floated sheet rock, packed insulation, laid carpet, and wired the entire facility. Whew! 

And oh, the people who were destined to walk through that front door to record within these walls … Peyton & Eli’s pop Archie Manning,   Mayor Marc Morial, his mother Sybil, the Rev. Avery C. Alexander, Dr. Morgus the Magnificent, Ronnie Lamarque, I CAN Learn founder John R. Lee, WDSU’s Norman Robinson …

Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad
Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad

Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), Oliver Thomas, Senator Jon Johnson, Congressman Bill Jefferson, Academy Award winning documentary film maker Charles Guggenheim, Anders Osborne, Theresa Andersson, Bishop Paul Morton…

And a whole host of radio rebels, stand-up comics, misfits, in-laws & outlaws!

The mantra through the entire construction stage was ‘Build it…and they will come!’  What a passion, what a studio… what a time!

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Airlift Productions – as it looked in 1992 on Iberville Street … Reel-to-reel analog decks, outboard gear & mixer, the way recording used to be done. Oh, if only you’d lived then, kids.

 

** A “Mike McCann” classic VoiceOver/Production Demo from the 90s, all produced on Iberville with R-R tape – for NOLA clients like WVUE-TV, Pat O’Brien’s, Times-Picayune, etc. ***

But as much as I loved this location, Iberville street, the elevator, my Endymion parties, and having Venezia’s Italian food, Angelo Brocato’s, Mandina’s & Liuzza’s but a block or two walk away … I flooded twice at this location – and this was well before Mother Katrina came to town!

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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants outside the Iberville haunts, shortly before the 2001 move to Pomona

So, I ran with my prophetic visions and in early 2001 moved the entire Airlift Productions business well out of the flood plain and to the high ground just the other side of the now-infamous breached 17th Street Canal .  To start over.

Yet again.

But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.

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Amy Landon recording audio books at Airlift Productions New Orleans, March 2017

“Working with Airlift Mike in NOLA was an utter pleasure. I was in town for business for a month and needed to maintain my audiobook recording schedule. Mike was accommodating and a pure professional. He mastered the punch and roll technique in 24 hours to be ready for our first session, and over the course of the month we laid down 5 books and a number of auditions. His studio sounds great. The vibe & atmosphere can’t be beat. You’d be hard pressed to find a better recording studio in the southeast – no matter what your needs. I wish I could have stayed!” ~ AMY LANDON, Los Angeles-based Actress & Ultra-busy AudioBook Narrator

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New Orleans Premier VoiceOver & Recording Studio  ~ Audio Alchemy from the Big Easy … since 1984

Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

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Questions For The Angels from Brother Paul & Airlift Mike

It’s been awhile since I last posted a full-on, space-cowboy, metaphysical musings blog, so on this fall Sunday morning in 2018, let’s have at it.

 

As a cradle Catholic & life-long Truth Seeker, I have many questions for the angels, but for the sake of brevity let’s focus on but a couple.

From ” the Gospel of Paul” – Paul Simon that is – he opines…

“If every human on the planet, and all the buildings on it should disappear… Would a zebra grazing in the African savanna care enough to shed one zebra tear?”

If you’ve never experienced this song before, do yourself a revealing, enlightening treat here….

** Paul Simon’s “Questions for the Angels”

And, Paul, as you walk away this year from your fantastic odyssey, many thanks for your inestimable contributions to the American/World Song Book. Much love and respect, my brother.

Now, a few questions from yours truly, Airlift Mike.

Why is that when man talks to God, we call it prayer… but why, should God ever decide to talk back to man, do we have to call it schizophrenia or bipolar disorder?

The psychiatric community, as it is practiced today – from the local “shrink’s office” to Big Pharma’s billion dollar yearly take – is but a scant hundred years old!

Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung

These very same issues of the ID versus Spirit were argued about back and forth last century by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung. (These two actually rode a steam ship from Europe to the US in the early 1900s and analyzed each other’s dreams along the way.)

EGO vs. Spirit.

OK, then, if you’ve run with me so far, let’s take it a bit further.

What if the young maid from Domremy had been sitting, somewhat agitated, in a psychiatrist’s office five hundred years ago? I picture the conversation going something like this:

“Well, gee, doc, I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but lately, I haven’t been sleeping well. And last night, Archangel Mike was talking to me. He was! And he told me that Charles the Dauphin should be the King of France! Really. And he also told me that one day I would lead my country in revolt!”

Whoa! Wait a minute. When women here in America couldn’t even vote in an election a hundred years ago… this is a 13 year old peasant girl from the farms of Europe over five hundred years ago.

Well, there’s little doubt that the psych community would have intervened – and that’s putting it mildly.

Straight jackets. Haldol. Lithium. Leather restraints. Padded cells. Perhaps even some electro-shock therapy…

And the revelations & accomplishments of young Joan of Arc – now romanticized, mythologized, and marbleized (as in statues) –  as the church took the Maid of Orleans down to the stake, would simply have never happened.

Also for your consideration…

While Jesus of Nazareth’s exploits, shrouded in the mists and myths of time, continue to be speculated over by scholars, the story of young Franceso is historically well documented.

Francis, as a late Italian teen, returned from war, committed to never again make that mistake. And as the son of a wealthy clothier, was expected to follow in pop’s footsteps. But, did it happen?

Uh-no.

What Francis did do – after angelic intervention – was to deny his mother and father’s wishes, walk away from the family business – and in front of the town’s people, the church elders, as well as mom and dad… strip himself stark naked and walk into the woods to seek enlightenment!

Now, what would the psychiatric community today have done to young Francis… seven hundred years ago?

Same deal. Same results.

Only this time, the results would have been considerably more dramatic.

We would not, here in 2018, have a worldwide order of monks known as the Franciscans. The AA meetings would not have their famous 12-step recovery prayer.

Oh, and that quaint city on our west coast would never have been known as… San Francisco!

Too much? 

Perhaps, but certainly grist for thought.

So, the next time you encounter someone on the streets of America, perhaps homeless… lost, talking seemingly to themselves (and they’re not on a cell phone) ….

give them your understanding, and a wide berth, because you never know – do you – who…

or to Whom they may be speaking.

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~ writing with humility, love and respect from the new Jer-USA-lem,  New Orleans, LA, USA,

Micheal Ziants

 

Airlift Mike, Sportsman’s Paradise Outcast, Rebel

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Veteran New Orleans Voice Talent Micheal Ziants with trusty sidekick & mascot The Shadeaux

Although I live in Louisiana, the Sportsman’s Paradise, I do not hunt and shoot animals, I do not own a gun … shucks, I don’t even play golf!

THIS is what I do.

Giving LIFE to the printed word, making simple text & fonts on an iPad or piece of paper BREATHE and create emotion in the mind of the listener is what I do.

And then, I further animate those living, breathing words with soundscapes – musical backdrops and sound effects which enhance and complement the human voice.

You know, the stuff that comes out of your radio speaker, or the flat screen TV in the background at the bar, or deep in your inner ear canal from earbuds, stuff like this….

    ** Micheal Ziants Long-form Narration Demo **

And with roots in the great state of Pennsylvania,  now firmly re-planted for over thirty years in the bayou state of Louisiana, it’s kind of strange to say but, here in 2018, I feel a stranger to both.

I don’t talk like your average N’awlins folks (“Wherey’at, dawlin’?”), I have a growing disdain for the yearly bacchanal called  the “Mardi Gras”, and yet I have no desire to return to the ice-packed, snow-covered northeast. 

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New Orleans Voice Talent & All-around Audio Dude Micheal Ziants, Airlift Mike

A man without a country.

But I do have one thing most don’t – a vocation that is also my vacation.  And there’s solace in that.

On top of that, it’s a vocation that due to technological and digital advances affords me the opportunity to be heard by – and work for – anyone, anytime, and anywhere on planet Earth!

Wow.

   ** Airlift Mike talks for SHELL OIL **

While the VoiceOver arena is today an incredibly competitive and increasingly overcrowded field, it’s an honor to throw my headphones into the ring every day from America’s most fascinating city, New Orleans, warm-up the Airlift Productions microphones, and create compellingly convincing audio for clients near and far.

And the challenges and obstacles are far more daunting than shooting deer, flushing-out ducks, or spending weekends chasing a little white ball around a golf course.

 ** Airlift Mike taking a “shot” at Movie Trailer V-O – “Gladiator” **

Outcast? Rebel?  Well, sort of, I guess.

But in the meantime, life in Louisiana certainly has its upside, too – cargo shorts & flip-flops year-round, I haven’t bought snow tires in years, and I sure have become a Saints fan. Who Dat?!?

And, really, who cares if I talk kinda funny?

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“Micheal Ziants is a great voice talent who is generous with his time and energy. I have worked in TV for years, but needed the guidance of a professional to create my radio reel and found it with Ziants. He made me feel comfortable in studio and encouraged creativity, coaching me to a reel I hope will bring many job opportunities. “ – RACHEL WULFF,  former WWL/WDSU-TV Anchor & Reporter

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

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Pintek, Airlift Mike, WKBO, KDKA & The Keystone State

Mike Pintek at WKBO, cranking-out a news story – on a typewriter! (remember those?)

I first met Mike Pintek in 1975 at a quaint 1,000 watt radio station in a far off land known as Pennsylvania.

It was WKBO radio in Harrisburg, PA  and, as fellow same-year (1952) baby-boomers, we were both relatively new to the radio game, 24 years old, and, as the tacky, crude expression goes, “young, dumb, and full of ____!”

And I say ‘far off land’ because, as a ‘damn Yankee’, I’ve called New Orleans home for 35 years now and seldom return to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and the land of my birth.

Yeah, that’s Pintek seated on the car hood, yours truly is the ‘hood’ lower left, with the rest of the posse

Pintek served as the afternoon news dude for John Saint John (he said, using the 3rd person) every afternoon as, daily 2-6 pm, we entertained our “fighting troops in the commuter combat zones” of the state capital.

Night times were different stories.

As 24 year old guys, away from home, single, hormonal, it was bars, night clubs, and the like – and, of course, Monday Night Football watching with the rest of the boyz, especially when the Steelers were on.

** John Saint John & Mike Pintek on WKBO Harrisburg in 1976 **

Give a listen to afternoon drive in the Bicentennial year of 1976! Just don’t judge us too harshly.  Shucks, we were only 24 and still wet behind the headphones.

So, where am I going with all this?

Well, last week up in PA brother Mike decided to drop his body and move to “the other side”  – dead at 65 from pancreatic cancer complications.

And I just came here to unpack a few things.

Through many of my now-over-30 years of self employment with Airlift Productions, Mike stuck to his radio guns and went on to entertain Pittsburgh, PA  with a highly-rated talk show at legendary 50,000 watt behemoth KDKA for 30 years!

Earlier, in ’79, Mike even went on to break one of America’s biggest stories of the 20th century – the nearly catastrophic core meltdown at Three Mile Island! (wait, let’s make that a triple exclamation mark !!!)

Mike Pintek seriously serious about bein’ serious OnAir at KDKA Pittsburgh

What a testament to his awesome powers of communication, longevity, innate talents, and skill. Mike Pintek was born to the radio.

Yet, here in 2018, many  folks just don’t get it.

Radio, just like wartime, bonds its warriors – like crazy glue.

And as Garth Brooks once opined, those who live ‘outside the fire’ will never fully understand those living within… and consumed by it.

Mike and I were crazy glue bonded warriors living inside the fire, living lives never fully understood by the overwhelming majority who never felt the pressure, the joys, the daily combat of on-mic performance.

 

** My YouTube tribute to my Keystone State Media Titans **

And my warrior buds continue to fall by the wayside, gone, but not forgotten….

Joe Wambach, Fred Honsberger, Marvin ‘Goose’ Goslin, ‘Big Jim’ Roberts, Gary Magill, Jeff Kauffman, Charlie Adams, Rick ‘Chris’ Andree, J. Al Dame – every single name here, fellow WKBO warriors in the broadcast trenches with Mike & I, now … gone.

Now, like so many of our comrades, Mike Pintek has fought his last fight.

KDKA’s Mike Pintek, putting in “another day at the office”

But you wanna know something?

Everyone has to die. But not everyone truly lives!

While way too many folks today live half-realized lives, commuting to jobs they really don’t like, at hours they don’t care to work, and working for people they don’t respect – Mike and I, like crazy glue bonded warriors, never spent even a day of our lives like that.

Ever.

Mike’s final Twitter Profile Pic – how catty, huh?

Besides, like those righteous dudes Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield once gave voice to – “If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand; if there’s a rock ‘n roll heaven, then they’ve gotta have a hell of a band!”

Oh, and one hell of a news room.

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

 

New Orleans TV News Drops Anchor(s) at Airlift Productions

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(L-R) Airlift’s Micheal Ziants, Norman Robinson, Heath Allen, Rich Lenz at the WDSU-TV Studios for the CMN Telethon

Norman Robinson. Lee Zurik. Camille Whitworth. Rich Lenz. Heath Allen. Rachel Wulff.

Round up the usual suspects.

I have –  to record various voice-over projects here in New Orleans at Airlift Productions.

I first met and recorded Norman Robinson in 1991. He was fresh back in NOLA from the White House CBS-TV Network news beat, and was the newly-ordained anchor man at our WDSU.

Little did we then realize, or even think about future days, but the fact is, 27 years later, we’re still at it!

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Anchor man NORMAN ROBINSON brushing-up his VoiceOver skills at Airlift Productions NOLA

Our most recent project? Recording and compiling every electronic message for every streetcar and bus – even the ferries – in the city of New Orleans.

“Senior citizens ride the bus for only 40 cents”… “Please look around you for any personal items you may have left behind before exiting the vehicle/next stop, Canal Street.”

NORTA – the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority – tagged Norman and me to record well over 1,500 wav files for use in their system citywide.

** Norman narrates NORTA’s ‘Go Mobile’ App Tutorial **

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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

Rich Lenz now calls KOTV & Tulsa, OK home, a gone pecan from NOLA for over nine years now (gee, Thanks, Katrina), but he served for 16 years as sports director/anchor at WDSU.

Richie and I’ve recorded countless tunes together, including epic anthems to herald the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon fund-raising year-after-year to benefit and support our Children’s Hospital’s life saving efforts for our kids.

** the 1st, of many, Telethon Tunes for Children’s Hospital **

 

Rachel Wulff records her VoiceOver Demo at Airlift Productions NOLA

After meeting WWL/WDSU anchor gal Rachel Wulff around the aisles of our local Lowe’s Home Improvement store, I helped Rachel improve her post-anchor life and UP her game by producing a VoiceOver demo for her.

Very nice.

** Rachel’s VO Demo, with her daughter’s cutesy intro **

Fox-8/WVUE’s solid anchor dude – and award-winning investigative reporter – Lee Zurik and I work together on projects for video ace Paul Atkinson.

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Airlift Mike, Lee Zurik, Paul Atkinson – “Glory Days” sessions

The latest project? VoiceOver for “Glory Days”, an homage to the passions and victories of Newman High School’s football program.

As it turns out, Lee was on the same team at Newman with a local boy-made-good you may have heard of – the NFL’s Peyton Manning.

** Lee Zurik narrates “Glory Days” with Airlift Mike **

Man, that must’ve been some wild locker room, huh?

(BTW,  Lee, do you wanna send that sassy Kim Holden over for a recording session sometime?)

L-R. Micheal Ziants, Heath Allen, Rich Lenz, Brian Landry, making music at Airlift Productions NOLA

The Airlift Productions studio doors are always open to Heath Allen, veteran reporter for decades at WDSU.  Heath carved-out his reputation in the early days all over Baton Rouge TV.

His compassionate, and knowledgeable in-the-field reporting is always incisive and spot-on. And he picks quite a guitar, at that.

2018 continues to see local NOLA news veteran Camille Whitworth drop by from time to time for various VO commercial and industrial projects.

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Camille Whitworth sets the VO mood at Airlift Productions NOLA

Camille dedicated years to  the anchor chair at WDSU, and today fills her days public speaking, doing on-camera work for our East Jefferson Hospital, and recording various VoiceOver projects for clients in and around NOLA.

Dependable, personable, and experienced, Camille is always fun to have around the Airlift Studios.

There is simply no reason or need for news anchors to walk away from their skills & finely-honed talents when they walk away from the nightly news anchor desk.

Norman, Rich, Heath, Rachel, Lee & Camille are all exceptionally fine and experienced talents with, as the expression goes, ‘ a lot of good miles left on their tires’.

It has also been said, and rightly so, that journalism, as well as the nightly news, is ‘History – the first draft’.

I am so gratified – and humbled – that these remarkable ladies and gentlemen have all chosen to work with me and Airlift Productions to write new chapters.

And, as Paul Harvey used to intone, tell ‘the rest of the story’.

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants shoulder-to-shoulder with JAMES CARVILLE at the Airlift Studios

“I’ve been in studios from the Bayou to the Beltway and I can say after recording my last two audio books with Mike that there is no better place than Airlift Productions. The quality of the production, the studio, and frankly the comfort make it the only place I want to record now or in the future”— JAMES CARVILLE, Political commentator, Tulane professor & Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation

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Airlift Productions – where the warmth of analogue lives. And the lightning speed of digital delivers.

 

 

WLAC, Nashville, 1980 – and John Saint John

NashvilleStreetScene1980In early 1980, Nashville was a very different place. Today’s Country SuperStars were on the playgrounds, if they were even born yet… Conway Twitty was very much alive, George Jones was still rattin’ the Printers Alley bars… and yours truly  was ridin’ herd on the afternoon radio rodeo – as John Saint John!

Think about it. Thirty-eight years ago, Jimmy Carter sat in the Oval Office,  John Travolta’s ‘Urban Cowboy’ was huge at the box office, and my “office” was the afternoon drive seat at WLAC, Nashville.

The internet, world wide web, digital audio and mp3 downloads weren’t even dreams yet in a tech head’s head.  Radio – and AM at that – was king!

15WLAC-Logo

~ 15-WLAC Logo, during it’s final hurrah as a music station, before yielding to changing times and becoming All News & Talk in late 1980 ~

 

Picked up ‘on waivers’ from KSD radio in Saint Louis, I was freshly hired by Billboard Magazine to do the afternoon drive shift  from their swanky showroom studios at 14 Music Circle East every afternoon on the legendary 50,000 watt blowtorch –  WLAC Radio.

Together with RJ Harris, Spider Harrison, Dennis John Cahill, Smokey Rivers, ‘Captain Sunshine’, Randy Davis and Jeff Warren,  we held court as the last bastions of music on WLAC. 

What an exciting and truly awesome gig this was.  To work for Billboard Magazine in Music City, USA and broadcast every afternoon to the entire mid-south. No tape delay, no second takes…it was all LIVE – from my mouth into tens of thousands of ears in a split second!

MichealZiantsAKA-JohnSaintJohnWLAC-Nashville1980
~ Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants as alter-ego John Saint John, in the WLAC, Nashville Studios in 1980 ~

As most know, but few give thought to, Nashville is not only Music City USA, it is also the capital city of the great state of Tennessee, so much of the talk was centered around politics. In early 1980, that talk revolved around Carter, Reagan & Bush.

And do you remember the music of the 1980s? No, we weren’t playing country. It was more like Donna Summer, Boz Scaggs, Doobie Brothers, Michael Jackson, Eagles, Christopher Cross, Kim Carnes and the Electric Light Orchestra!

That John Saint John guy served them up like this —-

~ WLAC Radio & John Saint John, Wednesday July 30th, 1980 – broadcasting from Nashville’s Music Row ~

Without question, the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on!

And the doors that were opened to me as afternoon air personality for WLAC ;  to talk with – and get to know – the Legends of Nashville music:  Brenda Lee, Charlie Daniels, George Jones, Dottie West, I even co-emceed an auto show benefit for Nashville’s Humane Society with Conway Twitty!

During my brief tour of duty at WLAC, I interviewed and sat down with Eddie Money, Ted Nugent, Terry Bradshaw, the Eagles’ lead guitar Don Felder, the comic Gallagher … and Lawrence Welk ran his music publishing company in the offices upstairs.

But you can never separate the words Radio & Business.  And in the early 1980s, the handwriting was on the wall – FM penetration, together with it’s stereo & higher fidelity proved the death knell for music-formatted AM radio.  And with it went my job.

In the Fall of 1980, in fact it was Halloween weekend that year,  thirteen months after I was hired, WLAC fired it’s entire air staff- “Trick or Treat”!! In favor of new owners… and a new all News/Talk format.

WLAC-RhythmOfNashvilleSingl

As I look back now, across all these thirty-eight years, I have to admit that it was in the subsequent days of unemployment in Nashville that the seeds of one day being my own boss, having my own business – a recording studio – were first planted.

But there were still fields yet to plow, and Airlift Productions and New Orleans were not even on my radar yet. But we’ll save Philadelphia, WIFI-FM and that wacky city of Brotherly Love for another day. 

That’s a story for another blog and another time.

In the meantime, the creative juices still bubble over daily at the Airlift Productions Studios on Pomona in New Orleans. Stop by for a cold one when you can. We’ll leave the mics hot for you!

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BoWalkerAirliftProductionsNOLA“I met Mike in the mid 80’s when I was first starting out in the business … a consummate professional and just a really nice guy. He has seen me through the highs and lows of this business during my 33 year career. I walked away in 2014. He has produced countless air checks for me when I was fired and looking for a new gig. I have recorded in all 3 of his studios from a closet at Rock Creek in Metairie, Mid City, and just recently when I recorded a few pages of an audio book as a demo for a friend/author who just released a new book. Mike is a true friend.” ~ BO WALKER, New Orleans radio legend & Former Production Director, I-Heart Media, NOLA

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

 

Airlift Mike Runs Off To Join The Circus & The Greatest Show On Earth

Airlift Mike (as John Saint John) personal certificate proclaiming him an "Elephant Equestrian Extraordinaire" in the Greatest Show on Earth
Airlift Mike (as John Saint John) personal certificate proclaiming him an “Elephant Equestrian Extraordinaire” in the Greatest Show on Earth

While here in 2018 Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus has given way to changing times, dwindling ticket sales & digital distractions, as well as a growing respect for the dignity of all animals – and taken down the tent poles for the FINAL time …

Allow me to sidestep the front-page politics and animal rights issues for some rather remarkable personal reflection.

“Mr. Peabody, set the Way-back machine for 1978!”

It was May that year, shortly before my WKBO/Harrisburg exit for St. Louis that yours truly – as John Saint John – felt the calling.

“The Smell of the Greasepaint and the Roar of the Crowd!” OMG!

As afternoon drive air personality for five years at WKBO, I was invited by the PR Team at Ringling Brothers to ‘run off to join the circus’ to help promote the circus coming to town.

Gunther Gebel-Williams showing-off! Hey, it's his JOB.
Gunther Gebel-Williams showing-off! Hey, it’s his JOB.

That May day in 1978 I showed up in Hershey, PA to help out with the circus parade, as all the animals made their way from the nearest train tracks on to the Hershey Park Arena for the show.

Gunther Gebel-Williams himself (long-famous at this point for his appearances with Johnny Carson & Ed Sullivan), the heroic, blonde, Germanic ‘Caesar of the Sawdust’ & Head Animal Trainer said to me “John, let me help you UP”

John Saint John high atop the largest elephant in the Greatest Show on Earth
John Saint John high atop the largest elephant in the Greatest Show on Earth

He then cupped his hands at knee-height, I stepped in, and he proceeded to catapult me to the top of the largest African bull elephant in the show for my circus parade ride to the arena.

Wow-ee-wow! There I was riding this humongous animal bareback, no saddle – his skin felt like corrugated cardboard – and there I was, steering him as I held him BY THE EARS!

As if this experience wasn’t already enough, after reaching the arena I was escorted past the maze of entertainers from all over the world, listening to a symphony of foreign tongues from all around the earth, to a makeup trailer.

Lou Jacobs, Dean of Clowns for over 60 years with Ringling Brothers
Lou Jacobs, Dean of Clowns for over 60 years with Ringling Brothers

Inside this trailer I was introduced to Lou Jacobs. Now at this point Lou was the Dean of Clowns. Imagine, he performed with Ringling Brothers for over 60 years, and is the guy credited with inventing the “Clown Car”.

So, Lou proceeds to personally make me up for the show… red-nosed, white-faced, arched eyebrows, a shockingly-orange wig and some crazy duds, so I can join them IN PERFORMANCE!

MichealZiantsAsRinglingBrosClownHersheyPa1978
Micheal Ziants all ‘tricked-out’ as a Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey ‘Clown for a Day’, Hershey Park Arena, May 1978

Now I’m IN the “Clown Car” – a wild customized VW Beetle with all the seats taken out and the windows painted so no one could see in, and they pile a dozen of us into this one little car.

We tear into the arena on-cue and are stopped to a screeching halt on the sawdust by a fellow clown cop who then proceeds to knock us all out as we exit the car!

All to the shrieks and howls of the delighted packed crowd.

What seemed so remarkable at this moment to me was that this was the first time I’d ever made people laugh – WITHOUT EVEN OPENING MY MOUTH!

MichealZiantsRinglingBrosCircusParadeHersheyPaMay1978Heading back to my humble apartment later that May night I couldn’t help but feel a bit small, you know?

Backstage at the circus I listened to every voice and tongue you can imagine, from entertainers who’d traveled from all over the planet to Hershey, PA – the high wire act was from Rio de Janeiro, Gunther & Lou were from Germany, the dog act crowd was Parisian, etc. – and I was just this over-hyped, fast-talking, ego-filled American disc jockey, born just north of Pittsburgh in New Castle.

But I certainly learned a lot about life that day. About community. About teamwork. And a love & appreciation for the most majestic creature on the face of the earth – the elephant.

Oh, and one other thing.

LIFE really IS a Circus!

And we’re not talking metaphor here.

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mike church“When I need BIG ‘I-know-that-guy’s-voice!’ sound for any production I am working on, the first call I make is to Airlift Mike.  Micheal’s penetrating vocals and second-to-none production quality give my movie & audio feature projects the instant respectability they need.   If you want to sound like a pro, meaning no one gives a second thought to your audio because it is so well executed, you want to call Airlift!” ~
MIKE CHURCH, Former World-Famous Sirius/XM Talk Show Host, Founding Father Film Maker, Writer & Producer of ‘The Spirit of ’76’ and ‘The Road to Independence’ & Creator of the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel

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

“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” ~ at Essence Fest 2018!

Airlift Mike Essence Fest Tweet July 2018

With all due respect to Jada, Tiffany, Regina, and the Queen, a “Girls’ Trip” this wasn’t! Not as crazy, foul or funky, but what a trip it was.

When the early June call came into my Airlift Productions Studios from a “Sam” at NYC’s Team Epiphany, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the proposed job.

Samantha Whidby, project manager, had found my website via a Google search, and was looking for some help at Essence Festival 2018.

Team Epiphany, as it turns out, handles some pretty hefty clients, like HBO, Nike… and Coca-Cola; and they had their sights set on making some “noise” for Coke within the Convention Center for this annual epic summer extravaganza.

The job?

Put together a team of audio engineers to man two recording studio booths at Essence Fest to engage and embrace the consumer by helping her to record unique beats on drum pads using Coca-Cola sound effects!

Yours truly, in specially designed Coke recording booth, Essence Fest 2018

What?

The beats would be then recorded to computer, saved as mp3s, and then sent to the consumer’s email address, allowing her to then save it to her phone, and even use it as her unique Coke-Essence-Fest ring tone.

Like I said, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the gig.

But make it, we did. And how!

Let the “Boys’ Trip” begin….

Kind of like Tom Sawyer’s summertime tale of talking his comrades into helping him paint the fence, within a few phone calls I’d lined-up my summer vacation posse.

“Special Ed” Pepper and “DJ-HB” Harold Bonner hard at work, Essence Fest 2018

Accomplished full-time civil engineer (and audio savant/all-around tech-head) Ed Pepper, along with college student (and aspiring DJ) Harold Bonner agreed to saddle-up for the ride.

So, how did it all come out?

Well, across the entire Essence Festival weekend – July 6th, 7th & 8th – we recorded over 300 unique beats!

And gave the consumer more than a “Coke and a smile”.

We gave them customized, unique ringtones like this…

** Coke SFX Beat with R&B groove mp3 ~ Essence Fest 2018 **

** Coke SFX  Beat with Hip-Hop groove mp3 **

Gee, we sure have come a long way from the days of Mad Men, Don Draper, and those “I’d like to buy the world a Coke…and live in perfect harmony” jingles of the 20th century, huh?

But throughout history and on into the future, “youth will be served” – Coca-Cola, that is.

And beats.

Airlift Mike Essence Fest 2018 posse – (L-R) Harold Bonner, Edmond Pepper, Micheal Z

 

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” I’ve had the privilege of working with professionals all over the world. Micheal Ziants is among the best of them. His professional integrity is only surpassed by his love for humanity. It is perhaps his boundless humanity that drives his passion for his work and his compassion.. to say nothing of his appreciation and understanding of the human spirit, at it’s most creative level.” — NORMAN ROBINSON, former CBS News White House correspondent & Longtime New Orleans Television News Anchor

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

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist