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.
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 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!
** 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!
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.
But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.
“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
While I daily walk with ‘the saints’ – ya know, guys like Paul/Saul of Tarsus, Francis (of Assisi), Sister Thecla, et al – this post is all about my years and stories of time spent with our New Orleans Saints.
It all began way-y back in 1983.
As the young (er) DJ/Q-93 Radio air personality Mike McCann, doors were opened to me that, quite frankly, not everyone gets to walk through.
Together with Walton & Johnson (new to NOLA and also new to WQUE-FM radio), we emceed talent shows, cheerleader competitions… I even hosted Ladies’ Nights at the Airport Sheraton’s nightclubs known as Nightlite and Valentine’s.
My ‘job’ on those nights was to entertain – walk the club with a wireless mic, run crazy contests, give away concert tickets, albums (yes, vinyl), tell jokes, and keep the party going.
The club was packed every night and the dance floors were jammin’ to the likes of Rick James, Prince, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder….
The regular crowd on those poker-hot wild nights included Morten Andersen, Brian Hansen, Dave Waymer, Saints new & old, even members of the then-fledgling U.S.F.L.’s New Orleans Breakers.
In the ’80s, the Saints’ go-to kicking team was Morten Andersen & Brian Hansen, and one night I showed up for Ladies Nights only to find Morten & Brian, dates in hand, waiting in line to get in!
Of course, I helped them ‘cut’ the line. Wouldn’t you?
Legendary Saint free safety, the late Dave Waymer (ole #44) was a regular, sitting at the end of the bar through many a night. I have fond memories of Dave, the laughs we shared, as well as the the way-too-many Canadian Moosehead beers he would send my way.
Sadly, upon exiting NOLA for brief stints with the 49ers & Raiders, Dave died suddenly on his North Carolina farm at the age of only 34.
In the early ’80s, now-Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen, the Great Dane, was new to the states & New Orleans, while I was freshly-minted as the new afternoon drive guy on Q-93.
Upon meeting in ’83, we bonded, talked on-air together, laughed and swapped stories, hung-out at the clubs together, even chased a woman or two together. Great guy, great times, greater stories.
And not many fit for a blog post.
Fast-forward to the ’90s, and in the early days of Airlift Productions, in the Iberville Street years, my audio production skills, voice and writing came to the attention of Archie Manning.
Archie, together with Mississippi bodybuilder Steve Smith, created Archie Manning’s Golds Gym at Cleary and Veterans Blvd. in Metairie, and I began a two-year run working alongside Archie to promote the gym.
This involved regular meetings with Archie, my writing of all the spots, audio production, and regular studio visits to record with Archie.
While I’ve never met his boyz Peyton & Eli, I’ve sure shared some amazing times with ole #8, the dude that started it all!
I first met and recorded living legend & ‘ground pounder’, the Saints’ Dulymus “Deuce” McAllister in 2016, after being sought out to record his voiceover tracks for the Mississippi State Child Protective Services Department.
Together, we phone-patched to their offices and captured his voice for use in a PSA campaign that ran all over MS. radio & TV for a cause that Deuce & I hold close to our hearts – keeping our kids out of harm’s way.
‘Nuff said. But what a great, humble, and soft-spoken guy this is.
St. Louis-bred Brad Edelman, ole #63, was drafted by the Saints in 1982, got to NOLA just a bit before me, and went on to become the first offensive lineman in the history of the Saints selected to the NFL Pro Bowl.
He exited the NFL in 1991, began a thriving photography business, took up drumming, the harmonica, acting – and took to hanging out with yours truly.
Brad has come to my Endymion parties on Iberville Street, got to know my family, bought me lunches… and has spent a lot of time around my Airlift Productions recording, laughing, and, well, just being brotherly.
Through my now-36-year run here in New Orleans running the Airlift Productions Studios – from Iberville to Pomona – I’ve certainly got more than my share of colorful stories.
But my days/daze with our New Orleans Saints, young & old, still with us and those departed, are among my favorites.
And today, with so much of my work centered around the AudioBook field, I was joking just the other day with son Ben about Drew Brees.
Come on, I told him, if I’ve already recorded James Carville, Mary Matalin, Congressman Steve Scalise, & Necar Zadegan for the top AudioBook producers in NYC… even personally read “The Chef” for James Patterson’s gang….
Upon hanging up the cleats and retiring, walking away from the game, it’s safe to say that ole #9 Drew’s got a book or two in him, right?
Stranger things than this have already happened – one day he’ll need a great space, a finely-tuned recording studio, together with an experienced and reliable producer, to lay it down…
”Airlift Productions in New Orleans – Perfect sound in the booth, amazing engineering, and Mike is a man of all trades who can do voice work as well. (Probably the most golden-toned voice I have ever heard and we’ve all heard some lovely voices)… I cannot say enough nice things about the experience of working with him.” ~ LISA CAHN, Veteran Producer, Hachette Audio Book Group, NYC
With all the equipment in the Airlift Productions studios – bouncing meters, glowing lights, ‘bells & whistles’ – the one thing visitors and clients seem to remark the most about is, strangely enough, the Window!
Its custom-cut, stained glass beauty captures every New Orleans sunset from it’s setting in the western wall of the studio, and gives constant feedback on current sky conditions as it reflects the tempo of each and every recording day.
Inspired by ancient Mayan illustrations and pyramid hieroglyphics, it was custom-designed to carry the colors of the Airlift Studios into it’s intricate artwork – from the passionate purple of the walls to the midnight blue carpet & charcoal grey acoustic foamed walls.
“The Gift of Life”, as it is called, symbolizes the spiritual journey of man.
At the center is the flame-like symbol of God who is Light & Life, the Creator of All.
The Triangle – symbolizing Mind, Spirit & Soul enlightened by God in its midst – is within the circle that signifies God is All in All, without beginning or end.
And surrounding the circle are the glyph signs for sky, earth’s abundance, and precious water.
And this magnificent artwork accomplishes all this spiritually without being overtly religious, to say nothing of ‘choosing up sides’ – favoring one religion, faith, or approach over another.
“The Gift of Life” also serves as the perfect backdrop and vibe for all the intensely creative audio projects & work being recorded and captured at the Airlift Productions Studios.
From Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts roasting…” to Bing Crosby’s “I’m dreaming…” to Karen Carpenter’s “Greeting cards have all been sent…” the Christmas holidaysevery year have always been about all things audio to me.
And since I long ago left the snow-covered northeast for warmer climes in New Orleans, I’ve also replaced the crunch of snow and the sound of snow shovels scraping across concrete sidewalks with holiday sounds of my own making.
So, on this Christmas 2018, let’s queue up a few for this audio Christmas greeting from NOLA…
While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Peyton or Eli Manning, I sure have met and worked withtheir pop Archie.
In the early days of the Airlift Studios down on the Crescent City’s Iberville Street, acting as writer and producer for Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym, it was my job to work with Archie on his various different radio campaigns.
Among my fave creative efforts for Archie was this one, wherein I was Santa Claus and he was the kid on Santa’s knee at the mall telling me what he wanted for Christmas.
** Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym ** from 1992 **
And with our Saints making a Super Bowl run here in late 2018, how much fun was that?
Another 1990s Christmas effort of mine has resurfaced here this Christmas season, as old pal Sue Bonano resurrected a couple spots of mine to air on Entercom radio stations here in 2018!
Yeah, it all sounds a bit crazy but, with a little editing, a radio ad that is now 23 years old, was brushed-off and aired all over NOLA this holiday season to lovers who weren’t even born when it first aired.
** Sue’s Jewelry “Because…” Radio Campaign, again in 2018 **
As the Christmas audio memories continue…
Hired by a Chicago-based ad agency called Right Hat in late 2015, I was tasked with lining-up the talent and recording a web-based “politically correct” Holiday greeting card for a Washington, D.C. law firm.
Wait a tick, a what?
That’s right. A politically correct greeting card! So I tracked down a trio of very talented professors at our Loyola University to come to Airlift Productions to record a classic thatwould have old Ebeneezer himself doing a double take.
** Right Hat’s take on Christmas 2015, with Airlift Mike **
Whew! Let’s decompress after that one, OK?
And at the same time shift gears totally.
Shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific school shooting at Newtown, CT just before Christmas in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, I was inspired to hit theAirlift Studios.
Taking an anonymous internet writing and adding Danny Elfman’s mystical score to my voice, I came up with an answer from the “other side” as to what happened to those beautiful young souls that fatefully painful December morning…
** Christmas Eve in Newtown by Micheal Ziants**
Without a doubt, Jesus of Nazareth is the Reason for the Season!
But given the fissures & cracks in our 21st century society, is it any wonder why the season can be so paradoxically wonderfully troubling and problematic for so many?
Meanwhile, the prayers and reflections continue to this day…
Like I said, for this Christmas audio greeting card – Funny, Sarcastic, Profound, Inspirational.
Which pretty much sums up my feelings, my take here on my 66th Christmas here on the 3rd rock.
(To be sung) As the old tune goes, … “She’s Oh, Oh, Oh what a gal!”
Pomona may be just another street to neighbors & friends here just outside New Orleans, but to me it’s a lot, lot more.
After flooding at the Iberville Street Airlift Productions location TWICE through my 1989 – 2001 stay, just off Carrollton & Canal, I re-located the whole biz to suburban Metairie well outside the ‘bowl’ that is Orleans parishin March 2001.
Pomona sits on Metairie ridge, naturally above the flood plain and, ironically, not even a mile from the now-infamous 17th Street Canal which breached and gave America the historical tragedy known as “Katrina”.
Furthermore, the Bonnabel subdivision here in Metairie seems somewhat preoccupied with the Holy (or otherwise) Roman Empire.
I routinely walk myAirlift Productions mascot the Shadeaux past streets named “Nero”, “Claudius”, and “Feronia”. Go figure.
Well, unbeknownst to most of my neighbors and friends here in the ‘hood, Pomona is the ancient Roman mythological goddess of fruitfulabundance!
Not that she gets that much attention here in this hectic, frantic-paced #MeToo generation, but check out her Wikipedia page here.
Living, loving, playing, and, yes, working from Pomona for what is now nearly 18 years, and having found a success beyond my wildest dreams, I’d have to say that perhaps the Romans were onto something here.
Well, lemme see here, through my tour of duty on Pomona, I’ve seen in/out the studio doors… Chef John Besh, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Dr. Morgus (the Magnificent), Ronnie Lamarque, James Carville, Mary Matalin, SteveScalise, Deuce McAllister, Quvenzhane Wallis, Alden Ehrenreich, Toby Kebbell, Morris Bart, Lee Zurik, Greg DiLeo, Rich Lenz, Norman Robinson, Rachel Wulff, Camille Whitworth, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Stacy Head, John “Spud” McConnell, Edoardo Ballerini, Ed Clancy, Jamie Neumann, Scott Walker, the Krewe of Nyx, Bradley Edelman, Anne Gisleson, David Menasche, Mike Church, Nathan Ales, P.H. Fred, John R. Lee, and, well, even some folks you may have heard of. (I know, cheeky, huh? But try Googling just a few of these names…)
And from the high ground on Pomona, I’ve produced work that encompasses most all media – from Radio spots, TV VoiceOvers, Educational Software, Radio Imaging, Animation VO, Website Explainers, Industrial Narrations & Podcasts… to Phone Messages-on-Hold, CD-ROMs, and AudioBooks.
Furthermore, my AudioBook recording efforts have now included work with the biggest AudioBook producers on Earth – Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Blackstone, Harper, Listen-Up & Random House.
So, while I indeed thank the One True Living God for the inspiration and effort to have made the move to Pomona all those years ago… let’s not leave the oldgal herself out.
Around the Airlift Productions Studios, I still get into this one with my video production pals – when it comes down to audio versus video, which of the two is more powerful and packs the bigger punch?!?
I mean, what is all televison except radio… with pictures? Which came first? And where are the more powerful emotional cues?
You know, the ones that capture attention, motivate, inspire, scare … and drive someone to action?
Pause to consider, the very first sense that develops as the human develops within the mother’s womb is …. wait for it – the sense of HEARING! The growing infant HEARS the mother’s heartbeat and the rush of amniotic fluid, almost like ocean waves, surrounding it’s ears.
The eyes are nowhere in the picture yet.
Now, picture yourself in a movie theater. You are terrified by the motion picture – from b/w ‘Psycho’ in the ’60s to the latest flick about some camp counselor gone crazy chasing teens through the woods with an ax – and you can very simply close your eyes.
But you cannot close your ears!
The shrieks of terror, the ragged breathing, the sound effects, the dramatic music pulsing and pounding. Even when all sounds disappear and come to a complete … heart-pounding … stop!
Interestingly, the Creator gave us eyelids… but He didn’t give us EAR-lids!
Now, talk to a hospice caregiver, and they’ll quickly tell you from experience that in the majority of cases the final sense to leave us at death – is the sense of hearing.
More to the point, in the case of television advertising, when an ad comes on, many are off to the bathroom or into the kitchen. In this case, all the expensive video editing software and fancy visual zips and zaps are superfluous! They are not even there in the experience of the intended viewer.
And since time immemorial, the story-telling tradition, as one generation passed legend and myth and bedtime stories down to the next, the entire ‘presentation’ was aural – powerful, memorable and impact-full.
Sorry, video aces, but audio trumps video. It will always be AUDIO that drives the emotional train.
“Airlift is THE place to go for a top quality demo. With Mike behind the board you are in very capable hands. His vast knowledge and command of all things audio blends with his laid-back fun environment to bring out the best in any voice. Airlift Productions has the experience and all the tools necessary to make a voice-over reel that is on par with anything you would find in New York or LA!”
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.
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 ….
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.
Gee, it’s Thanksgiving week in New Orleans, we’re not even really into the Christmas season yet, and I’ve already got one of my fave holiday stories.
The Airlift Productions studios‘ bat phone rings Tuesday morning, and who’s on the other end but my old friend and client Sue Bonano of Sue’s Jewelry here just outside NOLA on fashionable, swanky Old Metairie Road.
You see, kind of like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, who once said that if she ever went looking for happiness again she’d never look further than her own backyard, some of voice work’s & radio’s most rewarding gems can be found not on national TV or radio… but right down the street.
At any rate, Sue says to me, “Mike, do you remember that radio campaign we ran back in the ’90s? Those ‘Because…’ spots?”
I knew immediately what she was talking about: a pair of sixty second ads I’d put together for her in a year that was, well, twenty-one years ago!
As I pulled them out of the Airlift Archive, still safe & sound – on those little DATs (digital audio tapes) – I’ve got to admit, they still sounded pretty effective.
I mean, to be clear here, no one actually talks like this, and I’m obviously putting on a show, playing on emotions and heart strings like a Hallmark Channel special meets Harlequin romance novel.
Effusive. Intensely dramatic. Even melodramatic. And, along with the DeBeers diamond music swelling underneath and all around, they make quite the poetic & compelling case for ‘Diamonds for Christmas”.
And the only thing I had to edit-out was the line saying, “No payments until February 1996” which, of course, would never work.
So, I input them to the computer, created the mp3 files, and just like that, these ear-gasmic creations from November 1995 are now airing through the holi-daze all over NOLA at an Entercom radio station near you.
For yet another generation of lovers here in 2016.
“Well, Mike, you’ve done it again! Thank you for producing another rock and sock-em voiceover demo that I can be proud of!! Your professionalism and expertise is greatly appreciated and highly respected. I highly recommend Mike of Airlift Productions to anyone in the industry for great quality production work. He is your man!” ~ Karlin T. O’Neill, VoiceOver Artist
In my thirty-plus years of recording voice overs & musicians at Airlift Productions in America’s most fascinating and interesting city, you could say that I’ve encountered quite a few characters.
Doctor John (aka Mac Rebennack) has spent hours with me, recording voice-over tracks for awards shows, and even cartoon voice tracks for Quincy Jones’ Take it Back Foundation.
I still can’t get over that, not even asking if he could smoke, at the Airlift Productions Iberville location, he pulled out a cheroot at the mic and lit it up! (We rushed an ash tray in to his rescue.)
For several years in the 90s, Peyton & Eli’s dad Archie Manning had the Gold’s Gym franchise here just outside NOLA in Metairie, and I served as a one-man ad agency, writing, voicing & producing all the radio ads for the gym, which brought Archie & his partners regularly into the Airlift Productions Studios.
** Archie Manning’s Golds Gym Christmas Radio :60 Classic – with Airlift Mike as Santa, along with Archie, at the Airlift mics **
The cast of characters – from the mayors (both Morial & Landrieu), to all the city council members, Morgus the Magnificent, stand-up/fall-down comics, radio rebels, misfits, in-laws and outlaws – has become the stuff of legend.
But I would have to say the most memorable and colorful of them all is none other than James Carville!
We’ve spent dozens of hours together one-on-one – with only a producer, long distance on a phone-patch Skype connection – recording two separate audio books, ‘It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!’ and, along with wife Mary, ‘Love & War’.
Now, by his own admission, James has untreated ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He’s tried the drugs but didn’t like how they made him feel, so he and Mary just ‘deal with it’. Add (ADHD) me to the list.
Imagine working through hour-after-hour with someone in this situation and condition. Add to that, someone very highly opinionated (ya think?), outspoken, given to tantrums … and ‘caged’ for an extended length of time! Yowza & Yikes!
“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 quite frankly, the comfort, make it the only place I want to record now or in the future” ~ James Carville
And, needless to say, but I will anyway, the out-takes are simply priceless! Perhaps a tale for a blog for yet another day.
A candid shot – through the studio door into the Airlift ‘green room’ – of Carville on the cell, taking a needed break, talking to George Stephanopolous in DC, with his feet ON my ping-pong table! Really, James?
“Mike is a craftsman. You don’t often hear that word when describing digital media, but it most certainly applies to work done at AIRLIFT PRODUCTIONS. Mike’s produced literally thousands of audio segments for me, and they’ve all sounded perfect. He also understands how to get things done! I wish all of my contractors were as responsive and committed to meeting deadlines. You’re in good hands with AIRLIFT PRODUCTIONS.” ~ Ethan Anderson, Former Manager of Multi-Media Development for JRL Enterprises, Creators of the “I CAN Learn” Mathematics Educational Software