Category Archives: Careful-They Might Be Ziants

Let’s Discuss Mike Ziants & That “Discus Thing”

DiscobolusBefore John Saint John, before Mike McCann and even before New Orleans… decades before Airlift Productions, there was the discus.

The Discus Throw Event in Track & Field marks the first time that I ever proved to myself beyond the shadow of a doubt that I could do ANYTHING I wanted in life – IF I wanted it badly enough, applied myself, and focused ALL my talents and efforts.

Some lesson.

I’ve often been asked through all these years and all these homes and all these recording studios – about the ever-present discus thrower, Myron’s classic Greek statue – The Discobolus.

Some homophobes have actually implied – or even come right out and said – that I must be “gay” to have some statue of a naked dude so prominently displayed in my Airlift Productions Studios.

Really?

Here’s the REAL story ….

The Ziants family (L-R) John, Mike, Linda, Tom, Steve * in the backyard, Beaver Falls, PA 1969
The Ziants family (L-R) John, Mike, Linda, Tom, Steve * in the backyard, Beaver Falls, PA 1969

Growing up as the middle child of five, with brothers Tommy & John, who were the true athletes of the family (basketball stars both, brother Steve’s star would rise later), my acting & musical talents often took the “backseat” in the eyes of my father and, at age 15, I was committed to proving that I could “measure-up” and “man-up”!

So, it was the discus that caught my eye.  And all my attention.

I built a gym in the basement and went after it. Dumbbells and barbells rang and clanged late into the night. 

Discus Boy Mike Ziants practicing hurling that thing, after school, 1970
“Discus Boy” Mike Ziants practicing hurling that thing, after school, 1970

I studied film (yes, 8mm film) of the great ones – Al Oerter, Jay Silvester, Ludvik Danek  (look these guys up) – and perfected my throwing form and style.

Heck, I even almost ended up in the hospital, or maybe even dead, when at one track meet in the spring of 1970, some dude actually threw one INTO MY HEAD!

ZiantsDiscusAccident-1970My mother Phyllis would later laughingly joke, “Oh, maybe that’s what’s wrong with Mike!”

But … I just kept at it. With. Dogged. Persistence. Day. After. Day. Week. After. Week.

I even poured the concrete in a vacant lot by the family home and built my own practice circle.

You know, real ‘Home Work’.

Like I said,  I wanted it badly. I applied myself. I focused all my talents and efforts.

So, how did it all come out?

DiscusHighSchoolWell, the regulation high school discus weighs-in at 3 pounds-9 ounces, and competition models are made of wood and steel.

I placed 3rd-out-of-18 High Schools in the W.P.I.A.L. (Western PA Interscholastic Athletic League).  And went on to set the Northwestern High School Discus Record in 1970 with a toss of 149 feet & 11 inches – that’s half a regulation football field!

My record stood unmatched, untouched and unbroken for 10 years.

No, I never got the cheers and accolades that accompanied my brothers’ pulse-pounding,  jam-packed Shadyside & Northwestern High School basketball games; and Papa Charlie never did get a chance to make it out to catch me in action. 

But I sure got something else.

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Micheal Ziants High School Grad Pic 1970 Northwestern High, Beaver Falls, PA

The self-satisfied smile as week-after-week I won the discus event. And the knowledge that my mind & spirit had showed my flesh who was the boss.

You see, in  metaphysical circles today much is made of the fact that the human mind – sort of like a rubber band – once stretched to a new idea … never quite returns to its original shape.

Mine never has.

 

And after graduation that year, another crazy passion entered my life – RADIO!

As yours truly, Airlift Mike Ziants, went from hurling discs … to spinning them … on turntables.

And New Orleans, Louisiana wasn’t even on the kid’s radar. Yet.

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Airlift Productions Recording Studio, New Orleans, 2017

But that “discus dude”, Myron’s Discobolus, remains to this day in the Airlift Studios as an ever-present reminder that I can accomplish anything in the world that I want to  – if I just put my mind to it.

Some lesson indeed.

For a teenage boy. In the summer of ’69.

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SidNoelRideauMorgusRecordsVoiceOverForNewOrleansAtAirliftProductions
E.R.I.C. the talking skull records VoiceOver at Airlift Productions

“No recording studio I have worked with has given such personal attention toward perfecting the ‘science of sound’ than Airlift Productions in the hands of Micheal Ziants.  I thank him for the many voice-overs and sound effects he produced for my syndicated television shows “MORGUS PRESENTS”!

 
– – –  DR. MOMUS ALEXANDER MORGUS, www.morgus.com

 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Now Playing At A Flat Screen Near You ~ In Atlanta

aviva-by-kameel

Now playing – yes, still in 2018, that’s what ‘buyouts’ are all about – on flat screens all across Atlanta, from hotels to motels and on the web, is this classic piece all about a Mediterranean Grill in downtown Atlanta called “Aviva by Kameel”.

The creative crew at Destination Network in Florida came up with the copy, approach & video editing expertise.  The call came into the Airlift Productions Studios for V/O help on the announce tracks.

Yours truly – as the VoiceOver guy – is merely a supporting player, helping to tell the story.  The star is without question – proprietor, chief cook and bottle washer – Kameel Srouji!

A native of Nazareth, Israel, who emigrated to the states and Atlanta in 1979, this guy just lights up the screen with his intensity, passion, and drive.  And, oh, those eyes.

Kameel serving it up…with style & passion

My job?  Simply to tie it all together – level, even-handed, even understated – while the orchestrated symphony of the kitchen workers and the snappy music track propel it forward.

Fun! Bouncy! Electric!  And motivating hungry Atlanta natives & tourists to sample Aviva’s eclectic fare… and keep coming back for more.

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Broadcast Veteran – and Actor – Micheal Ziants, plying his trade at the Airlift Studios

Airlift Productions  & Airlift Mike ~ sort of like my buddy Kameel ~   ‘boxing-up’ VoiceOvers-to-Go since 1984!

Tour the Studios right now from your laptop or cell phone here ~ AIRLIFT PRODUCTIONS, or just call on the 504 at 833-8450.

 

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“My experience with Airlift Productions was top notch from the start. My company is based in Los Angeles and I had a client that needed to do a last minute VO session in New Orleans. Micheal was incredibly knowledgable and accommodating, not to mention a blast to work with! Our session turned out beautifully.” 

– LIZZ RANTZE, Executive Producer,  Rantze + Raves Productions, Los Angeles, CA

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Airlift Productions ~ Where the warmth of analogue lives… and the lightning speed of digital delivers. 

Mike McCann asks “What’s in a Name?”

AirliftProductions_L-R_SteveJohnson.MichealZiants-aka-MikeMcCann.JohnWalton.Q-93.WQUE-NewOrleans.TP-1983
The Legendary Walton & Johnson flanking that imported Yankee Mike McCann, Times-Picayune TV Focus, June 1983

It’s kind of funny after all these years and all this time, but I’m still asked about the ‘Mike McCann’ thing.

After all, most disc jockeys (as we were called back in the day) or air personalities on the radio used a stage name or alias for on-air purposes. Perhaps this gave us a more dramatic & imaginative persona, but it also assured us some form of anonymity and privacy. Some form.
 
A Pennsylvania native with roots further back in Austria & Hungary, and with brothers & uncles who’ve actually mined coal for a living, I’ve long been proud of the family name ‘Ziants’, but never used it on the radio.
The Ziants Boyz (L-R) Tommy (coal miner), Micheal (radio/recording dude), John (Ohio coal mine boss), Steve (newspaper writer/sports editor) ... on vacation, Holden Beach, 1994
The Ziants Boyz (L-R) Tommy (coal miner), Micheal (radio/recording dude), John (Ohio coal mine boss), Steve (newspaper writer/sports editor) … on vacation, Holden Beach, 1994
 
In fact, through 12 years on-air, all through my tours of duty in Harrisburg (WKBO), Saint Louis (KSD), Nashville (WLAC), and Philadelphia (WIFI) … I was known to the masses as John Saint John!
 
And it really worked.  I could play on and riff on that name all day long … ‘Philly’s one radio saint – that ain’t’, or (in St. Louis) ‘preaching the gospel according to St. John from the banks of the Mississippi’, and … well, you get the idea.
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Micheal Ziants ON-AIR at WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA as John Saint John rocked the state capital for years, 1973-1978
Without a doubt, the radio days/daze in Harrisburg, PA are among my favorite memories through all these years. “And don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way, ’cause we’re only here for a short while.”
 ** Micheal as John St. John,  On the Air @ WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA **
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Pre-MP3/Downloads – in the days of 45 rpm records – a WKBO Radio weekly music survey, charting record sales … with John Saint John

In fact, some of my best pals & brothers-in-arms from along the banks of the Susquehanna now belong to the ages and pages of broadcast history.

Big names all – Charlie Adams, “Big Jim” Roberts,  Marv “The Goose” Goslin, Fred “Honzie” Honsberger, Jeff Kauffman, Gary “The Pit” Magill … much love & respect, my brothers, and prayers to ‘the other side’. I cherish the time we spent ‘in the trenches’ together.

Your names – and broadcast contributions – are now the stuff of Legend.

** Micheal as John St. John, WLAC, Nashville, 1980 **

But you know, names, people and places will always change … and upon my arrival in New Orleans in 1983, so did the  “John Saint John” thing. 
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a full-page ad in Sunday’s Times-Picayune promoting WQUE’s Mike McCann

Q-93 (owned at the time by Insilco, an international silver company, really) employed a mid-day jock (who still today does production for Entercom’s WWL) by the on-air name of STEVE St. John … a jock that I would have to follow in afternoon drive!  Uh-oh.

WQUE management loved what I had been doing on-air in Philadelphia, and flew me down to hire me in June of 1983. But the name had to go!
Oh well, (sigh) what’s that old Billy Shakespeare line about, “A rose by any other name…”?
 
So, ‘Mike McCann’ was born.  And in one fell swoop, Q-93 hired me for afternoon drive … and these two crazed characters out of Beaumont, Texas – Walton & Johnson for morning drive … all in that one fateful week!

** Mike McCann On the Air @ Q-93/WQUE-FM, along with Walton & Johnson, May 1984 **

 
Now, at that point in time, John & Steve had only been together for 5 months as a team, having met for a breakfast and formed their alliance just a half year before – in Beaumont.
 I had been a top-rated and tested major market air personality for years, and was looking to do mornings at Q, but management had other ideas.  And that is the subject for yet another blog…  another time.

What’s in a name? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

 Or is it … ON it?
MichealZiants-aka-MikeMcCann-TV-Focus-TP_1984
 
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L-R.HeathAllen, TheresaAnderssonMichealZiantsRichLenzAirliftProductionsNOLA
L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions 

“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 Mike ~ Footprints In The Sands Of Time?

 

AirliftProductionsFeaturedInHarrisburgBroadcastinHistoryBook
Harrisburg Broadcasting: Images of America Book, written by Timothy P. Portzline … with Airlift Productions, John St. John, Micheal Ziants pics & stories

Footprints in the Sands of Time …. or skid marks at the intersection?

I guess it’s human nature for all of us to seek love and respect in life. From family, friends and co-workers.  And to be thought lovingly of and to be fondly remembered by those we’ve left behind is to never die. You know, “footprints”.

Well, as a life-long student of history and philosophy, I’ve read many a book on history, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been IN one … until now.

I don’t know what you – the reader of this blog – were doing in the 1970s, or even if you were alive in the ’70s, but in that decade I left enough creative blood and sweat in Harrisburg, PA radio station control rooms to fill a swimming pool!

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants as John Saint John, in the WKBO, Harrisburg, PA studios, circa 1976

And here, in the 21st century, Harrisburg native, broadcast vet, engineer & scholar Timothy P. Portzline has written ‘Harrisburg Broadcasting: Images of America’, wherein he devotes an embarrassing amount of ink to yours truly.

Available today through all the usual outlets and on Amazon here — ‘Harrisburg Broadcasting’ tells the remarkable story – along with images – of radio’s & television’s roots in the state capital of Pennsylvania.  Including that irascible John Saint John guy.

AirliftProductionsMichealZiantsFeaturedInHarrisburgBroadcastingBookByTimothyPortzline
Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants AKA John Saint John, featured in ‘Harrisburg Broadcasting’ History Book

Yes, it was my job every afternoon for over five years to entertain state workers (white & blue collar) in the ‘commuter combat zones’… topical, relevant,  cutesy, but never ‘rude, crude, or lascivious’.  And it was all LIVE and direct into car speakers years before the internet, web, mp3 players and digital downloads.

Listen to a WKBO Radio AirCheck of John Saint John from 1977, along with Listener Introduction here ….

This recording, along with a few others, helped to catapult me from Harrisburg to afternoon drive with the Pulitzer Family at NBC affiliate KSD Radio in Saint Louis the very next year.

MichealZiantsAKA-JohnSaintJohnWKBOSurvey
Pre-MP3/Downloads – in the days of 45 rpm records – a WKBO Radio weekly music survey, charting record sales … with John Saint John

‘Fun’ is too weak a word.  ‘Exciting’ barely captures the passion and drive.   Personality Radio to a then-20-something was EVERYTHING! It’s a good thing J. Albert Dame (WKBO owner) didn’t know it, but I would have paid HIM for the opportunity.

And to think, to this wild-eyed wanderer … New Orleans, recording studio entrepreneurship and Airlift Productions weren’t even dreams yet or even on my radar.

Just as well, we’ll leave it all to the History Books to sort things out and make sense of the whole affair. Footprints? Or skid marks?  Either way, I wouldn’t change a thing or trade a day. I did it my way.

In the meantime, the mics are hot and the creative juices are still flowing … in NOLA …  every day … at AirliftProductions.com 

MichealZiantsNewOrleansVoiceTalentAirliftProductions

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discovery_channel_logo“Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions offer an excellent and affordable option for VoiceOver & Recording.” — Michael Morris, Head of Post-Production, Discovery Studios, Hollywood, California

Blood is Thicker Than… Everything

ZiantsBoysHoldenBeach1997.L-R.TomMichealJohnSteve
The Ziants Boyz vacationing at Holden Beach, North Carolina 1994 (L-R) Tommy, Micheal, John, Steve
 Though we all came from the same mom & dad and were raised under the same roof all those years, we couldn’t have turned out more differently.  Or did we?
 
This Pennsylvania band of brothers – the Ziants Boyz – sure have cut wildly & widely different paths in life.  From the coal mines of West Virginia and Ohio to major American radio stations and newspapers, Phyllis & Charlie’s little boys have sure left their mark.
 
TheZiantsFamilyClearwaterFlorida1960
The Tribe of Ziants, Clearwater, Florida 1960, Steve Ziants in mama Phyllis’ arms, yours truly on left

While John & Tommy took it to the mines, Steve & I went the journalism & broadcasting routes. I guess even as kids we didn’t like to get our hands too dirty.

 
Today, I’m so proud of brother Steve because he is a published author.  In addition to his duties as the Page Designer for the sports section at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, you’ll also find his genius & talents for sale on amazon.com
 
In ‘100 Things Pirates Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die’, my brother Steve not only fine-tunes the angles in the rear view mirror, he also helps the Bucs fans perfect their bucket lists!
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The Ziants Clan in the backyard Lancaster, Ohio, 1997 (clockwise from upper left) – Linda, Tom, Steve, John, Micheal…with one proud mama Phyllis

 

Born to PA parents, a pitcher on the Kent State baseball team, and a rabid wordsmith and writer, it’s not too bold a statement to say that this was the book Steve was born to write – with his blood, not ink!
 
According to that wacky amazon crowd, there are “only 10 left in stock” so order soon, grab it for your Kindle, or get a good old-fashioned paperback, right here – Steve Ziants Book on Amazon.com

Oh yeah, and tell ’em that one proud brother ~ brother Mike at Airlift in NOLA ~ way down yonder in new oileenz sent ‘ya.

 steve book

Steve Ziants’ 1st literary outing, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Phyllis Ziants {1925-2016}: I Remember Mama

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Phyllis Dunkle Ziants (1925-2016), as a heart breaker Pitt nursing student, South Park, PA 1945

** originally written & published January 13th, 2016 **

I only ever got into one real fight in my life. You know, a real knock-down, drag-out fist fight. It was 1960s Shadyside, Ohio, I was the new kid in town and it was one of those classic ‘Your mama wears combat boots’, defending-your-mother’s-honor kind of fights.

Now, in 2016, this past Monday night, that same mother gave UP the fight.

Yeah, leave it to Mama Z to decide to drop her body and move on from this world at roughly the same time as the planet’s most notorious shape-shifter, rock icon David Bowie was doing the same an ocean away.

Bowie got all the headlines. Except here.

Born in the days before the Great Depression, in 1925 Johnstown, PA, Phyllis Ziants pursued a nursing degree at Pitt … and a certain young man from the neighboring coal town of Windber.

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The Ziants Clan – 2004 (L-R) John, Linda, Tom, Mike, Steve … and one proud mama

Who knew when Charlie & Phyllis went on that first date at the roller skating rink all those years ago what was to come? Oh, what a tangled web we weave when at first we practice to conceive.

Their union yielded five kids – Linda, John, Mike, Tom, and Steve.  

I’m sure we never crossed their minds as they skated around to the refrains of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” that night – it was their song – the one pop carried with him off to war —

                           “And now the purple dusk of twilight time
                            Steals across the meadows of my heart
                            High up in the sky the little stars climb
                            Always reminding me that we’re apart…”

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The Ziants tribe, Clearwater, Florida 1960, Steve Ziants in mama Phyllis’ arms

Wars end, as wars sometimes do, Charlie returned to his Phyllis, they got married in 1947 and began the odyssey. 

Together with her husband, she moved the Tribe of Ziants countless times across state lines to new homes, new churches, new schools, new doctors, seemingly every other year.

Baby Micheal with Mama Ziants and brother John, New Castle, PA 1952
Baby Micheal with Mama Ziants and brother John, New Castle, PA 1952

From Pennsylvania to Florida, then on to Ohio, back to Pennsylvania, then back to Ohio, Phyllis kept a steady hand on the wheel, kept us all fed, and kept us all occupied (in the days before digital) with music lessons, ping-pong, and card games.

She loved “Kings On the Corner”.

Her nursing degree sure came in handy, as she tended to every wound life could inflict –  lost jobs, unemployment, hospitalizations, broken hearts, divorces – and was always there with advice, consolation and compassion. 

Charlie & Phyllis Ziants - Snowbirds awol from Ohio - Gulfport, MS, 1992
Charlie & Phyllis Ziants – Snowbirds awol from Ohio – Gulfport, MS, 1992

Don’t get me wrong, like all humans, she had her quirks … boy, could she talk (seemingly endlessly at times, even derailing her own train of thought), tended to fall asleep in front of the TV (narcolepsy?), and (no doubt a skill cultivated through years of corralling five rambunctious kids) could be quite the ‘control freak’.

Hey, it was all part of her unmistakable charm.

After pop’s passing in 1996, she sold the family home and downsized to her condo, then to the nursing home, and then this past week to hospice care … and now, there is no more ‘then’.

I once comforted my boy Ben-Jam after his first visit to a funeral home with the thought that the body after death is but a fingerprint that the soul leaves behind.

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One of my final pics with Mom, Waterbury Court, Lancaster, Ohio 2010

What a gal. What a fingerprint.

And from the coal mines of West Virginia and Ohio, to the newspaper at Pittsburgh, to the recording studios of N’awlins … this woman’s fingerprints are everywhere.

Now, it’s eternal.

Much love, kisses, prayers & peace, mother dear.

You’re still the first one I think of whenever I fall down and go boom.

And please tell Sister T. and Charlie Z. “Hi” for me.

“You wander down the lane and far away
          Leaving me a song that will not die
          Love is now the stardust of yesterday
          The music of the years gone by…”

~ Mom’s final Birthday Wish to her boy, Mikey * July 2015 ~

Phyllis' ashes - and her Charles - are now interred to the left of this headstone, Grandview Cemetery, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Phyllis’ ashes – and those of her Charles – are now interred to the left of this headstone, Grandview Cemetery, Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Airlift Mike Closes-Out 2015 With A “Bang!”… Sort Of

Coitus not-so interruptis
Coitus not-so interruptis

Perhaps it’s because it’s what brought us all here to the planet – the “horizontal hokey-pokey”, the “old in/out, in/out”, the “mattress mambo” – that SEX hangs us all up the most.

And intrigues us the most. And sells … everything from beer to burgers, cars to movies.  Just ask E. L. James.

Yes, 2015 has been very good to old E. L. and her 50 Shades Phenomenon.  And to the gang at Airlift Productions as well.

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

So, as we wrap-up the old and prepare to unwrap the new (year), here at the Airlift Studios we’re, ah… well, unwrapping a few things too. Metaphorically speaking of course.

I’ve had quite the reaction from this audio file through the past months from both women and men, and after many requests to re-post it, I figured what the heck – let’s exit 2015 with a “bang”! 

Or at least the prelude.

Unlike so many of Airlift’s Productions, this one is raw. Naked. No music. No sound effects. No reverberation. Nothing. Except the human voice. Softly cooing into the human ear.

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants, in a photo shoot for Q-93/WQUE-FM back in the day, to promote that afternoon M&M Mike McCann

While the reaction from the movie version was mixed at best, this audio book sample has been rather warmly received. OMG. Plug in the ear buds and send the kids out of the room.

Its Airlift Mike’s rendition of a couple sassy & seductive pages from E. L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey”. 

 

Oh. My. 

So, as we exit the old year with a bang tonight, so to speak, and with tongue firmly in cheek, allow the Airlift krewe and me to wish you & yours a most fulfilling, scintillating, and  titillating  2016!

(did all that make it past the censors?)

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Charlyne Fabi“Micheal is an amazing talent. We were faced with several issues on a recent project and he was incredibly proactive in finding the perfect solution. He worked tirelessly and at lightning speed to create music that not only made our client happy but also garnered industry recognition.” ~ Charlyne Fabi, Creative Director, Right Hat LLC, Chicago, Illinois

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Airlift Productions ~ Telling America’s Greatest Stories from America’s Greatest City since 1984

Saint John & Saint Louis Dance With The Devil

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55-KSD Radio “Getting the Axe” Party in St. Louis 1979 … Ed Scarborough front row left, standing it’s John Saint John on left along with legendary St. Louis radio news dude Bob Hamilton of KMOX fame

It’s long been said that the Devil dances in empty pockets. You’ll also hear that the Devil is in the details. And in the summer of 1979, as John Saint John, I was dancing a very detailed jig with the Pulitzer Family along the banks of the Mississippi in Saint Louis, Missouri.

This whole tawdry memory & story was triggered this past week as I received a rather innocent enough email to the Airlift Productions Studios from a Lance Hildebrand (traffic reporter/VO guy), looking for a studio to work from while visiting New Orleans this fall. The subject line was “We’re both KSD Alums”.  Really?

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Saint John Congratulations letter from the office of the PA Attorney General, Harrisburg, PA 1978

Hired by the Pulitzer Family in the summer of 1978, I’d packed up my entire life, hopes & dreams and moved over 800 miles from Harrisburg, PA to take on the afternoon drive shift at 55-KSD radio in St. Louis.  Excitement was hardly the word!

That summer the Pulitzers held and owned pop/adult 55-KSD Radio,  NBC-affiliate KSD Television, AND the property that first put them on the map – The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, the most widely read paper in town. Long before there was a radio or a television set, Joseph Pulitzer had made his name in print.  The “Prize” was to come years later.

Little did I realize when I first took the job that this stunning combination of power, strength and reach would serve to ultimately lead to my untimely dismissal.

Let’s face it, in 1979, before the birth of the internet, the web & a digitally-connected America – one company could, in effect, monopolize what people would read in their newspaper, listen to on their radio, and watch on their television! What in the hell else was there?

Apparently, by 1979, the FCC had come to the same conclusion.

The Ronald Reagan years of deregulation and consolidation were yet to come, and the Federal Communications Commission, the government’s watch dog, had been wagging it’s paw at the Pulitzer clan for quite some time.  And the time had come.

KSD Radio's Name Game Promotion, as it appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
KSD Radio’s Name Game Promotion, as it appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Music DJs Ron Morgan, Ed Scarborough, and yours truly were all shown the door as Combined Communications out of San Diego purchased KSD Radio from the Pulitzers,  changed the format to News/Talk and decided to duke it out with KMOX.

Ironically, my afternoon news dude, the amazingly & wickedly talented Bob Hamilton, was retained through the transition, and later went on to legendary status at longtime CBS kingpin KMOX, where he still cracks the mic today! Let’s hear it  for the on-air longevity of an outstanding newsman’s career.

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Micheal Ziants wedding to Cookie, along with mom & dad, Creve Coeur, suburban St. Louis, 1979

Yes, despite my #1 ratings with women 25-49 in afternoon drive at 55-KSD – precisely what Lee Fowler, Ed Newsome and the Pulitzers had hired me to do – newly married and with a child on the way, along with the rest of the on-air music staff, I was summarily let go/fired in the late summer of 1979.  A pawn in quite the elaborate and corporate chess game.

But as my pop used to say “Illegitimus non carborundum est” (Latin for ‘don’t let the bastard grind you down’).  I picked myself up, dusted myself off … and headed to Nashville. But that’s the story for another blog another time.

Yeah, those summer nights after Cardinals games,  I dreamed of having quite the career in Saint Louis, maybe after radio parlaying my on-air work into writing for the Post-Dispatch one day, but that story was never to happen.

Dancing with the Devil? He’s in the details? You betcha’! And I guess I should have seen it coming.  When radio got into bed with big business, you knew it wasn’t going to end pretty. 

And when you get into bed with the Devil … you better be prepared to get it on.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Requiem For A Hero: Charlie Ziants (1925-1996)

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My Pop – Charles Edwin Ziants – at his favorite place, the beach, enjoying his last year, 1995

Yesterday, March 17th, was St. Patrick’s Day 2015, tomorrow will be St. Joseph’s Day 2015, and today (as the old Temptations record out of Motown would extol) … “was the day my daddy died”.

Some of my earliest recollections as a child are of trying to fall asleep in New Castle, PA, while listening to his raucous  laughter from down the hallway, as he sat in front of a b/w TV  watching Jackie Gleason in ‘The Honeymooners’. I would later join him.

What a character! ‘Good time Charlie’ to the gang around the golf course or bowling alley, ‘Mr. Ziants’ to many around the power plants (coal, then later, nuclear), ‘Chuck’ to Phyllis, his wife of 40+ years  … and ‘Sir’ or ‘Pop’ to my brothers and me.

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Chuck Ziants, who would later master the thing, at the accordion in 1935 Windber, PA, flanked by his Uncles Steve & Joe. And boy, could Charlie make that thing … sing!

Felled way before his time, at only 70, by Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, pop was otherwise healthy as a horse, as the expression goes. Extremely rare, CJD is often called the human equivalent of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) … in short, he ate something that didn’t agree with him.  CJD, named for the doctors that first discovered it, is incurable and invariably fatal.

Towards the end, he and I would joke about his going out like a Viking – sword in hand,  ship ablaze, on his way to Valhalla! What really happened was … they kept his brain for further study before the cremation.

The various faith traditions around the planet have different takes on the afterlife. Buddhist tradition holds that in the bardo (the in-between-world) the spirit gets to choose the parents into whom’s lives it will incarnate. If that’s true, thank God I picked this guy.

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Charlie Ziants – in a pic he sent home from Europe to his sweetie Phyllis – trying to look all macho and all that. I’d say, for only 21, he pulled it off.

Courageous – a veteran of both World War II & Korea … Brilliant – Ohio State Buckeye Grad & accomplished engineer …. Trustworthy – he raised five kids … Loving – a pat on the back or kick in the butt when needed …. Gregarious & Fun – always there with a joke, laugh, and a cold adult beverage … Supportive – a treasure trove of sage advice & counsel … Resilient & Resourceful – never without a job or paycheck … Athletic – a true bowling & golf ace … Musical – you should have heard him on the accordion & piano …  and with a Sense of Humor, coupled with a Voice and a Laugh, that could fill a hall and really grab attention.

Rumi, the Persian mystic & poet once wrote, “When you are dead, seek for your final resting place … not in the dirt, but in the hearts of men”.  Charlie even pulled this feat off too!

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Charlie Ziants quietly celebrating a rather good day on the golf course with his mates, Beaver Falls, PA, 1971

Have you ever been on the interstate and found yourself in between two big semi-trucks as you barreled down the highway, knowing that you were safe from state police radar because you were ‘in the cradle’, safe between these two big guys?

I would later comfort my mother, at both the funeral and today, that Charlie dropping his body on this date – the 18th of March, in between St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s day, on his way to the ‘other side’ – did exactly the same thing.

Pop, as the family today commemorates the 19th year of your passing , may God Bless You, sir. Many thanks for your service, both on foreign shores in the U.S. Army … and on these shores raising the tribe of Ziants.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984