Tag Archives: Charles Guggenheim

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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Avery Caesar Alexander Addresses A Confederacy Of Dunces

Reverend & State Rep Avery Alexander Recorded VoiceOver At Airlift Productions NOLA
Reverend & State Rep Avery Alexander Recorded VoiceOver At Airlift Productions NOLA

To be sure, John Kennedy Toole never spent time with Rev. Avery Alexander. But I sure did.  Contracted to record “the Rev” in the 90s, I not only spent time with him, but was paid to document the whole affair!

And as New Orleans, the South, and America continue to wrestle with heritage, history, prejudice & racial issues – Dixie, flags & monuments – allow the Airlift Productions archives to help shed a little light.

Statue of "The Rev", at the new UMC Medical facility
Statue of “The Rev”, at the new UMC Medical facility

For the uninitiated, Reverend Avery C. Alexander (1910~1999) was a longtime civil rights activist & La. State Representative,  as well as an ordained minister. He marched with Dr. King, was dragged from protests, and has today had N.O. Charity Hospital, part of the new University Medical Center, and our Pontchartrain Expressway re-named in his honor!

John Kennedy Toole (1937~1969) was a New Orleans author, educated at Tulane, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction – posthumously – after his death at his own hand – for his homespun novel about the misadventures of the lazy, obese and unmotivated Ignatius J. Reilly in “A Confederacy of Dunces”. 

Toole & Alexander never met.  But perhaps they should have.

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Academy Award Winning Documentary Film Maker Charles Guggenheim Making Tracks At Airlift Productions ~ on Iberville in ’93

It was the fall of 1993, the Airlift Productions Studios were on Iberville Street mid-city NOLA,  and I was contracted by the late Academy Award winning Documentary Film Maker Charles Guggenheim to record Reverend Alexander VoiceOvers for his film, originally entitled “Shadows of Hate”.

In his final Academy Award-nominated film, Mr. Guggenheim was attempting to get at the root of racism, expose it, and hopefully lead to some answers to this vexing cancer of a problem – ‘America’s original sin’ –  maybe even tear it out at the root!

*** Avery Alexander talks of David Duke, the KKK, anti-Catholic & Jew bias … and the Dignity of Man … Airlift Productions – 1993. ***

Amazingly, with the impact Reverend Alexander made with his life here in NOLA and the South, there is no record of his speech, his voice, or his unfiltered thoughts ANYWHERE!

Except here … amid the ‘Confederacy of Dunces’.

 

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Avery Caesar Alexander being restrained by the NOPD during a scuffle at the controversial Liberty Monument re-dedication ceremony in March of 1993 (courtesy Times-Picayune)

 

Guggenheim, Alexander and I recorded and worked together for hours. I set the Airlift microphones for the Rev’s voice only …. while Charles paced the room, asking question after question, drawing out painfully revealing memory after memory, story after story …

 

*** Avery Alexander talks of prejudice, mistreatment, abuse, lynchings & murder… Airlift Productions – 1993.  ***

The film, for which these tracks were originally recorded, later was re-named “A Time For Justice”, and went on to win the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1995!

 

 

Today ~ in 2018 ~ Charles Guggenheim, Reverend Avery C. Alexander and John Kennedy Toole belong to the ages.  And the pages of history books.

Can we Americans … WILL we Americans, take the painfully divisive issues they wrote of, spoke of and lived through … move on, and leave them there too?

Please?

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“Mike, thank you for 25 years of successfully teaching Algebra to children of color and students who were living in poverty. They aren’t living in poverty anymore thanks to you and the mathematical skills you gave them. They are doctors, engineers and scientists today.” ~ the late John R. Lee, Founder of the I CAN Learn Mathematics E-Learning System

 

 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Oscar Buzz At Airlift Productions – 20th Century Style

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Academy Award Winning Documentary Film Maker Charles Guggenheim (1924-2002)  Making Tracks At Airlift Productions ~ on Iberville Street in ’93

Throw-back Thursday today throws the spotlight on Airlift Productions in the Fall of 1993 –  a most remarkable day, because when legends meet and connect, magic is created and sparks fly!

I mean, it’s one thing to meet powerful and important people, it’s another to get a quickie photo op with powerful and important people … and yet another thing altogether to spend an entire day with powerful and important people –  work with,  document and record the whole affair.

Academy Award Winning Documentary Film Maker Charles Guggenheim showed up at the Airlift studios that Fall morning in a rent-a-car from Baton Rouge.  After confessing he was a bit hungry, we took the elevator up into the commissary and I made him some toast – no butter, no jelly – just toast.  It’s what he asked for.

Not long after, Avery C. Alexander, along with his driver, arrived. Reverend Alexander is the closest thing New Orleans and Louisiana has ever seen to Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.  A longtime civil rights activist, ordained minister & LA state representative – ‘the Rev’s’ name is carved above the entrance to our N.O. Charity Hospital!

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Avery Caesar Alexander (1910-1999) being restrained by the NOPD during a scuffle at the controversial Liberty Monument re-dedication ceremony in March of 1993

Charles Guggenheim had contracted Airlift Productions & me to record his 60-Minutes-Style interview with Avery Alexander for sound bites to be used in his latest documentary project ‘The Shadow of Hate’.  

Wow! Some of the things that were said that day ….

~ Avery Alexander talks of prejudice, mistreatment, abuse, lynchings & murder at the Airlift microphones ~

Amazingly, with the historic impact that Avery Alexander made here in Louisiana during his life & civil rights mission – there is no audio record of him anywhere on the internet through a google or bing search.

There is now.

~ Avery Alexander talks of David Duke, the KKK, anti-Catholic/Jew bias … and the ‘dignity of man’ ~

Charles and Avery went at it for nearly two hours.  Guggenheim had me adjust the microphone for only Reverend Alexander – while he paced and questioned him persistently … drawing-out intimate and personal reflections.  Some session, I’ll tell you that.

The program that contained the recordings made that day in the Fall of ’93 at the Airlift Studios on Iberville Street – Guggenheim’s ‘The Shadow of Hate’ – was nominated for the Academy Award in 1995 … and opened more than one or two eyes and ears.  Yours? 

 

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Charles Guggenheim accepting the Academy Award for Documentary Film in 1994

In 2014, the beat goes on …

And even though both of these extremely fine gentlemen now belong to the ages, sad to say,  the problems they attempted to address and remedy that day are still very much with us.

From the locker rooms of the NFL to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri … and from the playgrounds of YourTown to the Main Street of AnyTown, USA.

But as the planet continues to grow smaller and smaller as each day goes by, perhaps ONE day we can all learn to live by the mantra – and it’s pretty simple, four words – ‘ONE Father, ALL Brothers’.

increasethepeace ~ Micheal Z

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans … since 1984