Tag Archives: Harrisburg PA

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 2019 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 shouted 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 

No Cat In This Hat … It’s In The Cradle!

MichealZiants.AkaJohnSaintJohn.HarryChapin.WKBO.1974
Singer-Songwriter Harry Chapin visits with John Saint John (Airlift’s Micheal Ziants), lower right, and WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA, 1974 ~ Oh my, the hair!

As I walked from yet another funeral just this morning (rest in peace, Raymond B), Harry’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” was still ringing in my ears.

For yet another person (two in the same week!) had incorrectly credited Cat Stevens with writing this song. Perhaps it’s the ‘cat’ thing, but make no mistake about it, “Cat’s in the Cradle” is ALL Harry!

But let me tell you the real story.

Every time I hear ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’, (like when I’m making groceries at the Rouses and it’s playing overhead on the store speakers), or I hear ‘Taxi’, or ‘W.O.L.D.’ … I always flash back to this day in 1974!

I was John Saint John, Harrisburg, PA’s ‘politically apathetic, tho’ ultra-liberal and semi-hippie rock ‘n roll disc jockey’ at WKBO Radio, and HARRY CHAPIN was making HIS mark on radio stations all across the USA.

In fact, as few today remember, in addition to his stellar music career, Harry helped to create the Presidential Commission on World Hunger, and in 1987, President Reagan posthumously awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal for his dedication and tireless humanitarianism!

What an extremely fine human being and incredible spirit this guy was… and remains today.

 

HaryChapinAutographToJohnStJohnWKBO.1974
“To John St. John ~ Thanks for giving my music a shot and making the day at Harrisburg such a pleasure! Good luck & Keep on Trucking! ~ Harry Chapin”

 

On the day these pictures were taken, Harry and I spent the entire day together at the Harrisburg East Mall, and had lunch together – cheeseburgers and fries – along with his son, Joshua, the inspiration for his only #1 song, ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’.

Oh, and the pride of Upper Darby High in Philadelphia Todd Rundgren of ‘Hello, it’s Me’ fame sat in the booth with us too! But that’s another story altogether.

Harry, Todd and I laughed, exchanged jokes and even got philosophical and metaphysical together.  Some memory, I’ll tell you that.

As Harry’s epitaph on his tombstone reads, Harry Chapin (1942-1981) … ‘Oh, if a man tried to take his time on Earth and prove before he died what one man’s life could be worth… I wonder what would happen to this world?’

Indeed, Harry, indeed.

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WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA – ‘3-Ring Circus’ promo – with Todd Rundgren, Harry Chapin & son Josh, Cactus – and the WKBO gang – Harrisburg East Mall 1974 … Harry Chapin with son Josh shoulder to shoulder with John Saint John in lower right hand corner

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blackstoneaudiologo“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 ~ Making New Memories Every Day!  Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984 …

 

Oh, Captain! My Captain! Remembering WKBO & J. Albert Dame

AlbertDameWACDKittanningPA1952
J. Albert Dame as a young broadcasting buckeroo entertaining Kittanning, PA

Pardon me as I lace-up the Adidas for yet another jog down memory lane, but there are people you meet in life who change your life. Know what I mean? Meet one of mine.

It was the spring of 1973, and I wanted out of country radio and booth announcing at a TV station in Youngstown, Ohio, and INTO rock ‘n roll Top 40 radio so bad I could taste it!

 

 

AlbertDame
J. Albert Dame, PA Media Giant, died June 5th, 2016

No one wanted to talk with me about it except this guy.

I first met J. Albert Dame, along with his partner Mike Rea, behind the closed doors of a 3rd story walk-up radio station at 31 North Second Street in Harrisburg, PA. Program Director, Alexander-in-the-morning (Bob Klepic), wanted to give me the afternoon drive shift at the Rock of Harrisburg WKBO, but the decision rested on J. Al’s shoulders.

April-May 1977 Harrisburg, PA Arbitron Afternoon Ratings for John Saint John
April-May 1977 Harrisburg, PA Arbitron Afternoon Ratings for John Saint John (WKBO is underlined)

He took the gamble, and my real radio career was off to the races. He trusted me (what was he thinking?) with a LIVE microphone every afternoon for over five years, as I learned on-the-job what REAL radio was about, while earning a buck – and his TRUST.

My business card in the '70s - made for me, and given to me by J. Albert Dame
My business card in the ’70s – made for me, and given to me by J. Albert Dame

I was a then-twenty-year-old, away from home in the big city, and J. Al was like a 2nd father to me, doling out advice, compassion, and genuine concern for my well being.

Ironically, while Al loved what I brought to the mic on-air in afternoons, many was the time that he told me that my future would be in production!

Thanks, Al.  For everything.

Well, this past weekend, Mr. Dame decided to drop his body…and move on to the ‘other side’, and I wanted to pay him homage and love and respect by sharing this brief note with you.

J. Al's Memo to the WKBO staff upon John Saint John's exit for St. Louis
J. Al’s Memo to the WKBO staff upon John Saint John’s exit for St. Louis

As the world of broadcasting observes a moment of dead-air silence at his passing, I merely wanted to add my heartfelt sentiments and admiration.

Peace, prayers & angelic support to the Dame family, may God Bless You, Al, and let me spin one from New Orleans for you, Oh,Captain, My Captain …”Oh, when the Saints…go marchin’ in….”

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