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Love & War ~ Airlift Productions Records James Carville & Mary Matalin

James Carville & Mary Matalin on Meet the Press, along with former BFF, the late Tim Russert

Opposites attract. No, huh?

In “Love & War: 20 Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters & One Louisiana Home”, James Carville and Mary Matalin detail a life few could imagine, let alone live!

A life lived at the intersection of Power, Politics and a Changing America … and while in the middle of it all, trying to keep a relationship together and raise two daughters – all at the same time.

And, boy, does politics ever make for strange bedfellows! James steered the Clinton presidential campaign both times (even steered him through the Lewinsky scandal), and Mary, who served under both Bush presidencies, was IN the White House the fateful morning of the 9-11 attack in the skies over Manhattan. Bush wasn’t. Mary was.

Their stories, their first-hand accounts, their front-row seats to some of America’s most fascinating recent history are palpable, riveting, and most remarkable.

And capturing it all through the Airlift Productions microphones for posterity in the audio book version of “Love & War” simply has to be one of my most remarkable gigs so far this century.

Mary Matalin and James Carville tell it like it is one Sunday morning on Meet the Press … and later on, at the Airlift Productions studios in the audio book “Love & War”

The sentiment, the candor, the forthright honesty, the raw emotion. Admittedly, I felt alternately like a coach, a cheerleader, a psychiatrist … and even a priest in a confessional!

One of my fave stories from James was of his trip to Miami for the Saints SuperBowl win, wherein he details being on the field with Drew Brees, then off to the shuttle bus for transport back to the hotel. On the bus, he re-connects with the legendary Archbishop of Orleans Phillip Hannan. Then, who steps on the bus but Kim Kardashian, who’s “seeing” Saint running back Reggie Bush at the time. Imagine, if you can, James – now sitting in between these two and facilitating the introductions! Oh my. Comedy ensues…

** Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants reflects on his first-of-many recording sessions with James Carville, along with some classic James quips and thoughts … oh my! **

The very first day I recorded with Mary Matalin, she showed-up dressed to thrill! All dolled-up and made-up, decked-out for a night on the town – ah, to record with me in a dimly lit studio all afternoon? H-m-m…, I said, whaddup with dat? Well, after four arduous hours at the mic (a quite impressive feat, I might add), she stands up and says, “Well, gotta’ go, Bill’s in town!” And just like that, she & hubby James were off to dinner in the French Quarter – with Bill Clinton!

I could go on and on about our collective twenty-some hours of recording and working together, but you get the idea.  One of the – if not THE – most fascinating sets of recording sessions I’ve ever logged at the Airlift studio and witnessed.  Let alone orchestrated!

Candid shot of James Carville taking a break from the Airlift mics, in the Airlift ‘Green room’ on the cell with Stephanopolous ~ and with his feet on my ping-pong table!

The News, it has been said, is History – the First Draft. And two ‘Wrongs’ don’t make a ‘Right’. But three ‘lefts’ will!  

As a profound political atheist, I don’t have a dog in this hunt.  But in the case of these two, I was certainly thrilled to be saddled-up and along for the ride.


Airlift Productions is proud to have served as the audio launch pad for “Love & War”, available as an audio book via all the usual outlets. Preview it, or grab a copy – CD or download – from Amazon here.

And the next time you hear that old line, “Politics sure makes for strange bedfellows!” – now you know the rest of the story.

Micheal Ziants and Political Firebrand James Carville at the Airlift Productions Studios in 2012, after recording James’ “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!”

“I have 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, Tulane professor and Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation.

** Airlift Productions – Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984 **

Blood is Thicker Than… Everything

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.
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!
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

Menasche, Ziants & Carell – Take #2

Educator-Author-Brain Cancer Activist-Major Mensch David Menasche before doctors and Life had their way with him… proud, defiant and topless – displaying his “I Decide” tattoo

Hard to believe, but this past Thanksgiving weekend 2015 marks one year since my pal David Menasche dropped his body … and moved on.

Oh, not that it was any surprise – diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2006, he/we often joked as he would come for recording sessions at the Airlift Productions Studios, that here came a “Dead Man Walking”. He knew he was on borrowed time for some time. We all did.

But it was the things, the issues, the subjects we talked of endlessly that continue to reverberate and resonate still today through all of my waking, and yes even sleeping, hours.

Emerson, Thoreau, Shakespeare, Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, even Scot William Wallace from Mel’s “Braveheart” and the concept that “Everyone has to die … but not everyone truly LIVES.”

Case in point, pictured above, David even had his body tattooed with the words “I Decide”, so even while unconscious on an operating table, he was letting the attending doctors know who, indeed, was in charge of the flesh he carried around.

Cajones? Guts? Tenacity? Courage?  I don’t think the average man walking around today in America even has a concept or a clue.

And to think that he dragged his body across America – SOLO – from south Florida … all the way to the Golden Gate bridge & Hollywood, then back east & north to New York City, before coming to crash in New Orleans for awhile – all in a quest to figure out if his life, his very existence, even ever mattered.

David Menasche in the Airlift Productions Studios, November 2013, recording “The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons”

Rest in Peace and rest assured, brother David, it certainly did.

As you scramble across the holidays to find that perfect stocking stuffer, and you’re looking for something to make a difference, consider “The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons”  from that wacky Amazon crowd.

Or, alternately, you can grab the AUDIO download for your ipod or digital device here – “The Priority List” Audiobook – in David’s own resilient words captured in November 2013 at the Airlift Studios.

A teaser from the Airlift-produced prologue is here ….

David’s take on working with Airlift and me? While I’m certainly gratified and humble regarding my contributions, the testimonial he gave me after days spent recording his audio book is a tad embarrassing, but very heartfelt and sincere —

“I would like to thank Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions for making the recording of the audio version of my book such a pleasure. Not only is Micheal an incredible audio engineer, he is my new best friend. This guy is one of the coolest cats I have ever had the honor of meeting. He made me comfortable, he made me feel talented, and he actually made my book into a product I can actually imagine people enjoying listening to. So far, the opportunity to work with Michael on a future project is my best incentive to write another book.” ~ David Menasche

Meanwhile, Hollywood and Steve Carell are laying plans for their adaptation for a cinematic treatment.  Having worked intimately with David, and being a fan of Steve’s work through the years, I feel he is the perfect choice for this heroic, poignant drama-dey in-progress.

Warner Brothers selects Steve Carell to portray David Menasche in the movie version of “The Priority List”

Norma, if you’re reading this – stay strong and keep your faith. Paula, if you’re reading this – David understands. Jennifer, if you’re reading this – call me, let’s compare notes and catch-up.


Actor Steve Carell’s Tribute Tweet to  David Menasche


In closing, just one of David’s and my favorite thoughts that we spoke of, meditated on, and laughed often about continues to reverberate and resonate – “You’re a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust. What do you have to be afraid of?”


Airlift’s Micheal Ziants & Author/Bud/Educator/Major Mensch David Menasche sharing recording studio stories and after-dinner laughs in the Airlift commissary, November 2013


Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

David Menasche (1973~2014) Requiem For A Hero

David Menasche Gives Up ‘The Fight’ at age 41, but not before recording his remarkable story at Airlift Productions

I first met David Menasche (pronounced ‘Men-AH-shay’) on November 7th, 2013 when he showed-up at the Airlift Productions Studios to begin recording his audio book version of “The Priority List:  A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons“.

Contracted by Penguin Audio out of Manhattan & Listen Up Audio Books in Atlanta to help work with David in the recording of this remarkable story, little did I then realize what I’d signed up for.

David Menasche, a gifted English teacher from  Miami, Florida at Coral Reef Senior High was diagnosed in 2006 with gliablastoma multiforme cancer – he had a lemon-sized brain tumor in the right temporal lobe … and was given only months to live. 

But blessed with a wicked sense of humor and the fearless courage of Hercules, David thumbed his nose defiantly at the grim reaper and proceeded to live nearly another EIGHT YEARS, defy all the odds, travel to hang with former students, write a best-selling book about his travels – and come to the Airlift Studios to record it with me.

David Menasche in the Airlift Studios with Micheal Ziants recording “The Priority LIst”, November 2013

We quickly became fast and close pals. Together with his confidant and ride Jen Brewer, we drank scotch & Wild Turkey together, had dinners together, laughed and joked… talking life, philosophy, world religions, great literature  and the hemorrhaging of the American Dream.

A lover. And a fighter. David’s amazing story is without a doubt the 21st century’s answer to Robin’s “Dead Poets Society”.

Airlift’s Micheal Ziants & Author/Bud/Educator/Major Mensch David Menasche sharing after-dinner laughs in the Airlift commissary

LISTEN to just a taste of our sessions together in this piece of audio I produced from his intro to “The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons” here ….

~ Excerpted Intro to “The Priority List” with introduction by Micheal Ziants, courtesy Amazon.com, Audible.com & Listen Up Audio Books 

Pause to consider what this dude pulled off – with only half a brain, half a body, and nearly zero vision (legally blind) he traveled via trains, buses, even hitching rides, across America to visit former students and landed a book deal based on his journal & writings.

Actor Steve Carell’s Tribute Tweet to Major Mensch David Menasche

Now, today in 2014, Warner Brothers out of Hollywood has bought and secured the movie rights …  and cast none other than box office charmer Steve Carell to play him in the upcoming movie version of  David’s “The Priority List”! Really.

Menasche post-op. He would  later joke to frightened kids in airports & train stations that he’d been ‘kicked by a horse’. David finally gave up ‘the fight’ and dropped his body, surrounded by family & friends on November 20th, 2014 – one week before Thanksgiving.

After our last meal together, as I saw him out the studio doors and to the car, his final words as Jen drove him off were only to quote Maximus from “Gladiator” as he shouted to me “Strength & Honor, my friend.  Strength & Honor!”

And his final text message to me – just last month – was “Hello friend, I hope this finds you ridiculously well and happy.”

I am indeed, brother David.  To have known you.  Now it’s eternal.

David Menasche (1973-2014)


Airlift Productions ~ Telling America’s Great Stories from New Orleans since 1984

It’s An Airlift to LA ~ With A Dash of Pepper!

Actress Pepper Binkley Records VoiceOvers for Amazon At Airlift Productions, New Orleans

Or maybe we should make that Red Pepper.

Perhaps you’ve caught Pepper Binkley on-screen with Robert De Niro in “Stone”, or on TV as Nurse Bridget on the long-running soap “All My Children”, or helping throw steam from the flat screen on the Showtime series “Masters of Sex”.

In any event, Pepper and entourage were in the house yesterday at the Airlift Studios to record VoiceOvers on behalf of the CyberiaMedia krewe in Santa Monica … tracks destined for an ‘amazonian’ crowd, to tout and promote Amazon Web Services.

We phone-patched from Airlift to California, and David & Richard, in-house at CyberiaMedia helped steer the entire session, as Ms. Pepper mystified and amazed us with her masterful microphone maneuvers.  Really.

Crank-up your speakers on your digital device and give a listen …

~ Pepper Binkley wows the Amazon crowd … with a little help from Airlift Productions ~ 

In New Orleans ~ Hollywood South ~ to film “A Night Without Armor”, Pepper was in need of a studio to help ‘connect the dots’ and Airlift & I were only too happy to oblige.

Trained in London, Pepper has a spot-on British accent, which she can turn on & off like the flick of a switch.  But in this case, it was full-on American neutral … in pursuit of a crowd of very technologically inclined millennials.

Pepper Binkley's autographed Amazon V/O copy, Airlift Productions - November 2014
Pepper Binkley’s autographed Amazon V/O copy, Airlift Productions – November 2014

And when “A Night Without Armor” opens-up down at the cineplex, I’ll be the one with the milk duds & popcorn in the front row.  See you there.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

Boots On The Ground … At Airlift Productions


Twitter ScreenShot with details of today’s Airlift Audio Book session with Michael Pitre


Airlift Productions & I are honored to aid the Audible.com audio book crowd today – 7-18-14 – recording some additional tracks for Michael Pitre’s stunning and unflinching portrait of the Iraq war.

A novel informed by first-hand experience through two tours of duty in Iraq, “Fives and Twenty-Fives” is Pitre’s no-holds-barred story of not only life in Baghdad – but readjusting to life, love and work back in the U.S.

Yes, from IEDs to PTSD.

Marine, Iraq Vet & Author Michael Pitre


Louisiana native & New Orleanian, LSU grad with a double major in History & Creative Writing,  a U.S. Marine Captain  … and now, Author – this is the book Michael was destined to write.

And together today, we’ll attempt to tie a few loose ends together and help tell ‘the rest of the story’.

“Fives and Twenty-Fives”, coming soon to an Amazon.com audio book and Audible.com download near you.

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, indeed the toughest battles of all may be the ones fought here, post-war, in the hearts and minds and lives of those who came home.

Semper Fi, Michael, Semper Fi!


Pitre “Fives and Twenty-Fives” Book jacket cover