Tag Archives: Linda Kauffman

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.


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.

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.

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.


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



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

Phyllis Ziants {1925-2016}: I Remember Mama

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.

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…”

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.

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