Verily, all the highest aspirations of all mankind have always been towards PEACE. And Brotherhood.
And the dream that lay closest to the heart of the Nazarene was the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven – not far-off in some dreamy otherworld but right here in the physical plane, in your neighborhood and mine, here on planet Earth.
Abraham knew that. Jack knew that. Martin really knew that.
So, on MLK Day 2023 let’s go there.
My Airlift Productions here in NOLA has always been about more than just ‘selling stuff’ or ‘telling stuff’; my mission, for what is now nearly forty years, is one of serving as a catalyst for positive change.
Henceforth, today’s entry…
As we celebrate and commemorate the life of this visionary peacemaker, and the stock markets, banks & post offices close, I’m flashing back on this MLK Day to a very special ‘homework assignment’ from days gone by.
My then-ten year old Katy was visiting dad for the Christmas holidays, and after the dinners, movies, and playtime, we went down into the Airlift Studios on Iberville to record.
Imagine, if you can, one of the most powerful speeches ever uttered on these American shores – The Gettysburg Address – dramatically interpreted by a ten year old!
Then, put these words wrapped around the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, and support all this with the inspirational and soaring music of the late, prolific James Horner from the “Glory” motion picture soundtrack.
** “Is Anyone Home at the Gettysburg Address?” * Airlift, 1992 **
What, to me, is so extremely saddening is that the success of this dream, the manifestation of true PEACE on earth, will never ever (as in ‘not ever’) be settled on a battlefield.
For the answers, as Martin, Jack, and Abraham all knew too well, lie between the left ear and the right ear of the reader of these very words.
And the only true battlefield… is the human heart.
“For ten years now I have worked with Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions recording songs for Children’s Hospital & the Children’s Miracle Network. He’s unique and a constant… solid as the rock in rock ‘n roll. 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, Long-time WDSU/NBC New Orleans News Reporter & veteran guitar picker
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.
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 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!
** 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!
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.
But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.
“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
January is the month for reflection. And prognostication! (u like that word?)
In legend, named after the Roman god Janus, who had two heads & faces, January gives us all pause & cause to look back (reflect) and forward (predict/prognosticate) at the same time.
So, let’s do that.
As a VoiceOver & Radio dude operating a full-blown recording studio & production business in the great city of New Orleans, LA for now-THIRTY years, I guess it would be safe to say that I’ve got some pretty fascinating stories to tell.
From working with – and RECORDING – everyone from Archie Manning to Dr. Morgus the Magnificent, Quvenzhane Wallis to James Carville, Ronnie Lamarque to Dr. John, Mayor Marc Morial to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Reverend Avery Alexander to Congressman Bill Jefferson (I could go on and on, name dropping, but you get the idea) – what a RIDE!
When it comes time to reflect, it’s like, OK, so where do I start?!?
I sure do miss some old friends. How about we start there?
I miss my old buddy Buddy Stall. As Louisiana historian, writer & public speaker, Old “Gaspar J” sure could spin a yarn. And always about the people and the town he loved.
Buddy passed (dropped his body) in 2011 at the age of 81, but not before leaving quite the mark on the Crescent City.
His books and speeches about “The City That Care Forgot” are legendary, and were they ever fun!
We worked together for years. Ironically, one of his final gifts to me was the DVD of the special documentary he’d made of the great cemeteries of NOLA!
Give a LISTEN to just one of our radio gems that we cooked-up together through the years. This one is to sell our Louis Armstrong International Airport …
Or, how about having the opportunity to record the late Reverend Avery C. Alexander for an Academy Award-winning documentary film, as I worked side-by-side with the legendary Charles Guggenheim?!?
(I mean, really. Who wrote this screenplay? And how many ever get a chance to live this kind of life?)
The Rev’s candid, honest & heartfelt sentiments resonate and reverberate from last century to this one.
** Avery Alexander talks of David Duke, the KKK, and anti-Catholic & anti-Jew bias for Guggenheim Documentary at Airlift 1992 **
January 2016, reflections on not only some of the great spirits who’ve spent time at the Airlift Productions microphones, but how about the BUSINESSES that have come and gone?
I spent 17 years with Ronnie Lamarque “Bridging the Gap” (remember when he had 7 dealerships on both sides of theriver and lake?), I wrote and recorded many commercials for Archie Manning when he & his partner Steve Smith had the long-gone Gold’s Gym franchise on Veterans … and one of my fave old accounts (which has sentimental bearing here) was David Ervin’s “The Daiquiri Factory”!
Imagine using kids from a daycare to “reminisce” (really, can kids do that?) to sell an alcohol-fueled Eggnog Daiquiri on the radio to adults.
Crank up the speakers on your digital device and listen to the gang at Judy’s PlayCare in mid city NOLA make you all misty, so you’ll open up your wallet to buy a daiquiri … back in 1992 —–
Yes, from radio spots to television voice-overs, industrial training narrations to comedy albums, music projects to website audio, educational software to documentary films … life around the old Airlift Productions campus is never boring!
And gee, I didn’t get a chance to tell the stories about recording Anders Osborne & Theresa Andersson right after they landed in America & NOLA, or capturing two entire audio books with James Carville (and the wife), or tracking VoiceOver with Chef John Besh for TLC!
But, hey, that’s what January is all about, right? Looking back – and forward.
Stories for another day, another blog, another time.
“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, Political Commentator, Tulane Professor, and Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation