Monday, June 22, 2015

Frontier: Is It Really A Whole Different Animal?

Airways Magazine
Here is my latest magazine article on an airline that resurrected the name of the original Frontier Airlines (1950 -1986). Founded in 1994, today's Frontier Airlines became the "hometown airline" of Denver, and enjoyed a good reputation for its service. However, in July 2013, this picture changed considerably when Frontier began to transition from a "Low Cost Carrier" (LCC) that competed with Southwest, Virgin America and JetBlue, to an Ultra Low Cost Carrier (ULCC). 

Today, Frontier competes with Allegiant Airlines and Spirit. A review of how this transition has impacted Frontier's customers is quite telling. Or as Bette Davis appropriately stated in the 1950 motion picture, All About Eve: "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night". 

Many years ago, the brilliant airline executive Marty Shugrue told me: "Michael, two things I will tell you about the airline industry. Long term planning is for next Tuesday. And by nine O'clock on Monday morning, the world changes!" Covering the recent events at Frontier brought this statement to mind. 

Airways Magazine
The August issue of Airways is now available at Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores and newsstands near you. The magazine carries stunning photography, with fascinating stories from my colleagues. This is an entirely re-energized magazine, and I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Annual Summer Reading List

Photo: Michael Manning
Each year, I've written about books I've assembled for Spring and Summer reading. While hardly a compilation of an intellectual's fireside chat, frankly I don't care; these are the books I've selected to read. I have always loved biographies. They have the effect of getting me out of my own head, and into the lives and events of others. I believe that each of us have had remarkable journeys worthy of an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon". Here is a synopsis of the books I've recently read:

Random House
Tom Brokaw: The Greatest Generation: Published in 1998, this incredible book deepened my understanding of my grandparent's generation who endured unspeakable poverty during The Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Brokaw was preparing an NBC documentary on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion in Europe that marked the end of Hitler's Third Reich. From this assignment, he compiled recollections from ordinary people, heroes, women in uniform and notable personalities in American culture--all of whom share their coming of age experiences following World War II. This culture valued love, marriage, parenthood and patriotism in those years. As such, readers are compelled to examine how much America in 2015 has changed--for better or worse. The quiet sacrifices made from this generation allowed the rest of us to enjoy opportunities that are often taken for granted. This book is superbly written. 

Crown Publishing Group
Ryan O'Neal: Both of Us, My Life with Farrah: I am one of many millions of men who admired and miss the late Farrah Fawcett. In this brutally honest and revealing portrait of their three decade relationship, Ryan O'Neal details the timeline of his rise to fame as an Academy Award-winning actor, along with his victories and disappointments. Written with admirable candor, he discusses how he attempted to create a stable life for his children before and after meeting (and falling in love with) actress Farrah Fawcett. What emerges is a portrait of Fawcett as a sensitive and highly intelligent actress of tremendous depth, who was too often dismissed as merely a sex symbol. From their meeting in 1979 to her untimely death from cancer in 2009 at age 62, Farrah Fawcett was courageous as she was classy. This book is written with tender honesty about the joys, interpersonal problems, challenges of parenting, personal failures and the myth of fame. Ultimately, the the reader is given greater insight into the forgiveness and deepening love O'Neal shared with the woman who became his true soul mate. I submit that no reader will escape the heartache and longing shared by O'Neal--today older and wiser--as he endeavors to move on with his life. A fine book that is generously shared. 

Metropolitan Books
My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles: For years, rumors persisted of lost tape recorded lunch conversations between one of the 20th Century's most celebrated personalities: actor/writer/director and producer, Orson Welles. During the last three years of Welles' life, actor/director Henry Jaglom was permitted by Welles to tape record their lunch meetings at the now defunct Ma Maison restaurant in Los Angeles, where Welles held court daily. Thankfully, the recordings were discovered and transcribed, revealing Welles' unvarnished observations as a cultural provocateur about the people he knew--FDR, Winston Churchill, Rita Hayworth, Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Carole Lombard, Marilyn Monroe and Peter Bogdanovich--among many others. Welles' reflections on his astonishing life as a maverick filmmaker includes the deep disappointments of his final years with professional set backs. He imbues a mixture of hilarity, bitterness, anger, sarcasm and romanticism about people he either admired or detested during his half-century in show business. Author David Nasaw suffered an asthma attack from laughing so hard during a review of this book! Just the same, I would recommend reading Barbara Leaming's biography on Orson Welles before or after this gem. Beneath his sentimental and powerful intellect, capable of reducing anyone he detested to ruble, Welles is also revealed as a remarkable genius with heart who will never be equaled. 

Guitar Player
Guitar Player Magazine Presents Carlos Santana: This is a compilation of interviews conducted with the great rock guitarist about life, music, and the art of playing guitar against the canvas of Santana's spiritual journey. We learn of his genuine surprise at his meteoric rise to fame. From his appearance at the 1969 Woodstock Music festival to the present, this is a pleasant book for anyone who enjoys playing the guitar, including me.

Airliner World

Photo--Michael Manning
The Playboy Book: Fortieth Anniversary: Earlier this year, a British-based magazine published an article I researched for nearly four months on one of the most unique corporate jets that ever took to the skies 46 years ago. Playboy Magazine publisher Hugh Hefner's corporate jet, often referenced as "The "Big Bunny" was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 that became the first corporate twin-engine jet of its kind in the U.S. The jet served as an extension of the Playboy brand as part of the aspiring lifestyle for "the urban male" (from 1953 to the present). As with any book or magazine project, 90% involves research with the remaining 10% consigned to the glory of actually having a project published. This hard bound book helped me research the timeline of the maverick and entrepreneur who built Playboy into a global powerhouse, and an icon of American culture.         

Penguin Random House
The biography "Shakey" by Jimmy McDonough centers on the prolific musician Neil Young. Having read Young's two recent books "Waging Heavy Peace" and "Special Deluxe" (previously reviewed on these pages) I did not enjoy "Shakey". To be fair, this book is, by contrast, a sobering and often shocking portrait of the hardships associated with fame, life on the road as a successful musician, and the death of close friends from heroin use. While friends of mine enjoyed this book, again, I found it to be relentlessly focused on broken lives and sadness. This is a decidedly different experience for me than the pleasure I experienced with "Special Deluxe", where the Canadian-born Young reminisces about his childhood and coming of age, against the backdrop of his love for restoring and driving vintage automobiles--an enjoyable topic for me as well! While credit must be given to the author for his exhaustive research, and interviews with Young and the people associated with him, the dark themes of death and self destruction was too much for me. 

Just Ahead
Looking ahead, I've yet to tackle a book from the celebrated 13-part BBC Television series of the same name. I gave a copy of this book to my late uncle when I was a kid. He proudly proclaimed as I was leaving his home that he read it "cover-to-cover"! My uncle had a deep respect for "the professor", and so did I. In fact, I encourage my readers to do a biographical search online of Dr. Jacob Bronowski, a mathematician, biologist, historian of science, theatre author, poet and inventor. 

Little, Brown and Company
What books are you reading this summer?

Friday, June 05, 2015

If You Can Dream It You Can Do It!


I don't know how many of you watched the recent broadcast on CBS News Sunday Morning featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld as a guest. If you haven't, I suggest looking it up on the web. I always marvel at correspondent Anthony Mason, who is a terrific broadcast journalist. He's managed to interview many fascinating people: The Beach Boys, Shelby Lynne and Sarah McLachlan to cite a few examples. 

Jerry Seinfeld, of course, is one of the most successful comedians on the planet, with a long-running sit-com as a monumental achievement. His former television show was a rare success, and it ran from 1989 to 1998. Nevertheless, he found it frustrating to find a producer for his Web-based TV series, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee". CBS correspondent Anthony Mason appeared surprised that Seinfeld, whose net worth hovers somewhere in the vicinity of $800 million, had to explain repeatedly to potential Web TV producers exactly what his vision was for the show. Incidentally, he finally managed to find a home for his program at Sony Pictures' Crackle, an online distributor of original web shows. It's no surprise to me that "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" is a huge success story! 

How many of you have pitched an idea to your boss, your spouse, or even your neighbor only to hear them respond with "I don't understand" or "I don't get it"? For this seasoned broadcaster, Seinfeld's initial struggle with the Web-TV program concept was quite a revelation. 

I don't know Jerry Seinfeld personally, and I'm not a comedian (although more than a few of my friends would disagree). But I've always enjoyed Seinfeld's work. I share his love of automobiles and yes, a good cup of coffee. It's quite telling to me that someone of Jerry Seinfeld's stature in television, a relatively young man yet, still had to navigate the choppy waters of pitching a concept that I would think anyone could understand, even skeptics--and by the way--I'm not here to knock any skeptic! To the contrary, skepticism can be healthy. It challenges us, if it's applied ethically and honestly to clarify a subject. Just the same, I can't imagine any of my friends who are CEO's in a broad variety of industries, sitting down with me over coffee and explaining a concept with simplicity and clarity in two minutes or less, and then telling me, "Nobody understood what I've just told you." Think about it. 

If an architect were to sit down with me inside a Starbucks coffee shop, and place an architectural model of a building they have created on the table before me, I am  reasonably certain that I would grasp the design concept after a brief explanation. And if it's a great concept, I'll quietly see the potential. That's the bottom line, really, isn't it? Speaking of which, if you haven't seen my three minute video explaining my latest broadcasting project, "America's Best Neighbors", you can either click HERE or visit my REEL PAGE on my full website at: -- your choice. 

The tour bus you see "parked" at the top of this page is similar to one I used for a past project. I researched the make and model of this bus for several days, and ultimately, I chose it for one reason. It is built with excellence and not mediocrity. This bus is a metaphor of sorts. Because our dreams--yours and mine--deserve nothing less than excellence! 

May your dreams, this year, lead you to the most incredible experiences that help transform your life, and inspire others positively! 

Have a great weekend.

P.S.: This post was inspired by the title and substance of a sermon I heard by the late Dr. Robert H. Schuller: "If You Can Dream It You Can Do It".

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Of New Projects and Possibilities

Photo: Jamie Sluder
"Never reject a possibility because your mind is already made up. I have learned so much about theology from the architects that I have worked with. And I have worked with some of the greatest architects of our century.

"Louis Kahn said it, 'If I've got all the answers, I can be sure of one thing, some of my answers are wrong.' That's humility."

Dr. Robert H. Schuller 
(1926 - 2015)

Monday, June 01, 2015

Reflections on Politeness in Business and Life Essay

Yours Truly

Speaking the truth is never an easy task. Depending on the messenger, it can be interpreted correctly or miss the mark. This is to say of my previous post, the subject of simple common sense in life and in business is at once provocative and evocative. 

An acquaintance of mine--who shall remain nameless, and who holds an MBA degree from a prestigious Ivy League university--actually chastised me after I posted a similar message a year or so ago by stating: "No one wants to read that. It's negative." In reality, I strongly suspect that my essay objectified my MBA colleague, and forced him to examine his own conscience about his business practices, which I personally find unethical at times. Don't misunderstand me. I like my colleague, and served with him many times on a networking panel. I enjoyed discussing topics casually with the gentleman. But he is blinded by the need to "always attach an economic value to everything" he does, and admonishes people who serve others without charging them a fee. I call the latter practice "Integrity". It leads to character. It's the right path. That's just my opinion. 

I'm hardly the first person to suggest challenging how we communicate inter-personally and in business.  

Of my previous post, I am proud to confirm that university professors have read my essay. And while I am certainly not a "scholar of the academy", I have no objection to anyone using my post as a printed hand out to begin a meaningful classroom dialogue about how we can address this systemic failure in communicating with others. This is the only way that problems are resolved! No one can make the argument to me that "sweeping a problem under the rug", is ever an effective way to resolve it. In fact, if we banished this practice altogether, I suggest that we would vastly reduce dysfunctional workplace and family environments. Think about it. By the way, there's no need to mail me a check! I don't charge for sharing my point of view. Sadly, I'm serious about what I just said. "Attaching an economic value to everything" we do? That's not only ridiculous, it's emotionally unhealthy!

Photo: Michael Manning Collection
It doesn't matter what business you happen to be in, whether you are the owner of a small barber shop or the CEO of General Motors. The facts speak for themselves. It's interesting that I bring up GM. The current CEO of General Motors is Mary Barra. From my vantage point, she is doing an admirable job of addressing the dysfunction on the 14th floor that has paralyzed wise decision making at that company for decades. This toxicity has trickled down into all departments. Imagine the task of reversing decades of people touting, "that's the way it's always been here". I've often thought to myself that surely, she's read the book, "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors". It was written by the late GM executive John Z. DeLorean. I say this because Mary Barra's reforms are putting GM's house in order as John DeLorean himself fist suggested many years ago. I wish her well! If she had retained the status quo, I doubt there would have been much of a future for General Motors. Today, the company is doing business differently, and I feel confident that GM has a bright future.  

Southwest Airlines/Airways Magazine
Herb Kelleher challenged the status quo in the airline business, and together with his employees, they built Southwest Airlines into the excellent carrier it is today. Southwest has a magnificent corporate culture that honors the employee first, and then the customer--in that order. I cannot remember an unpleasant experience on Southwest. They have the right model of success. Try flying Southwest Airlines for yourself, and then email me with your impressions. Politeness will always be in style.

Rest assured that I'll have some lighter fare ahead. 

Have a terrific week! 


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Politeness in Business and in Life Still Matters!

Image: Virgin Group
Sir Richard Branson is chairman of Virgin Group, consisting of over 400 companies with a standard of excellence that emphasizes listening to the employee and the customer.  

Long time readers of this Blog Page know of my impassioned dedication to returning every phone call, letter and email message promptly. Sometime around 2000, I began to notice what amounted to a downward trend of nastiness in business that somehow became enabled. Specifically, I'm referring to the practice of professionals ignoring inquiries as a substitute for "no", "not interested"--or worse--"I don't have time for you". This deterioration of manners is serious! It assumes that the person who generated an inquiry, proposal or letter seeking information, valid feedback, or to verify a fact on any given topic would realize through osmosis that their communication is considered irrelevant. How shameful! 

Having been raised by Eastern European parents, such behavior would warrant what entrepreneur Richard Branson might call a whack on the arse--or in the honorable blue collar neighborhood where I was raised--one hell of a beating. Let me go on record as saying that I don't condone beatings of any kind, although I incurred being paddled in public schools at least several times over a five-year span for mischief. 

I'm going to do something here that I've never done before, and give you an example of good corporate manners. Some context would be helpful. 

I served as Chairman of Public Relations for a non-profit organization, and sent a query to Sir Richard Branson to explore whether or not The Virgin Companies would help sponsor a gala we were assembling. The first response that I received was an acknowledgement of  my request. Here it is:

Virgin Management Ltd.


     This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter. Either myself or one of my colleagues will be in touch with you shortly.

Richard Branson
A week later, a Marketing Coordinator with Virgin Atlantic (one of Virgin Group's 400 companies, and a world class airline renowned for excellence in service) mailed me this reply:

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. 

01 March 2001

Dear Mr. Manning:

Thank you for your letter to Richard Branson, which has been forwarded to myself for reply.

Unfortunately, we are unable to help out as often or to the extent we would like, due to the sheer volume of requests which we receive on an ongoing basis.

I hope you will understand therefore we are unable to assist on this occasion, however thank you for approaching us. 

Yours sincerely,
(Name withheld)
Marketing Coordinator
While mildly disappointed, I was, nevertheless, shocked at how well I was treated! Upon receipt of this note, I sent a heartfelt and swift Thank You letter to Richard Branson via Fed Ex, which prompted this personal response below:

Virgin Management Ltd.

30th March 2001

Dear Michael:

Many thanks for your letter and for being so understanding.

As you can imagine we are snowed under with requests, and I'm afraid we just cannot help all who ask.

It's not easy to say 'no' to so many deserving requests and I wish you the best of luck with it.

Kind regards,

Richard Branson
Virgin Group of Directors

(Dictated by Richard Branson and signed in his absence) 

Depending upon your response,  this post may be regarded as dated, incredibly naive on my part, or on the mark. 

How many of you have encountered the experience of not having your inquiries returned with an answer? How did that make you feel? Please let me know. 

It's just good business practice to be conscientious. I received board approval to Fed Ex Richard Branson, because I believed correctly that it was not only a gesture of good manners, it was good business etiquette as well. 

To those who may suggest, "You are so outdated in your thinking. Business today is far busier and personal responses take up time that could be used more wisely and profitably", here is my honest reply in 2015.

When is a lack of manners acceptable? If I receive an inquiry, life is too short not to validate the inquiring party as a human being with an equally important point of view to be heard as my own. I am neither above nor below anyone. To respond is courteous, classy and a direct reflection of you! 

I am stunned at how many friends of mine in business largely accept this absence of manners as commonplace. Over the past six months alone, only 4 people out of 100 whom I've approached for "feedback" on a project have answered my email or InMail. In every one of those 4 positive responses, each person was remarkable in their chosen field. And this brings to mind the old saw: "You never know who you may encounter in their career coming up the ladder, as you are on your way down". No one is invulnerable. Scary,  isn't it? 

I suggest that "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is littered not so much with those who have tried and failed, but rather, those who have failed to be empathetic and reciprocal. Frankly, why would anyone bother to join LinkedIn and then refuse to reply affirmatively to requests? Remember that career ladder. Again, let me state once more. No one is invulnerable. 

Summary: A Personal Example
When I was in broadcasting management, I led a small, but effective turnaround team tasked with reversing the fortunes of a failing business unit. It's a long story that ended successfully. I was a workaholic. I'd arrive at the office at 7:30 a.m. and leave usually by 12 Midnight. Incidentally, I don't suggest this as a modus operandi to anyone! But it should indicate how much trouble our business was in, and how much triage was required by our team to salvage it as a going concern. 

Even as this drama was playing out, occasionally, a mother or father would call me requesting time to bring their son or daughter of high school age by my office to elicit my feedback about a career in broadcasting. Deregulation in the U.S. broadcasting industry was upon us, and looking back, our staff was responding to a multitude of challenges in a crisis mode as we worked to to reverse our fortunes. We were all "busy". Nevertheless, I found a way to make such requests work. 

I'd offer to meet with visitors after the business day, when our receptionist was away and all phones were forwarded to voice mail. Often, I'd be one of the few people left in the building, with the possible exception of the on-air talent downstairs and a janitor. I'd advise security of our impending visitors and we would meet in my office casually over coffee or soft drinks. Our meetings, on average, lasted an hour. Those visits served two very fruitful purposes. 

First, it validated my visitors with the feeling that they genuinely mattered, and that our company cared to reach back. 

Second, it freed me up from sitting in an office where between 6 to 19 revenue-generating projects were in various stages of development. For that hour, I was able to refresh myself by refocusing on the concerns of others and away from my own challenges. 

I enjoyed giving a family of three or four people a tour of the station, and fostering honest feedback that a student could use to evaluate whether their chosen career path was suitable to them. 

To whatever extent we can return to this level of civility, our businesses and our humanity will be empowered for the betterment of all. Richard Branson is a fine example of a leader who has a refreshing approach of listening and valuing others, and above all--being responsive. That, my friends, is an example of what I call "A Class Act". 

What are your thoughts or experiences on this subject? I'd like to hear from you. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Happens in Las Vegas...

All Photos by Michael Manning 
Larry King's figure in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada. 
Obviously, there is a personal story behind the photograph I've posted above. In December 2007 I moved to Arizona. One day, I received an incredible Christmas card--that I still have--from the former CNN program, "Larry King Live". There was no signature, just the obligatory "From your friends at Larry King Live". What made this card humorous was that the envelope was addressed "To: Father Michael Manning". For those of you who may not be familiar, Father Michael Manning is a Catholic priest who appeared on Larry's show as a guest at least 20 times, and often with guests of other faiths to discuss not only what divides us, but also what unites us all. I vaguely knew Larry's guest booker on the show, and thought that perhaps from a recent conversation, my address might have accidentally made it's way onto the Christmas Card List at CNN. In any event, I sent two large Christmas cards--one to the show's guest booker, and one to Larry King himself explaining this hilarity. 
A lot has changed since then. Larry is no longer on CNN, but appears on web television. Father Mike is still ministering, and I'm still creating broadcasting projects and writing. New topic...
All Photos: Michael Manning
Over the past several days, I traveled to Las Vegas--my first trip there since 2006.
 I arrived one day after The Riviera Hotel and Casino was liquidated of all its contents. Today, only the Tropicana (1957) and The Flamingo (1946) remain as original iconic Vegas resorts.  
 Las Vegas' 9th resort is now consigned to history.
 The Riviera occupies an entire city block. I shot these photos after breakfast.
The Riviera closed its doors after 60 years on May 4th. The liquidation sale began on May 14th and ended May 20th. The Riviera was the Las Vegas Strips' first "high rise" building, and the entertainment for opening night in 1955 was Liberace. A second story swimming pool leaked water so badly, that it was closed. Over the years, the entertainment roster included: Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Bob Newhart, Engelbert Humperdinck , John Davidson, Steve Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, The Carpenters, Liza Minnelli,  Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley and Joan Rivers.

The original motion picture "Ocean's 11" (1960) featuring "the rat pack" (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Peter Lawford) was filmed at the hotel. Other films included "Casino" (1995) starring Robert DeNiro and "The Hangover" (2009). The hotel and casino will be imploded later this year to make way for a new convention center. The long-running "Crazy Girls" show that ran for 20 years, has moved over to Planet Hollywood.
 The 2nd oldest hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip.
Brother-sister duo Donny & Marie Osmond began performing at The Flamingo in 2008. On alternate nights, singer Olivia Newton-John performs.

The Tropicana is a South Beach-themed hotel and casino located near the MGM Grand. 

The MGM Grand mirrors the current day Las Vegas. In 2006, I attended a performance of singer Tom Jones (who ended his 42-year run in 2012). It was a fun night, as I ended up seated in the showroom with a group of 20-something guys from Wales, the singers' birth place. On this occasion, I attended a performance of magician and illusionist David Copperfield, which was also incredible.