Is Zanta’s return at hand?
Let us preface this by stating the obvious: it’s impossible ever to know what’s actually going on with David Zancai, a.k.a. Zanta, the Santa-hatted street character whose shirtless antics were a downtown fixture until 2008. The last time the Star caught up with him he was living with his mother, being treated for schizophrenia. Then, just over two months ago, he told Vice he was thinking of staging a comeback. A few weeks later, flyers started appearing on downtown utility poles. “The Return of the Toronto Zanta,” they proclaimed, as if there were any other Zanta.
All the evidence points to a Zanta renaissance. TorontoZanta.com has received a fresh coat of paint. There are Twitter and Facebook accounts with activity dating back to the beginning of April. We’ve reached out to whoever’s running Zanta’s online presence, but so far we haven’t received any response.
In his heyday, Zanta was a polarizing character. Some passers-by loved his charismatic weirdness, usually expressed in the form of endless sets of sidewalk pushups and shouted catchphrases (“Yes yes yes!”). Zanta wasn’t a performer, though; he couldn’t turn off the persona. In interviews, he traced the origin of his Santa-hatted alter ego to a construction accident that left him in a coma. He said he lost custody of his then two-year-old daughter in 2004 after refusing to remove his Santa hat in court. Before his semi-retirement, he managed to get himself banned from a number of public places, including the TTC.
All of which is to say that Zanta’s return—assuming that’s what’s happening here—wouldn’t necessarily be a great thing for anyone. But the man is, as the book says, a living legend. We’ll update when and if we hear from him.