Hot on the heels of our review of the National Post‘s new Posted Toronto blog, they’ve reported that Toronto icon and terrifier-of-tourists Zanta, né David Zancai, is leaving.
Zancai is well-known to downtown residents for doing pushups in his Santa hat, and his bizarre “Yes! Yes! Yes!” growl that causes alarm to unfamiliar pedestrians. Zanta has been banned from interacting with the sensitive suits on King Street from Church to Spadina, is prohibited from being in Dundas Square and is not allowed on the TTC. He also is the subject of two documentaries, a Fauxreel culturejamming project, and has Flickr groups and online fan clubs dedicated to him.
The exodus from the streets of Toronto will send Zanta to Brampton, which will bring him closer to his three sons. Zancai has said in interviews that the Zanta character arose out of a custody battle over his daughter. During a court hearing, Zancai says that he wore a Santa hat to amuse the girl (to the chagrin of the judge, who questioned his sanity), and vowed not to retire the Zanta character until he gains custody of his daughter.
Zanta’s infamous pushups, which are always done in shorts and sans shirt, even in the bitter cold, arose out of a 2000 workplace accident where the former contractor fell from a height of eight metres, landing on his back. After days on life support and three weeks in a coma, pushups were part of his prescribed rehabilitation routine and eventually became a Zanta trademark. Zancai continues to suffer some nerve damage from the accident and receives a monthly payment from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
The move seems to be out of frustration, as the courts and police have seriously impeded Zanta’s presence downtown. Zancai, who claims that he doesn’t suffer from mental illness, says that the police are continually harassing him, and he has spent time in jail for defying court orders. For some, Zanta is an irritant and his retirement is long overdue; for others, he’s a legend and part of what makes Toronto interesting. Zanta may be leaving, but do we think he’ll be back? Yes! Yes! Yessss!
Photo by Carrie Musgrave.