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Globe and Mail

April 30, 2005

Page M1





By Leah McLaren


Zanta Ho Ho wants the people of Toronto to know he is not insane.


"Half the city thinks I'm nuts, but really I'm a comedian," insists David Zancai, 36, of Etobicoke. "It's just a character -- ta da!"


Maybe so, but the man often seen running around shirtless in the entertainment district with only a red Santa cap on his head for warmth is baffling city residents. And his manic appearances in the background when CITY-TV broadcasts live from Queen Street have irked the TV folk. "To us, he's just a pain in the butt," says Brad Matson, a producer on Breakfast Television , which seems to be Zanta's favourite target.


So what's with the Santa hat? It's complicated.


Last October, after a personal crisis, Mr. Zancai decided that he would leave his Christmas decorations up all year so that, in his words, "every day could be Christmas." Then one day he was sitting in his apartment watching Jerry Springer and he had an epiphany.


"I thought, I've got to be on TV." The next day he showed up behind the glass on BT , and Zanta was born.


Torontonians familiar with his shtick will know he sports an e-mail address ( written in black marker on his impressively muscle-bound chest and often regales rush-hour TTC passengers by doing knuckle push-ups on full subway cars. (He's attempting to break the world record and says he performs 4,000 or 5,000 a day.)


While Mr. Zancai insists he has no history of mental illness, he does concede to being on workers compensation for head and back injuries he suffered a couple of years ago while working as a renovator. "I fell 25 feet through a ceiling and landed on my back. I spent 23 three days in a coma and 17 days on life support. Ta-da! Ta-da!"


He has stopped appearing on BT lately, he says, after cutting a verbal deal with the head of security at the CHUMCity building. "They're going to put me on Speakers Corner every week if I stay away from BT ," he says.


But Mr. Matson, the BT producer, says he knows nothing about a deal. "I have nothing to say about Zanta."