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Warrior or Wuss, Patriot or Strip-Club Owner? Who’s the Real Carlos Zapata?

Carlos Zapata in Tampa, Florida, in January. Photo source: Facebook

It’s laughable, in retrospect, to recall that back in January, some folks speculated whether tough-guy/Red White and Blueprint leader Carlos Zapata’s reason for being in Tampa, Florida, was to meet up with Sean Feucht, the infamous, ultra-evangelical, Bethel-mega-church, jet-setting musician/plague-rat.

Bethel megachurch musician Sean Feucht in Tampa, Florida, in September. Photo source: Facebook

Actually, the guess that Feucht and Zapata met in Tampa wasn’t such a stretch. Both men are well-known Shasta County residents. Both have crossover fan bases; a motley mix of right-wing extremists, Christian zealots, Trump-lovers, Biden-haters, State of Jefferson folks, anti-vaxxers, Second-Amendment fanatics, conspiracy theorists and rabid Constitutionalists, among others.

Plus, both have connections with the same Bethel-related video producer, Jeremy Edwardson, who is such a talented guy that he could create an award-winning, emotionally appealing video about rodents, roaches and the wonders of rickets, complete with an awesome soundtrack and dramatic photography.  Cue applause! 

It turns out that Feucht was in Tampa in September for one of his super-spreader Let Us Worship events, ostensibly held in defiance of COVID public-health mandates; as if even a deadly virus could stop true believers from worshipping the god of their choice, whenever, wherever they wish.

Forget Feucht (for now). Today belongs to Zapata, the self-proclaimed warrior and charismatic leader of the Red White and Blueprint movement and its slickly produced mission to unseat three Shasta County Supervisors in a recall, and then fill those vacant seats with Red White and Blueprint-approved candidates. To hear them talk, it’s as easy as ordering a pizza. Call in the order, have it delivered and enjoy.

Another day we’ll examine the reality of the recall process. 

Fun fact about Tampa: It’s the country’s strip-club capital

Public curiosity about what the heck Zapata was doing in Tampa may have never amounted to anything had Zapata himself not brought it up in a January Facebook live video. That’s when he mentioned he was in Tampa, and bragged how he’d beaten the system and traveled sans mask across the county. As always, Zapata is his worst snitch. Most of the unsavory things we know about him have come directly from his own words and Facebook posts. That’s why there’s no need for me to take the bait and interview him. He already provides the best material.

“I landed in Tampa, Florida, today. I did not wear a mask one time, the whole way across the country. PM me. I’ll tell you how I did it. It has something to do with the word no. If you want to get out of this mess we’re in, if you want your kids to grow up in a better world, teach them how to say no. Teach them the power of the word no, and teach them that it’s okay to punch a bully in the mouth sometimes and not do what they tell us to do. That’s how you get somewhere. Have a good day, guys. I’m going to get some work done out here. Enjoying my time. I’ll see you guys here real soon.”

On Facebook, Bill Hayward challenged Zapata’s version of events.

“Ah. I looked up Delta’s ‘clearance-to-fly’ exemption process on their website. You don’t exactly say ‘no.’ More like, ‘I can’t wear a mask because I have PSTD from being waterboarded 100 times.’ Or, ‘Wearing a mask tricks my psyche into believing that I’m a member of Antifa, and I start smashing windows. Otherwise, I’m fine.’ ”

Zapata’s Facebook friends defended him, and believed Zapata’s version that he bad-assed his way through Delta Air Lines by just saying no. Hayward responded:

“Wrong. You have to consult virtually with a medical professional. Delta says that it can take more than an hour. You have to demonstrate cause. You can try saying, ‘No, I’m not going to wear a mask. I’m a free breather.’ With that a laptop you can zoom to Florida on Zoom.
From Delta’s website: ‘Any false claims of a disability or health condition to obtain an exemption from wearing a mask or face covering may result in the suspension of travel privileges on any Delta flight for the duration of the mask/face covering requirement.’
I don’t really give a hot damn what Carlos offered up as an excuse. I’m just betting he didn’t just furrow his brow, jut his jaw, and say ‘No.’

One look at Delta Air Lines’ website regarding its mask-exemption policy proves that Hayward, humor notwithstanding, was right.

All Zapata’s bravado aside about punching bullies in the mouth and whatnot, when Zapata said in that video he was in Tampa to “get some work done” and was enjoying his time there,  more than likely his work and enjoyment were both related to yet another Zapata business, a strip club called the Players Club.

One person, upon hearing that Zapata co-owned a strip club, laughed.

“He told me it was dive bar in Tampa,” the surprised person said. “He didn’t mention a strip club!”

Judging by Yelp reviews of Players Club Tampa, the dive bar part may still be accurate:

Terrible business, from management down its sleazy. Strippers are coked out and the management promotes prostitution. DO NOT GO.

Strip club or no strip club, Zapata’s no slacker. For those who are keeping track, Players Club makes three Zapata businesses (that we know of), including Zapata’s Palo Cedro bull venture and his Red Bluff bar and restaurant, the Palomino Room, which he boasts has never been closed a single day, even during state-mandated shutdowns. In fact, to hear Zapata tell it, federal agents are afraid to challenge Zapata, because they know he has legions of armed supporters who’ll come to his defense.

News first broke of Zapata’s strip club co-ownership on Facebook by Rita James. She’s a member of a few progressive Facebook groups, including the newly formed Thought You Should Know – Shasta County, which offers a treasure trove of information about plans to recall three Shasta County Supervisors: Joe Chimenti, District 1; Leonard Moty, District 2; and Mary Rickert, District 3.

Once the story was posted on Facebook, here on A News Cafe readers took the ball and ran with it in the comments section of a March 24 post, Shasta County Supes Say No to State Divorce; Table 2nd Amendment Vote After Colorado Shootings. The conversation is ongoing.

Carlos Zapata’s many moods and myriad meanings

Who’s the real Carlos Zapata? This question was expertly illustrated in a video, “Things Carlos Meant to Say,” created by Rita James of the Thought You Should Know – Shasta County group . In her video, she juxtaposed Zapata’s statements from two different sources; the Red White and Blueprint video, and the Pardon My American podcast.

If Zapata is consistent about one thing, it’s that he can be counted on to shapeshift and fit his dialogue to accommodate his host or audience.

So many Zapatas. It’s hard to keep them straight. There’s the proud militia-member Zapata.

There’s the documentary-producer Zapata of Red White and Blueprint, in which he is the star of the show, although he often claims he seeks no attention, and feigns surprise that he’s gained so much notoriety and so many followers in the wake of his blistering verbal assault against Shasta County Board of Supervisors, and the video went viral.

There’s the threatening Zapata, who, well, threatens. Here are two examples from a panel discussion with some militia buddies:

“And we don’t talk about everything we do, but just know that we know a lot more than you think, and you are not going to be walking in this community, like Woody said. We’re not going to make you feel very comfortable in our community because we feel that in the North State here, we really are the last bastion.”

And:

“We know where you live, we know who your family is, we know your dog’s name,” Zapata said about those “snitches” who reported COVID-mandate violators to authorities.

Most recently, we see cowboy Carlos, the guy who’s swapped out his baseball cap for a cowboy hat in his Red White and Blueprint productions.

These videos contain lots of country-living clips that depict Shasta County as if everyone’s riding horses, walking on wood sidewalks, and hanging out at Woody’s barbershop, just like something out of a black-and-white Western. Even Supervisor Patrick Jones is on a horse.

District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones is a key player in the Red White and Blueprint movement to recall three fellow board members.

In RW&B’s Episode 1 – “We the People” – there’s a shot of the Zapata kitchen, where Mrs. Zapata is frying sausage in a cast-iron pan, served up to her kids at the counter. There’s an image of a scatter of bullets, and another of a young woman whose acrylic-nailed hands point a pistol at a target.

Seriously, RW&B folks, overall, your message looks ominous, but maybe that’s what you intended.

Back to Zapata. There’s the nasty, macho-man Zapata who posts things like this:

He says boys should be boys and girls should be girls, yet he protests too much that he is not a chauvinist, and in fact, he’s proud of the fact that Red White and Blueprint has so many strong women involve.

And yet, he’s a strip-club owner.

Not chauvinist/after-hours all-nude strip club owner. Not chauvinist/after-hours all-nude strip club owner.  No matter how many times I say it, there’s a major disconnect.

I mean no judgement on the women (and men dressed to look like women) who work at Players Club in Florida. Rather, the issue I have with Zapata’s strip club is it doesn’t jive with his God-bless-America family values message. How do you spell hypocritical?

But one encouraging side is that based upon some of the Players Club special events, Zapata may be more openminded to gender diversity than he’s let on to his friend, barber/militia leader Woody Clendenen, who said in a recent public speaking introduction – which got a hearty laugh from the audience –  “I identify as a white Christian male.”

Curious: Does white-Christian-male Woody know about Zapata’s Tampa strip club? How about Courtney Kreider, the all-American small-town girl-turned RW&B media darling? How about the Rapozas, who frequently spout scripture?  How about Bethel leader Beni Johnson and her daughter, Leah Valenzuela, fans of Zapata’s recall efforts? Do they care about the grand dissonance between the West Coast rodeo/restaurateur Zapata and the East Coast strip-club Zapata?

Zapata’s strip club explains a lot, such as when he boasts that he’s used to women throwing themselves at him (duh, at strip clubs). It’s a chicken-and-egg thing with Zapata and his tendency to pepper his conversations with sexual innuendo. Was he like that before investing in a strip club, or was he drawn to the strip club to reinforce his caveman mindset?

But his sexual references pale in comparison to his implied and blatant references to violence:

And of course there’s the brave Zapata, who claims to be unbothered by visits from federal agents, even the FBI.

Finally, there’s the cowardly Zapata, who attempts to convince us of otherwise. Case in point is this excerpt of the Christmas Eve Pardon My American podcast, when the host asked Carlos about upcoming events on Jan. 6:

“On January 6th, that’s going to be a big day for us, and I hope that every patriot that can, gets to Washington DC. I myself do not know if I’m going to make it out there, because I think that there’s people that also need to stay home and protect their communities should any unrest break out here locally. So we can’t all leave; we can’t all leave the women and children at home. We have to be here to protect what we have here as well.”

Shasta County women and children, I hope you all feel as grateful as I do that Carlos Zapata remained behind on Jan. 6 to keep us safe.

What a guy.

Carlos Zapata reacts to something whispered by Stake in NorCal co-founder Jesse Lane during a radio program that unveiled the Red White and Blueprint plan.

Someone close to me recently admitted she’s suffering from Carlos fatigue on A News Cafe. I get it. Perhaps you, too, are weary of hearing about the likes of Zapata, and his militia pals Woody Clendenen and Jesse Lane, and the State of Jefferson Rapozas, and the bullhorn-wielding Elissa McEuen,  and thorn-in-the-county’s side Vladislav Davidzon, and others who comprise what I have come to think of as the Dirty Dozen.

It would be more fun to turn my attention to stories about peaceful gardens and simple sourdough starter and a funny tale about my long-forgotten little Rolodex. Likewise, it would be more pleasant to focus on all that’s good about the North State, such as its surrounding natural beauty, and the plethora of decent people who live here.

Yes, I’ve seen the hue and cry on Facebook: “Stop with all the negativity about Shasta County! Let’s talk about the positive things,” as if looking on the bright side will stop the forecasted storm that’s heading our way.

We could turn a blind eye to the recall movement at this pivotal moment, but at great risk. And we could intentionally gaze upon all the pretty, positive shiny objects, instead of facing reality.

Look at the river trail, OMG the Sundial Bridge! Have you seen the remodeled downtown?

Sure, we can observe the positive and negative sides of the Shasta County coin simultaneously. It’s unwise to not acknowledge the potential danger that lies within the Red White and Blueprint movement that’s moving forward – whether we like it or not. To turn away passively, even in disgust, would be like willfully overlooking the fact your house is on fire; ignoring the shrieking smoke alarm, ignoring the blistering heat and whipping flames, choosing to only focus on the joys of roasting marshmallows in the glow of the blaze that will soon incinerate everything you hold dear. By the time the damage is done, it will be too late.

This is no time to look away. This is no time to underestimate the power of deeply divided political unrest fueled by ignorance, funded by deep-pocketed people with axes to grind and money to spend to purchase revenge.

Forewarned is forearmed, not with Red-White-and-Blueprint style ammunition, but rather attention, information and action. For example, some of the information I’ve shared here today comes from the Things You Should Know group and its bright, tenacious members. For that, I’m grateful.

Some people have suggested we ignore Zapata, that he’s a harmless blowhard with a big ego and an exaggerated fan base. Either way, I have four words for those who doubt it’s possible for people like Zapata to wreak havoc in our county: Patrick Jones, Les Baugh.

Some conservative evangelical Christians closed their eyes, held their noses and embraced Donald Trump, despite knowing he was a moral midget, despite knowing he was devoid of one iota of ethics, despite knowing he’d had sex with a porn star while his wife recovered from childbirth. Likewise, here in Shasta County there are those — even self-described devout Christians – who accept Zapata as their anointed Red White and Blueprint leader.

Big, big mistake.

I implore those who truly care about the North State’s future, those who truly want leaders who are rational, ethical, experienced, civic-minded, fair and mentally healthy, to watch the video at the end of this column. Then, knowing what you know, and having heard what you’ve  heard from Zapata’s own mouth, tell me if you would still trust Zapata. Would you still entrust him to speak for you, to give a squirt about anything except his fame? Would you still follow his lead down the path of a crazy plan to recall three solid, stable, dependable and community-minded supervisors, so Zapata can replace them with people in his own image? For an added bizarre twist, the trio of supervisors slated for recall are all Republicans.  Apparently, they’re not conservative enough. That in itself should give people of any party pause.

To those who can watch this entire video, and yet still believe that Zapata is your man, then we have far more to worry about than a recall.

(Edited video source: Rita James/Thought You Should Know – Shasta County. Original video: All Redding.com interview by Joey Gartin, online marketer.) 

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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