Red White & Blueprint, Episode 1: It was a Dark and Stormy Night

Carlos Zapata, from the film.

A darkness spreads over the land as three horsemen gallop toward the abyss, urging those who would follow them to recall three county supervisors, drain the swamp and bring back to Shasta County the pioneer spirit that won the West.

That’s the tone set by Episode 1 of “Red White and Blueprint,” the YouTube docuseries produced by Carlos Zapata, starring Zapata and a cast of local characters, many of whom have featured on this website during the past year of pandemic pandemonium: Woody Clendenen, Courtney Kreider, Terry Rapoza, Elissa McEuen, Kathy Stainbook, Melody Fowler, Melissa Magana, Seth McNeil, Jesse Lane, Lani Bangay, and censured Shasta County supervisors Patrick Jones and Les Baugh.

The episode begins with Zapata, the Palo Cedro-based rancher, restaurateur and business investor whose two-and-a-half-minute rage-filled rant at a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting went viral on social media last August, explaining in a low, gravelly grumble that he reluctantly joined the recall movement because he was “fed up.”

“I saw families that were struggling, families being broken apart, stress, by financial strain,” says Zapata on a sepia-toned set as gloomy strings thrum in the background. The edges of his cattleman’s hat jut up like gull wings. Stick a cigarette in his mouth and he’s the Marlboro Man with a 5-o’clock shadow. Quick cut to an empty high school football stadium, then back to Zapata.

“I saw kids going deep into depression because they weren’t in school and they weren’t in sports. I saw friends of mine commit suicide.”

Cut to rare picture of Redding on an overcast day.

“I thought, you know what?” Zapata continues. “This is completely unacceptable. I can’t stand by any longer. I gotta say something, I gotta speak out, not only speak, but I gotta put my words into action because I felt at that moment when I spoke before the board of supervisors, there were millions of people listening.”

Making enemies, not friends.

Cut to the Statue of Liberty.

As the strings grow ever frantic and mawkish, Zapata repeats his well-rehearsed reluctant warrior speech, he’d rather be out fighting in the fields than be center stage in the spectacle he is after all producing.

Cut to person holding an American flag so it floats on the breeze and takes up all the screen.

The episode goes astray the instant the camera leaves the charismatic Zapata. A Woodrow Wilson quote, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something,” is yanked out of context and spun around 180 degrees to justify disregarding public health precautions for COVID-19.

Wilson, who actually caught the Spanish Flu in 1918 because he downplayed the virus, was referring to the difficulty of passing forward-looking progressive legislation in a conservative country, not whether or not local health ordinances should be followed.

Superimposed over a stormy Redding landscape, the Wilson quote separates viewers into friends or enemies. You’re either with Zapata and crew or you’re not.

A blur of foreshadowed imagery rushes by: Two horsemen wearing white hats, Zapata and Clendenen, gallop toward an unknown goal; men working on a construction site, the county supervisors’ chamber, Patrick Jones sitting on horse wearing a black hat, high-powered rifle bullets, a woman shooting a handgun at the range, the Shasta County Administration Center, an American flag being stitched on a hat, cowboys riding bulls at night, grade school students learning at home, Clendenen cutting hair in his barbershop, Redding City Hall, and finally the “Red, White and Blueprint” logo.

Episode 1 is titled “We The People” and refers to the above-mentioned cast of characters, not the “we the people” in the Constitution, as much as this anti-do-anything-about-COVID death cult wishes that was so. We begin with a segment of Zapata’s now famous BOS speech last August; missing here is the former marine’s threat to take up arms against local government and his claim that COVID “is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

We’re then treated to a charming bucolic scene featuring Zapata and family eating breakfast at their ranch in Palo Cedro before dad drives off to work with the horse trailer.

But not so fast daddy-o! Along came COVID. A montage flashback of last year’s coronavirus news rolls by, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, the closing of the schools and the churches, the extreme threat to elderly residents, the universal misuse of the word “lockdown” for areas like Shasta County, where some businesses have resisted closing and no public agency has enforced the state’s COVID regulations.

Cases in point: The Cottonwood Barbershop, owned and operated by local militia leader Woody Clendenen, and Dill’s Deli in Redding, owned and operated by John Dill and family. In the episode, Dill pops in for a haircut and complains about a customer who turned him into Health and Human Services for being open and returned several days later looking for a meal—he’d forgotten his lunch. Dill profanely told him to get lost.

“You gotta fire a customer every once in a while,” he quips under an American flag apron as Clendenen clips away. So much for the customer always being right!

Cottonwood militia leader/barber Woody Clendenen, left, chats with District 5 Shasta County Supervisor/pastor Les Baugh.

There are other humorous turns. District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert accurately describes the behavior of one of the protestors at the board meeting last year as “crazy.” Ignoring both masks and social distancing, Clendenen and Baugh lean into a fence on Zapata’s ranch as Baugh wagers coffee and bacon that RW&B will win at least one seat; Terry Rapoza, State of Jefferson swag distributor and host of the Jefferson State of Mine radio show, dons a blindfold at a BOS meeting in February and removes it, seemingly dazed he still has eyesight.

Rapoza, dressed in his usual stars ‘n’ stripes forever attire, had One Word for supervisors Leonard Moty, Joe Chimenti and Rickert.

“Recall. Recall. Recall. Recall.”

That’s one word said four times.

What I wanted to know was: Why? Why? Why? Why?

What do these pretenders to three supervisorial seats intend to do differently?

Let’s cut to the chase: They’d do less, if this episode is any indication. A lot less.

When our horsemen finally meet at Zapata’s ranch, it turns out our two white hats, Zapata and Clendenen, have been chasing the black hat of Patrick Jones, gun-shop manager and dark prince of Shasta County libertarian politics, all along.

“You wonder why, when you see things that don’t make sense, it’s because there’s so much politics involved now and unions and pressure that quality decisions can’t be made,” Jones the politician drones on and on, perhaps daydreaming of a libertarian utopia, before offering to fire 20 percent of the county’s workers.

“We have to rid ourselves of these problems and we can do it and it’s called draining the swamp and many department heads have got to go to change the culture at the county.”

Drain the swamp played well in 2016, but it’s not a winning ticket during the tail end of a pandemic.

I’ve been communicating with Zapata on Facebook Messenger since late January; one of the first things I asked him was, why was he so angry? What had COVID taken from him? Not much, as it turns out. He said he’s received no COVID relief money. The Palomino Room is still up and running and Zapata explained, “I find a sense of pride in the fact that I made it without assistance. In fact, I thrived because I took a stand. And I’m good at this business stuff.”

Carlos Zapata, Shasta County Supervisor Patrick Jones, Woody Clendenen, plus horses.

Last week we learned that “Red, White and Blueprint” isn’t Zapata’s first foray into the entertainment business. He has an investment in an adult entertainment club in Tampa Bay, Florida. Zapata said it’s unfair to call him a “strip-club owner.”

“I am not the owner of a strip club,” he wrote to me on Messenger. “That would be like saying that I own a Ferrari because it’s parked in the driveway of a house that I used to own.”

He describes his business relation with the club and other corporations:
“I buy and sell corporations and hold the note until I’m paid. What people do with these companies once they own them is something I relinquish all control over. I have financial interest in many companies. I don’t always know or care what the daily operations consist of as long as I am getting paid.”

Asked why A News Café hadn’t contacted him personally about the strip club, I noted that his relationship with the club had been confirmed by other sources and suggested anyone might be frightened by his occasionally violent rhetoric, or the threats issuing forth from his followers.

“I have yet to go somewhere that people aren’t shaking my hand and thanking me for the work I’m doing, for speaking for them,” he insisted. “I think there are very few people that are ‘scared’ of me, all of which have never taken the time to get to know me.”

In the episode, all the protagonists agree that COVID is real. They’re not monsters out to kill people for crying out loud. I asked Zapata how his thinking on COVID has evolved from last August, when he called the disease that has infected 11,399 and killed 208 people in Shasta County during the past year “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

“Covid is real,” he wrote back. “The hoax is in how they have weaponized it and used it to gain total control over a population. The hoax is in making it sound way more dangerous than it really is.”

I’m glad he cleared that up.

Supposedly, nine more episodes of “Red, White and Blueprint” will be made, and here we are already, a vessel mired on the sharp crags of a heartless libertarian ideology, as if three carbon copies of Patrick Henry Jones are all that’s needed to deliver Shasta County from the abyss. The next film session for the series will no doubt occur at tomorrow’s BOS meeting. Who knows what they’ll do?

In the meantime, I’m wondering about Zapata’s “six friends who killed themselves, veterans who lost their jobs” to COVID that he mentioned at last August’s BOS meeting. In Episode 1, that’s whittled down to “I saw friends of mine commit suicide.” I asked Zapata for their names. He refused because I might taint their memories in an article. Fair enough.

I told him I was a Navy veteran, and if six veterans really had lost their jobs because of COVID and committed suicide, that would be a helluva story. Come to think of it, it would make a great future episode of “Red, White and Blueprint.” He replied:

“RV. It’s obviously very personal and something I don’t care to talk about. Please respect at least that.”

R.V. Scheide

R.V. Scheide is an award-winning journalist who has covered news, politics, music, arts and culture in Northern California for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in the Tenderloin Times, Sacramento News & Review, Reno News & Review, Chico News & Review, North Bay Bohemian, San Jose Metro, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, Alternet, Boston Phoenix, Creative Loafing and Counterpunch, among many other publications. His honors include winning the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Act and best columnist awards as well as best commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists, California chapter. Mr. Scheide welcomes your comments and story tips. Contact him at RVScheide@anewscafe.com..

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