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In the words of Ebonics-spouting female horndog Clarissa Jenkins, "Necessity be da mutha of invenshun, baby. Know what ah'm sayin'?"
Thanks to DJ Steve Tingle, father of this comic creation, fans of the Valley's premier trash-talkin' radio floozy know only too well.
Just ask anyone who's ever tuned in to Tingle's afternoon drive-time radio show on The Edge (KEDJ/KDDJ-FM 106.3), the Valley's only alternative music station, over the past two years. During the show's signature "Five O'Clock Phone Call" segment, Tingle-as-Jenkins (the first name is pronounced "Clahr-rees-suh") has used the telephone to proposition drunks, hassle homeless-shelter employees, befuddle people who've placed classified ads and flummox phone solicitors.
Attempting to seduce a drunk who'd happened to pick up a pay phone in a seedy section of East Van Buren, Jenkins once cooed, "When was the last time you had your trouser monkey rubbed? I jes wanna come over and be wit chew."
In another episode, Jenkins called a preschool and wanted to know when she could drop off her son -- who just happened to be pushing 50 years old. Upon learning that her boy was too old by at least four decades, Jenkins went postal: "Jes because he's 47 doesn't mean he's a dumb ****. You lemme talk to yo superior!"
And a telemarketer for a long-distance carrier once received an earful when she asked whether Jenkins spent more than $100 a month on phone calls. "You can take dat script and shove it up yo rear end, you honky!" roared an indignant Jenkins. "Girl, I spend more than $100 a month on adult videos!"
As with Bigfoot, the daunting fictional monster she frequently suggests, the PC-challenged visage of Clarissa Jenkins has never been captured on film. And as far as her real-life alter ego is concerned, that photographic impossibility is all for the best: According to the situation in which she finds herself, the chameleonic prankstress has been (a) old, (b) young, (c) straight, (d) gay, (e) dumb, (f) dumber, and, on more than one occasion, all of the above within the span of a single call.
"I think everyone's got his own idea of what she looks like," says Tingle, an athletically built 26-year-old who himself resembles a cross between actor Chris O'Donnell and, as everyone tells him, "that guy who plays Chandler on Friends whose name I can never remember."
"Myself, I see her with curlers in her hair, a big mouth, always loud and big -- real big."
As a child, Steve Tingle could hardly have found a less likely breeding ground for the gritty urban street milieu Clarissa Jenkins regularly treads during her phone flings on The Edge. The son of a Los Angeles cop and a minor TV actress who now works as Cybill Shepherd's stand-in, Tingle grew up in the rolling hills of Agoura, California, a well-to-do white-bread enclave not far from the Malibu movie colony.
Outside of accents he might have heard on TV and in movies, Tingle claims it wasn't until he observed a black woman disciplining her children in a Sizzler in West Covina that he was exposed to the ethnic speech patterns that are now his bread and butter.
"She had these three kids and she was going crazy because they just kept throwing things around," recalls Tingle. "Finally, she said, 'I've got jes two words for you: Be-Have!' As a kid, I thought that was the funniest thing in the world because 'behave' is one word, not two. When we got in the car to leave, my mom told us to put on our seat belts, so I said, 'I've got two words for you: Drive this car down the street.'
"I mimicked that woman's voice so perfectly, everyone laughed," he continues. "I thought, hell, if I can make people laugh, I'm going to keep on doing this."
With a young adult male listener base hanging on his every outrageous utterance, Tingle is still capitalizing on the verbal sizzle of that unidentified steak-house customer.
"Sure, I stereotype," says Tingle of his stock in trade, a potentially offensive stable of vocal caricatures that also includes bimbos and lisping homosexuals. "But I stereotype everyone. Besides, anyone who's likely to be offended by what I'm doing isn't probably going to be listening to me anyway."
Still, in answer to one of the questions Tingle has been least asked, yes, some listeners have complained about the DJ's telephone folderol. Their big gripe? That they often can't get out of work and into their cars by 5 p.m. -- which is why the "Five O'Clock Phone Call" actually runs 10 to 15 minutes after the hour.
"It's just like fishing," says Tingle of his prank calls. "I throw in the bait and I just keep doing that until someone bites. I've gotten prostitutes before, and they're great because they'll just go and go. If I get a drunk on the line, that's golden. That's what people want to hear -- someone with a social problem."
Tingle cites the Wayans Brothers TV series In Living Color ("The best damn show that's ever been on television") and their big-screen blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka as his biggest comedy influences. Clarissa, meanwhile, owes a large hunk of gratitude to Flip Wilson's "Geraldine" character.