I, Claudia

Claudia DiFolco isn't really a ditz. She just plays one on TV.

Her task at NewShow is to deliver snappy bites of Valley nightlife throughout the hour. A recent week saw her feigning bliss at the Blue Note with Tim Hearn and Gray Matter on Monday, at Sound Vision Studios with the Robies on Tuesday, D'Angelo and Brian Setzer shows at Celebrity Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and at Brokers Bar & Grill on Friday. One day a week she's at Zia Records or Blockbuster Video, touting the latest releases. It's all live and documented in quick-moving morsels of vérité-like video.

"I hang out for an hour a night at a place in town where most people would like to hang out," she says of her job. "I take them somewhere without them having to leave their home. I don't just bring a camera there. What I try to do is talk in a way and make them feel like they actually got a front-row seat at Alice Cooper'stown, for example. With live TV, you either get it or you don't."

DiFolco has the kind of face that generates preconceptions -- primarily that she landed on the pedestal of celebrity by the advantage of good breeding.

Claudia DiFolco signs autographs for fans
Paolo Vescia
Claudia DiFolco signs autographs for fans
DiFolco and 3TV photographer James Apalategui.
Paolo Vescia
DiFolco and 3TV photographer James Apalategui.

"She's all porn star," quips Mark Norman of local band Ghetto Cowgirl. Norman recently caused a minor ruckus after flipping the bird on a NewShow telecast before a Ghetto Cowgirl performance. He reportedly left the studio in humiliation.

An employee at a Phoenix Zia Records location from which DiFolco does a weekly broadcast sees her otherwise and rattles off quick judgment. "She's just synthetic, you know?"

A glance at the NewShow online discussion board reveals confusion as to her journalistic role at Channel 3: ". . . Claudia needs to go or change her style, I really hate watching her on the news. But I saw her once out at Cooper'stown doing a show, dressed in black of course. I have to say she seems nice she was very quiet when she was not doing the show (Hard to believe). Even though I hate the way she dresses & she really bugs me she seemed really nice."

DiFolco possesses the winning recipe for success in TV pop culture: huge ambition and stunning looks. Up front, she's the seemingly quintessential media prop. Part of an overt attempt, critics of the NewShow harp, to doll up mediocrity with transparent prurience.

Onscreen, she does little to dispel the notion.

On a number of NewShow broadcasts, DiFolco offers up what could be described as an elaborate parody of earnestness. There are cheesecake poses, pouty make-faces and insufferable TV reporter mannerisms, all neatly held together and brandished about with a heady, frequently goofy sexual verve. Her canned answers can seem insultingly glib -- a habit of saying "nice" as a descriptive term, dialogue with the meter of rehearsed speech. Think local newscast, MTV's Spring Break, Entertainment Tonight as comfy bedfellows. It's all part of her job description.

On-scene reports and band interviews reveal little more than how something or someone is "cool" or "hip." DiFolco can gush over a less-than-mediocre pop band thusly: "One of the Valley's foremost power-pop bands."

On a recent remote from a D'Angelo/Lucy Pearl concert at Celebrity Theatre, DiFolco and studio anchor Liz Habib convinced a guy with a chiseled torso to remove his shirt, then cooed their approval as the man flexed his pecs.

DiFolco explains, "Hey, that's what our viewers want to watch."

Despite her appearance and onscreen mannerisms, DiFolco retains an inner core of clear-eyed skepticism. She knows where and why she fits in. She shows no signs of taking herself seriously and remains aloof to celebrity jibes. DiFolco, paradoxically, doesn't buy into the TV "personality" mythology.

"A big part of it could be looks, a big part of it is talent -- you hope -- and intelligence," she says. "I think a very, very huge part of it is the way you relate to people. I'm lucky enough that people want to watch me.

"I learned early that there is gonna be someone prettier, there's always gonna be someone more intelligent, there's always gonna be someone that's liked more, there's always gonna be someone that works less but makes more money. That's just the way it is. That's the business. Unfortunately you're a commodity."

"I get the sense she's pretty protective of her persona," says Bruce St. James, program director at KKFR-FM radio. St. James met DiFolco not long after she moved here from Toronto last October. "But my bet is, she's probably been burned a couple of times by people who've had ulterior motives and were disingenuous about things. When you get sucked up to all the time you have difficulty telling who's real and who's trying to sell you something.

". . . I think a lot of people expect her to be ditzy and to have this huge ego. I think she downplays it [her intelligence] because it's maybe not cool or it comes across a little egotistical. Believe me, I deal with people every day that are very affected. People come up to me and go, 'Oh, yeah, Claudia, she seems a little uhh . . .' And I go, 'No, she's actually pretty normal and nice especially.'"

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