USC Song Girl Claudene Christian, c1988.
The East Coast is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. One family and a circle of friends is still dealing with one tiny part of the destruction it caused: the death of Claudene Christian, a former USC Song Girl who, it seemed, had found redemption before she died in the storm.
Reporter Matt White tells her story in the latest edition of Los Angeles magazine.
Claudene Christian had a waterfall of blond hair, was voluptuous without being vampish, and walked the University of Southern California campus on perfect legs. She also wore with confidence the halo of being among the school’s most iconic group of women. If you’ve seen the first ten seconds of any televised USC football game, you’ve watched the Song Girls. ... She won’t shout or clap or point or give any hint that she knows she’s on TV. She will most certainly not look at the camera. There is nothing happenstance about this moment, nothing unplanned when she stands at military attention on a sideline or twirls in perfect sync with her teammates. Her facial expression, her posture, her entire demeanor are carefully calibrated to match every Song Girl who’s gone before her in the squad’s 44-year history. The process begins with a tough selection that whittles down a hundred or more hopefuls to a number that is about a dozen today but was closer to six when Claudene tried out as a freshman in 1988.
Claudene had come to LA from Anchorage, Alaska, and not only made the squad, but soon started a business in her dorm room that would make her rich. But she didn't seem to be able to handle the pressure, the drinking, and psychological problems, and she found herself, in her 30s, back home. Then, as a member of the family that claims a lineage back to HMS Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian, she secured a place on the crew of the reconstructed Bounty used in the Marlon Brando movie.
She seemed to have found her place, but then Hurricane Sandy hit, and that's the story White tells in our Off-Ramp interview.