Hurricane Sandy claims life of former Hermosa Beach singer and entrepreneur [UPDATE]
A former Hermosa Beach woman has died in Hurricane Sandy. Claudene Christian, 42, was a member of the crew of the HMS Bounty, which sunk off the coast of North Carolina on Monday.
Christian, a graduate of USC where she was a Song Girl, was a successful entrepreneur who created a line of collegiate dolls. She was also a singer on the local scene, including with Joe’s Band in the 1990s.
Joe Middler, who formed the band and kept in touch with Christian, said she asked to join the band after seeing a show at the former Harry O’s in Manhattan Beach.
“My singer ended up leaving the band and she came in and auditioned for me,” Middler said. “She was really terrific, a great performer and personality. We had a lot of great times.”
Christian sang with the band for about five years from 1993 to 1998, including performing with the Gipsy Kings and at the House of Blues, Middler said.
Middler said Christian developed Cheerleader Doll Company, with a doll for each university in the country.
“She was a real success,” Middler said.
In 1996, Mattel sued Christian for the first time, alleging copyright infringement. The legal battle would last seven years.
“Twenty-three lawsuits and seven years later I ended up winning,” Christian told the Sequoyah County Times last year. “They stopped a shipment of 35,000 dolls coming in through customs. I was stopped. It took nine months to get the dolls released, but I won; that was the first thing I won. They just kept suing me and kept suing me and kept suing me. It went all the way to the 9th Circuit, which is one step below the Supreme Court and I won again. Now this case is used as a case study at law schools all across the nation.”
What Christian won in court from Mattel helped her buy a home in Hermosa Beach and invest in the opening of the Dragon nightclub, which is now Watermans Safe House for Surfer’s, Middler said.
Christian, a former Ms. Teen Alaska, was excited about crewing on the HMS Bounty, and Middler said he was keeping in touch with her travails on Facebook.
The Bounty, a replica of the 1800s era ship, was originally built for the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty” and later used in the movie series “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Christian, who moved to Vian, Oklahoma, joined the HMS Bounty in May as one of 16 sailors. According to her Twitter account, she called it “my new home 4 a few yrs!”
On her Facebook profile, Christian wrote that she was a descendent of Fletcher Christian, a crew member of the original HMS Bounty who led a mutiny in 1789 and helped seize control of the ship.
“As a descendant of Fletcher Christian, played in four movies by Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlin Brando & Mel Gibson, I’m sure my ancestor would be proud,” Christian wrote on Facebook. “However this time, there will be no Mutiny on this Bounty… At least not at the hands of me, a new generation of Christian Family Sailors!”
On Oct. 25, Christian posted on her facebook page: “Setting sail RIGHT NOW aboard Bounty. Currently leaving New London, Connecticut headed South down to Key West.. YES, HEADED STRAIGHT THROUGH THE PATH OF HURRICANE SANDY!! Our Capt has 30yrs experience and our ship & crew are strong!”
Christian’s final post on Oct. 25 read: “Sailing aboard HMS TALL SHIP BOUNTY! Sailing South to Key West.. Planning to sail East of Hurricane Sandy… We’ll get at least some of her weather.. Should be interesting.”
The captain of the ship, which set sail from New London, Connecticut, last Thursday in an attempt to reach St. Petersburg, Florida, believed the ship would be safer at sea than in port.
The ship’s owner, Bob Hansen, told CNN that the HMS Bounty started taking on water while the captain was attempting to head east and away from the hurricane.
“At that time it wasn’t considered an emergency, even though they had several feet of water inside the boat,” Hansen told CNN. “But somehow we lost power in our generator and in our main engines, and as a result, we could not pump any water out of the boat.”
While the waves struck the ship, “it just got to the point where she couldn’t stay afloat anymore,” Hansen said.
Hansen said that when crew members understood their lives were in danger, they moved into two waiting life rafts early morning Monday.
Christian, as well as the ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, 63, was not in life rafts when the United States Coast Guard helicopters rescued 14 people out of two lifeboats around 6:30 a.m. Monday, about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina. The center of the storm was about 160 miles from the ship, which sank in 18 feet of water amid 40 mph winds, according to the Coast Guard.
A news release from the Coast Guard stated that the crew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter located Christian, who was unresponsive in the water, and hoisted her into the helicopter before flying her to Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
A memorial will be held from 6 – 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9 at Game Changers sports bar in Hermosa Beach: https://www.facebook.com/events/543050005721884/