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Record-Breaking O.C. Singer Has Bipartisan Support

Convention: Clinton and Reagan both have given their endorsement of Susan Jeske's rendition of the national anthem, which she'll perform in San Diego on Thursday.

August 14, 1996|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COSTA MESA — When the orchestra strikes the first chord of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, professional singer and college student Susan Jeske of Costa Mesa will literally be in the spotlight.

"I hope I don't get nervous," said Jeske, who earned a spot in the "Guinness Book of Records" in 1992 for most renditions of the national anthem in one day (17). "I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

Jeske, 34, who is studying communications at Orange Coast College, was selected from 500 singers by organizers of the San Diego convention.

Her application included a videotape and letters of recommendation from Ronald Reagan and President Clinton, both of whom she has met during a professional singing career that has taken her to 25 countries and 48 states.

"I sent in my material . . . and I had so much stuff, they said, 'Wow! We've never seen this much stuff.' They said I didn't have to audition."

During her 16-year career--aside from anthems, she does show tunes and light opera--she has sung all over the world, including a performance of "Strangers in the Night" before the queen of Thailand on the queen's 60th birthday.

In addition to singing, Jeske recently won the title of "Ms. California State," and will represent the state at the Ms. USA pageant in December. She also is working on a book, "Beauty Tips That Really Work."

But much of Jeske's story revolves around singing the national anthem. She first sang it before a crowd at a fireworks event near her hometown of Littleton, Colo., in 1980. It was about the same time that Jeske, who was 19 at the time, entered the Miss Littleton pageant.

Although she lost, she won praise for her singing from a former Miss America in attendance who suggested she pursue a singing career.

By 1992, Jeske made it into the "Guinness Book of Records" for singing the "most versions of the national anthem in 24 hours."

"I went 373 miles by limousine, eight miles by helicopter, three by boat, and also rode a motorcycle," Jeske said, recalling the stunt that took her to several cities and raised $93,000 for charity.

She said she has sung the anthem at nearly every venue in Southern California, including Dodger and Anaheim stadiums.

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