By Jesse Monteagudo
If Breaking the Surface was not the best-selling gay book of all time, it was certainly the biggest moneymaker for Fort Lauderdale's Outbooks, which sold over 1600 copies.
When Robert Sonnekson & Co. got Greg Louganis and co-author Eric Marcus to begin their book tour at the International Swimming Hall of Fame, at an event sponsored by Outbooks, they knew that they'd accomplished a coup.
There are several reasons why Breaking the Surface had such a huge success. The first reason was Greg Louganis himself, a bona fide athletic hero and cult superstar.
A four-time Olympic gold medallist, Louganis is undoubtedly the greatest diver who ever lived.
Louganis' triumphs are in the mainstream: To quote an envious writer who attended the OutWrite Conference that year in Boston, he hadn't received one hundredth of the publicity Louganis did. To become a "famous gay" one has to do something famous while in the closet and then come out.
Second, the publication of the famous diver's life story coincided with an incredibly successful publicity tour, which was crowned by Louganis' appearance on ABC/TV's 20/20 and his well- publicized revelation, in his interview with Barbara Walters, that he is HIV-positive.
Louganis' emergence from the AIDS closet, and his stories of dyslexia, gay spousal abuse and low self-esteem, made Americans forget about O.J. Simpson for a moment and tune in to the tragedies and triumphs of an authentic, if gay, American hero.
There is nothing I can write about Greg Louganis that hasn't been written or said before. His book, which was co-written by Louganis and Eric Marcus -- author of the best-selling Making History and The Male Couples Guide to Living Together was the story that gay America had waited for.
It wasn't just the personal triumphs, the successes on the diving board or the stage, that made this book so appealing to lesbian and gay people.
What many of us related to were the lowpoints of Louganis' life: the early feelings of inadequacy and difference, the drug and alcohol abuse, the unstable and abusive relationships, and the experience of living with HIV.
Louganis is also a lovable guy, the kind you would want for a brother (or maybe something else). Because of all this, queer America took Louganis to heart, and forgave him for remaining in the closet for so long.
How many of us, having reached the top of a notoriously homophobic profession, would risk losing it all just to make a political statement? I thought so.
The diver's autobiography is like Greg Louganis himself, simple, to the point, and disarmingly appealing -- and since I haven't met the man I make this point on the basis of his TV appearances.
Louganis has no taste for scandals. Those who want dirt about the world of professional sports must look elsewhere. Nor does he wallow in self-pity or special pleading, which is the bane of many autobiographies.
Even those of us who are 'Olympic illiterate' can enjoy reading about Louganis's rise to the top of the diving board, a climb full of dangers, physical and otherwise.
More fascinating, and disturbing, was Louganis' depiction of his six-year, abusive relationship with Tom, his late lover and manager. Though Louganis' AIDS revelations made the headlines, his spousal tale of woe brought gay spousal abuse out of the closet, just as the Simpson trial made wife battering a topic of discussion.
All in all, Breaking the Surface was the right book at the right time. Other books may come along that will be better written, more controversial, trashier or funnier. But none of them will come close to the success of Greg Louganis' autobiography.
I recommend Louganis' story to all queer people, to our friends, to sports lovers and to anyone else who likes a good tale. Greg Louganis' life thus far seems to have been only the beginning of a long career as an AIDS activist, gay role model, actor, breeder (of Great Danes), and all-around nice guy. Who says there are no happy endings?