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Greg Louganis, from platform to boards

By FREDERICK M. WINSHIP UPI Senior Editor

NEW YORK, Aug. 22 -- Greg Louganis says one reason he agreed to star in the off-Broadway hit 'The Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me...' was to send the message that there is life after being diagnosed with the AIDS virus. 'I think it is important to communicate to others in my situation that there can be a good quality of life,' said the Olympic champion diver this week at the Actors' Playhouse. He is appearing in the one- man, 14-character play through the middle of September, playing seven performances a week. 'I want to do more work as an actor in theater, on TV and in film. Right now I'm doing a lot of lecturing and they are planning a TV movie based on my book. It's a very busy and rewarding life.' Louganis took over 'The Only Thing...' earlier this month from its author and star, Dan Butler, limiting his run to six weeks because he has a heavy lecture schedule beginning in the fall. Butler is returning to his featured role of Bulldog in the popular NBC series 'Frasier.' Louganis, now 35, achieved international fame in 1984 when he became the first man in 56 years to win two Olumpic gold medals in platform and springboard diving, a feat he repeated in 1988. By that time he already had been told he had the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome. He kept the diagnosis secret until he went public in a Barbara Walters TV interview in connection with the March 1 publication of his autobiography, 'Breaking the Surface,' co-authored by Eric Marcus.

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Recently, he began taking a new medication to inhibit the ability of the AIDS virus to attach itself to healthy cells. 'I feel pretty good now,' he said. 'The new treatment sort of knocked me out for a while with flu-like symptoms, but now I've got more energy. And I no longer have all those fears and insecurities that come with keeping secrets, wondering if people would still be cheering for me if they knew who I was.' The play is a sweeping view of contemporary gay culture through vignettes in which Louganis plays a beer-swilling heterosexual confronted by his best friend's homosexuality, a hypocritical gay activist, an innocent volunteer who delivers food to an AIDS patient and falls in love with him, and a variety of other characters. Louganis began acting shortly after his 1988 Olympics wins. His first appearance on a New York stage was a five-month run in the hit comedy 'Jeffrey.' Before that he had leading roles in 'The Boyfriend' at the Sacramento, Calif., Music Circus and 'Cinderella' at the Long Beach, Calif., Civic Light Opera. But he has done nothing comparable to 'The Only Thing...,' and at first he wondered whether he could sustain the more than two-hour show on his own. But the strict discipline of his athletic training helped make it possible, he said. Louganis said he will not play himself in the upcoming USA cable network's dramatization of his autobiography but he probably will do the diving in long shots. His personal preference to play himself is Keanu Reeves, but he knows Reeves keeps busy in feature films. 'It's probably just a pipe dream of mine,' he said. Louganis also will continue as spokesman for Speedo swimwear, which renewed his contract after he publicized his homosexuality and his condition last spring. He said he was unsure how that news would affect his Speedo deal, but he found Linda Wachner, the chief executive officer of Warnaco which owns Speedo, extremely supportive. He said he also supports the Ryan White Care Act to ensure federal funding for the fight against AIDS. He dedicated his book to the memory of White, a boy who contracted the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion and was shunned by many in his community because of his illness. After Ryan White died, Louganis gave one of his Olympic medals to the boy's mother.

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