Up Front: THE PRINTED WORD
RANDOM HOUSE'S PROFILES IN COURAGE
DIVER GREG LOUGANIS' BEST-seller is the latest in Random House's string of successful autobiographies by athletes afflicted with the AIDS virus. The giant Newhouse-owned publisher is in its ninth printing with Olympic gold medalist Louganis' Breaking the Surface, which also just hit No.1 on The New York Times best-seller list. Similarly, basketball legend Magic Johnson's 1992 memoirs (My Life) and tennis star Arthur Ashe's 1993 book (Days of Grace), published by Random House unit Knopf, were best-sellers.
Random House executives say it's just coincidence that it has published all three, and they are reluctant to attribute the books' success to the AIDS factor. Others in the industry say the reasons are clear: The men are prominent, and their tragic stories are compelling.
AIDS-related publicity surrounding this trio has done some good. The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center notes a 41% increase in anonymous HIV testing there since Louganis announced on Feb. 22 he had the virus. Such hikes also followed disclosures by Johnson and Ashe, who died just before his book came out.