On Sound: From Lena Horne to the Cranberries, high-diver Greg Louganis splashes down on his favorite music

Having drawn 47,000 onlookers last August in just its second year in Boston, the Red Bull Cliff Diving competition has swelled to the point where it’s still free, but a now a — and sold-out — ticketed event. Fan Pier will be packed Sunday as requests for reserved tickets were filled quickly, leaving those late to the party the option of elbowing for a view from Whiskey Priest or one of the other Seaport establishments in order to catch a glimpse of international divers making the leap from the Institute of Contemporary Art building, some 90 feet above the murky depths of Boston Harbor.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist and, let’s be honest, the greatest diver ever, Greg Louganis will be returning as a judge for the event. The openly gay 53-year-old Louganis has been busy fielding questions from dozens of media outlets about the anti-gay laws passed in Russia recently, and whether he thinks the United States should boycott the Olympic Games set to be held in Sochi next year. He’s completely anti-boycott, considering it a disservice to the athletes — something he experienced firsthand in 1980 when the U.S. was one of 65 countries who did not participate in the games in protest of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

It’s all pretty heavy stuff to be getting into on a daily basis, so when Vanyaland caught up with the good-natured Louganis this week, we decided to lighten things up and talk music. He was more than game and was downright cheery about it.

Michael Christopher: The Cliff Diving competition tour takes these divers to some pretty amazing places; the Blue Lagoon in Wales, Icarai Beach in Rio de Janeiro, the Andaman Sea in Thailand; gorgeous spots with pristine water …and then you come to Boston.

Greg Louganis: [laughs]

The Harbor isn’t the most pristine body of water in the world, so what do you think the difference, the mentality of going into something like that?

Going off the Contemporary Arts building; that in itself is in some ways incredibly spectacular. Each one of the venues is met with various challenges for the athletes. It’s great to have the Red Bull Cliff Diving in so many different venues.

That was a very diplomatic answer …alright, let’s talk a bit about music.


What are you listening to these days?

I have some incredibly talented friends …Patrick Alan Casey, he’s a young pop artist that I’m just a huge fan of, and he’s a good buddy of mine. Elton John – his new album is called The Diving Board! So I’m very interested in hearing that. I met Elton just recently at the Life Ball event, which is the largest AIDS benefit in the world, and it was in Vienna, Austria so I was able to say hello to him.

My taste is very eclectic, and being the good homo, I love showtunes [laughs].

I know, you’ve told me that before – and that’s the gayest answer you could give…

[continues laughing]

When you were at the height of competing, do you remember what you would listen to before a particularly important dive?

An old standby of mine was “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz sung by Lena Horne, because it really kind of hit home for me to really believe in myself because it’s a very vulnerable position you’re putting yourself in – plus you’re in front of the world with very little clothing [laughs].

Very little left to the imagination! And then you’re being judged on a scale of one to 10 on your performance, so it’s a very vulnerable place to be.

Do you think you’ve mellowed in your tastes as you’ve gotten older or are you just as eclectic?

I think I’m still as eclectic as ever. I even like some of the hip-hop, you know, I’ve taken some hip-hop dance classes because I was a dancer before I was anything else – and I love that. I’m not a fan of house music; it’s just too repetitive and monotonous to me.

I’m a fan of the Cranberries, I’m a fan of Tracy Chapman, Joshua Kadison; Janis Ian is a good buddy of mine and I love her stuff. I like the storytelling and that’s what I listen to.

Well nice, I wanted to take a different tack and ask Olympic guy Greg Louganis about music.

I love it! I love it! And you know what?

Oh my god – I just did a cut for [Vermont native] Wayne Warner who is a country and western artist. That’s not necessarily my favorite [genre], unless it has a story, and a lot of them do. He said, “I know you’ve sung before, can you sing a track for us?”

And we did that, so he’s going to come out Sunday and I’ll finally get to meet him face-to-face. So I’ve got a country track [laughs], which I think is hilarious; but we had fun doing it.