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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29, 1960

It’s Tuesday, January 29, 2013, and the final Tuesday Timeline of the month.

And this week’s Tuesday Timeline focus is unique...because I’ll actually be discussing two topics in one date!  Think it seems daunting?  I thought so too...until I happened to find a common link between these two subjects.

As always, we’ll start off the Tuesday Timeline with a look back through other events that took place on this date beginning with...

1814 – France defeats Russia and Prussia in the Battle of Brienne

1819 – Stamford Raffles lands on the island of Singapore

1834 – Andrew Jackson orders the first use of federal soldiers to suppress a labour dispute

1845 – Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” is published in “The New York Evening Mirror”

1850 – The Compromise of 1850 is introduced to the U.S. Congress by Henry Clay

1856 – Queen Victoria introduces the Victoria Cross

1861 – Kansas is officially recognized as the thirty-fourth American state

1863 – Great Bear Massacre occurs

1886 – Karl Benz patents the first successful gas-powered automobile

1900 – Eight baseball teams make up the newly founded American League

1907 – Charles Curtis becomes the first Native American U.S. Senator

1916 – Paris, France is bombed by Germany during World War I

1936 – The first inductees of the Baseball Hall of Fame are announced

1943 – U.S. cruiser “Chicago” is torpedoed by Japanese bombers on the first day of the Battle of Rennell Island

1944 – The Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginassio in Bologna, Italy is destroyed in an air-raid

1963 – The first inductees of the Pro Football Hall of Fame are announced

1967 – The Mantra-Rock Dance takes place in San Francisco, California

1977 – Actor Freddie Prinze dies of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at just 22 years of age

1979 – Grover Cleveland Elementary School shooting takes place; Brenda Spencer kills two and injures eight

1980 – Actor/singer/comedian Jimmy Durante passes away in Santa Monica, California at the age of 86

1985 – U.S.A. for Africa puts the finishing touches on their single, “We Are The World”

1991 – The Battle of Khafji begins as the Persian Gulf War escalates

1996 – French president Jacques Chirac announces a “definitive end” to nuclear weapons testing in France

1998 – A bombing at a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic kills one, and wounds another

2002 – George W. Bush gives his State of the Union address, in which he describes Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “Axis of Evil”

2009 – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is convicted of several charges of corruption

And, celebrating a birthday this (and every) January 29 are...Franco Cerri, George Allen, Germaine Greer, Robin Morgan, Tony Blackburn, Katharine Ross, Tom Selleck, Pat Kenny, Marc Singer, Ann Jillian, Paulin Bordeleau, Caesar Cervin, Paul Fusco, Steve March-Torme, Lynne McGranger, Louie Perez (Los Lobos), Charlie Wilson (The Gap Band), Terry Kinney, Oprah Winfrey, Eddie Jordan, Irlene Mandrell, Glen Cochrane, Michael Sloane, Mike Foligno, Matthew Ashford, Steve Sax, Mike Aldrete, Nicholas Turturro, Bob Holly, Monica Horan, Andre Reed, Anna Ryder Richardson, Peter Lundgren, Stacey King, Edward Burns, Aeneas Williams, Heather Graham, Matt Brandstein, Brian Wood, Jason Schmidt, Sara Gilbert, Chris Castle, Charles Divins,  Justin Hartley, Rob Bironas, Andrew Keegan, April Scott, Jason James Richter, Jonny Lang, Adam Lambert, Heidi Mueller, Irina Shabayeva, Todd Herzog, Isabel Lucas, Athina Onassis, Drew Tyler Bell, and Alex Avila.

That may seem like an overwhelming group of celebrities celebrating a birthday.  Well, we have two more birthdays to add to that list...and as it so happens, both of these people share the same exact birthdate.

January 29, 1960.

At first glance, both of these people may seem like two completely different people.  One is male, the other female.  One was an Olympic gold medalist during the 1980s, the other was considered one of the first wave of supermodels.

But they had one thing in common.  Both of them ended up HIV positive.  And, in the case of one of our subjects, it ended up costing them their life.  As for the other one...well, they seem to be doing just fine.

These are the stories of two people forever linked together by one disease. 

Today we’re looking back on the lives of the late Gia Carangi and the still living Greg Louganis.

First, the story of Gia Carangi, a model who appeared to have it all, but ended up losing everything.

Gia Carangi was born on January 29, 1960 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest child of a restaurant owner and a homemaker.  Gia’s childhood was plagued by domestic squabbles between her parents, and when Gia was eleven, her mother walked out on the entire family.  As a result of these problems, many people came to the conclusion that Gia was “needy and manipulative”, and that she did not receive the motherly attention that she desperately needed.

It really wasn’t until high school that Gia began to develop her interest in fashion and modelling.  She hung around with a group who referred to themselves as the “Bowie kids”, who were so obsessed with David Bowie that they dressed exactly like him, right down to the Ziggy Stardust look that he popularized in the mid-1970s.  Gia was instantly drawn to the crowd, and idolized David Bowie based on his fashion sense, and admitted bisexuality...something that Gia herself could relate with.

Her modelling career began in Philadelphia as she would model for several print ads for newspapers.  At seventeen years old, Carangi relocated to New York City to make modelling a full-time career.  Almost immediately, Gia attracted the attention of famed photographers Francesco Scavullo, Richard Avedon, Joseph Petrellis, Chris von Wangenheim, and Marco Glaviano.  Gia ended up on several magazine covers including British Vogue in 1979, two Vogue Paris covers in 1979 and 1980, Vogue Italia in 1981, and various issues of Cosmopolitan.  Her profile grew so huge that many people considered her to be part of the first wave of “supermodels”, which included Janice Dickinson and Dorian Leigh.

But along with the fame that modelling brought was the temptation within the social spectrum of New York City’s nightlife.  Carangi was a fixture at Studio 54, and frequently used cocaine when she went to clubs.  But by the time the 1980s began, her addiction switched to the more dangerous heroin.  And her heroin addiction was the beginning of her fall from the top.

When Gia’s agent, Wilhelmina Cooper, passed away in 1980, she took the news hard, and soon she began to use drugs every day.  At photo shoots, she was often erratic, had temper tantrums, and sometimes even fell asleep at photo shoots.  After being dropped by a modelling agency after just three weeks because of her dependency on drugs, she attempted to kick the habit once and for all.  But with the death of her dear friend Chris von Wangenheim in 1981, this sent Gia into a deep depression that was fueled by more drug use.

She was sent to rehab, and upon completing treatment, she tried her hand at a career in modelling once more, but nobody would hire her.  Her last cover ended up being a Cosmopolitan cover in the winter of 1982, shot by her friend Francesco Scavullo, as a gift.

Four years later, Gia Carengi was diagnosed with AIDS, then a fairly new and misunderstood disease.  She died from complications from AIDS on November 18, 1986 at just 26 years of age.  Because of the unknowns of the disease at that time, her funeral was closed-casket, and nobody from the fashion world knew about her death until at least 1987. 

As for Greg Louganis, he was also born on January 29, 1960 in El Cajon, California.  He was born to a set of teenage parents who gave him up for adoption when he was a baby.  He was adopted by a Greek-American couple, and by the time he was two, was already enrolled in dance, acrobatics, and gymnastics!  When he was nine, his family put in a swimming pool, which allowed Louganis to practice diving.

In 1976, Louganis entered his first Olympics, the Summer Games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he won a silver medal in the tower event.  A couple of years later, he won a gold medal in the 1978 World Championships.  His diving accomplishments helped him earn a diving scholarship to the University of Miami, but transferred to the University of California, Irvine three years later, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Louganis was set to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics, with many people believing that he was a shoo-in for at least two gold medals.  Unfortunately, the United States boycotted the 1980 games, which prevented him from competing that year.  But he more than made up for it at the 1984 Olympics, where he won gold in the springboard and tower diving events.  He also won gold medals in the following championships.

1979 Pan American Games – 2 Gold
1982 World Championship – 2 Gold
1983 Summer Universiade – 2 Gold
1983 Pan American Games – 2 Gold
1986 World Championship – 2 Gold
1987 Pan American Games – 2 Gold

By 1988, Louganis was competing in his third Summer Olympics.  This time, they were held in Seoul, South Korea.  The expectations were once again high, as everyone expected Louganis to strike gold once more.  What ended up happening was that Louganis struck something else on one of his dives...and the aftermath once again brought the disease known as AIDS to the forefront.

When Greg Louganis performed his dive at the springboard event, he ended up hitting his head during his dive, inevitably sustaining a concussion.  Despite his injury, Louganis insisted on completing the event.  He ended up winning the gold medal in that event, plus one more, earning him two more medals to his growing collection, as well as the honour of being named ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” Athlete of the Year for 1988.

However, what people did not know at the time of Greg’s accident was that he had been keeping a secret about himself.  Six months prior to the Olympic Games, he was diagnosed as being HIV positive.  He decided to keep it a secret from the public during the games, which was questioned by several people in and out of the diving community once it was made public in the mid-1990s.  To keep his HIV status under control, Louganis was prescribed AZT, which he took every four hours on the clock. 

It wasn’t until 1994 that Louganis admitted to the world that he was gay.  And in 1995, Louganis came clean about his HIV diagnosis when he wrote about it in his autobiography, “Breaking the Surface”.

As a result of his HIV positive announcement, almost all of his sponsors dropped him (the lone exception being Speedo), and he was raked over the coals over the idea that the concussion that he sustained at the 1988 Olympic Games could have put other divers at risk of contracting the disease.  However, it has since been proven that the chlorine in the pool would have killed any traces of HIV, and that only divers with open wounds would have been remotely affected.

As of 2013, Greg Louganis is still relatively healthy and although his HIV status is still present, it has not yet developed into AIDS.  He took small acting roles, and has been a key player in defending the civil liberties of those diagnosed with AIDS. 

And, he still has connections to the world of Olympic diving.  Although he no longer competes, he served as a mentor to the United States diving team in the 2012 Olympics in London.

So, there you have it.  Two different people born on the same day, both diagnosed as being HIV positive (and in the case of Carangi, AIDS).  In one case, the disease ended up taking one person’s life...but in the other case, he was not going to let his HIV positive status prevent him from living life to the fullest. 

Those were the stories of two people born on January 29, 1960.

Both Gia Carangi and Greg Louganis’ stories are available to watch in film.  Gia’s story can be found in the 1998 HBO film “Gia”, starring Angelina Jolie.  As for Greg Louganis, his story was made into the 1996 film “Breaking the Surface:  The Greg Louganis Story”, starring Mario Lopez.

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