Athens News, October 14, 1982
American singer rock 'n' rolls to Russians
Mikhail Barishnikov, Martina Navritilova and Rudolf Nuryev left Soviet-bloc countries to live in the United States. They became media celebrities here, and newspapers, magazines and television used their defections to hint that many Czechs and Russians prefer American freedom to Soviet communism.
Some Americans, however, choose to live in socialist countries. One example is pop-singer and movie star Dean Reed, the most famous American in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union. In fact, Dean Reed is one of the most popular singers in the world. His records sell by the millions in socialist countries and Latin America. In Moscow, he receives police protection from zealous fans. His movies, like the recent "Sing, Cowboy, Sing," are as popular as his songs. Yet, he remains unknown in his own country. Born and raised in Denver, the 44-year-old Reed now lives in East Germany.
Athens filmmaker Will Roberts knows Dean Reed. Roberts has devoted the last two years to "American Rebel," his documentary that will introduce the world famous singer to America. Now editing, Roberts hopes to premiere the film in April, 1983 at the Filmex in Los Angeles. "American Rebel" will be his third film. His first, "Men's Lives," explores the pressures of growing up male in America. It won an Acadamy Award for best student documentary in 1975. "Between Men," his second film, analyzed the relationship between masculinity and the military. Ironically, it won the George Washington Honor Medal in 1979 from the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge, Pa. and the Diploma at the 1979 Moscow International Film Festival.
Roberts first encountered Reed at the 1979 Moscow Film Festival. "My Soviet interpreter pointed Dean out and couldn't believe I had never heard of him." That sparked his interest. Soon Roberts begans studying scrapbooks fans hat sent Reed, and speaking with the singer himself. Eventually, Reed came to Athens last summer for interviewing.
Researching and shooting "American Rebel" has made Roberts an expert on Dean Reed's life. He has a large amount of fan club paraphanalia collected for the film: stills, records, buttons, sheet music, press books, newspaper and magazine clippings. Juxtaposed among Reed's socialist awards is his Kiwanis Club commendation he received as a high school senior.
In the early '60s Reed released 15 rock & roll singles for Capitol records. After appearances on "Bachelor Father" and the "Dick Clark Show," he toured Latin America. His third record "Our Summer Romance" had become, in Robert's words, "the biggest hit South America had ever seen." He settled in Argentina hosting a television variety show, "The Dean Reed Hour."
He went to Italy in 1966 and appeared in eight spaghetti westerns. In 1970 he traveled to Chile, campaigning for Salvador Allende's Unidad Popular Party. Three days before the election, police arrested Reed in front of the United States embassy. As he told Roberts, he felt that America needed to wash itself of Vietnamese blood. He was arrested as he laundered an American flag outside the embassy gates. Some political commentators later said Reed's theatrics provided the 1 percent margin needed for Allende's victory, Roberts added.
In 1972 Reed went to East Germany and began starring in films. He wrote and acted in "Bloodbrothers," a film based on a massacre of Sand Creek Indians outside of Denver. He stars in many westerns, shown in the Soviet-bloc and filmed in Bulgaria. His third wife, Renate Blume, is one of the most famous actresses in eastern Europe. She appeared as Jenny Marx in the 8-hour film spectacular "Marx: The Early Years." She and Reed have received the Order of Lenin for Art and Literature from the Soviet Government.
International attention focused on Reed in November 1978. Invited to speak at the University of Minnesota, he participated in a protest against a utility company, in Delano, Minn. that was building power lines across nearlby farmland. After his arrest he spent 11 days in jail with 19 other protestors. Soviet television presented its viewers with daily coverage of the Reed's internment and trial. Roberts said, "It's as if Elvis Presley had been imprisoned in the Soviet Union." Tass, Soviet news agency, sent a correspondent to Minnesota, to report on Reed as a "political prisoner." A jury acquitted Reed and the farmers of trespassing charges.
Many of Reed's friends and family have been interviewed for Robert's 90-minute documentary. In Los Angeles he spoke with Paton Price, Reed's acting teacher, who called Reed an "extremely charismatic man, whose greatest strength is his love for others." Roberts also traveled to Las Vegas to question Reed's father, Cyril, who plays the slot machines and sends his son anti-communist literature. Roberts recently returned from Hawaii, where he spoke with Reed's mother, a Honolulu feminist, and the only one of Reed's family to visit him in Germany.
By David Palmieri