Daily Camera 01.01.1990
State group plans collection on Dean Reed
DENVER - The Colorado Historical Society is putting together a collection on Dean Reed, the Denver native who became a matinee idol in the communist world but was never more than a curiosity in this country.
Three years after Reed died mysteriously at age 47 in an East German lake, the society's curator of books and manuscripts, Stan Oliner, has collected more than 200 pounds of Reed memorabilia.
With the help of Will Roberts, an American fimmaker who directed a 1985 documentary on Reed's life and was one of Reed's closest friends, Oliner persuaded Reed's widow in East Berlin to part with thousands of photographs and a trunk filled with her husband's personal belongings.
Oliner said the widow, East German movie star Renate Blume-Reed, was "deeply moved" that Colorado was interested in preserving her husband's legacy.
Likewise, Reed's mother is thrilled that her son's accomplishments will be recorded for posterity by state historians.
"I think it's awfully wonderful," said Ruth Anna Brown from her home in Hawaii. "I think Dean's looking down and saying, 'Wow! I just knew I'd come back to Colorado no matter what.'"
Oliner was at the University of Colorado with Reed in the late 1950s but never met him. He became fascinated with Reed's life after the country, folk and rock singer was found dead in June 1986.
East German authorities say the death was accidential, but Reed's relatives and friends claim he was murdered.
"I truly believe in saving this particular slice of Colorado history," Oliner said. "The collection will help not to reintroduce Dean Reed to Colorado, but to introduce Dean Reed to Colorado. The people of the world already know him."
Oliner says Reed was "a pack rat" who saved just about everything. The historical society will need about six months to document all the items in the collection.
Aside from photos, Oliner brought back from a trip to East Berlin this month Reed's six-string guitar, his 1956 Wheat Ridge High School track letter sweater, his cowboy boots, copies of his record albums, hundreds of hours of tape recordings, film scripts, movie posters, daily diaries, Russian and German biographies of his life and a plaster casting of Reed's theeth.
There is plenty of evidence of Reed's celebrity outside the United States: Scrapbooks sent by adoring fans, dozens of telegrams protesting his 1978 arrest in Minnesota on trespassing charges and a black-and-white prayer shawl given to him by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The collection also includes a once-classified U.S. State Department file on Reed, which the singer obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The society plans to publish an index of the collection and make it available worldwide.
"Dean Reed was part of the international rock 'n' roll scene, in the same breath as the Beatles or Elvis Presley or Bill Haley," Oliner said.
Reed dropped out of CU after studying meteorology, and Capitol Records signed him to a recording contract in 1958. He left the United Sates in 1962 and lived for awhile in Latin America and Italy before settling in East Berlin in 1972.
He last returned to Colorado in 1985 for the Denver International Film Festival, which included Roberts' documentary, "American Rebel."