Moving Pictures 25.08.2007
Dean Reed - Comrade Rockstar
A half-dozen lengthy essays and some rather detailed biographies offer both complementary and contradictory information about Dean Reed's amazing career.
Also, about the mysterious circumstances of his death.
Indeed, some of these accounts seem more concerned with the unresolved details about his apparent suicide than with the highlights of his career. Others are clearly pushing myth over fact.
Reggie Nadelson, for instance.
A pulp detective writer based in New York, Reggie Nadelson started the ball rolling back in 1991, when she published a Dean Reed biography titled Comrade Rockstar. As she herself candidly admits, the biography was hatched when she saw the Mike Wallace "60 Minutes" interview with Dean Reed that was broadcast on CBS in April of 1986.
For that broadcast, possibly triggered by Will Roberts's documentary American Rebel, Mike Wallace had interviewed Dean Reed in his East Berlin home — just three months before his death. And those "60 Minutes" were anything but flattering for the American Rebel. Particularly when it came to defending the Berlin Wall and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Reggie Nadelson's Comrade Rockstar, as a factually objective account of Dean Reed's life and career, was also wanting in many respects. More hardboiled detective fiction than hardnosed research reporting.
But her account was good enough to spawn a BBC-2 documentary: Leslie Woodhead's The Incredible Case of Comrade Rockstar (UK, 1992), produced in collaboration with Reggie Nadelson.
Fifteen years later, in 2004, Nadelson pulled her hardcover Comrade Rockstar off the shelf and updated it into a paperback edition. Subtitled The Life and Mystery of Dean Reed, The All-American Boy Who Brought Rock 'n' Roll to the Soviet Union, it accents Dean Reed's career like a trailer for a Hollywood B-movie.
Currently, due to access to GDR State Security (Stasi) files, another Dean Reed biography is making waves on the literary front. One that digs a bit deeper into the demise of Comrade Rockstar.
In Chuck Laszewski's Rock 'n' Roll Radical: The Life and Mysterious Death of Dean Reed (published in 2005) a suicide note has surfaced. An apology, no less, to GDR Premier Erich Honecker. Moreover, it was written on the back of a page from the Wounded Knee screenplay.
Another biography, Stefan Ersting's Der rote Elvis (published in 2006) served as the source for Leopold Grün's documentary with the same title that was released in the same year.
Meanwhile, Dean Reed's mother has transported her son's remains back to Colorado and a Denver graveyard. She doesn't believe that Dean committed suicide. Nor does she accept the coroner's report of an accidental drowning.
The family believes he was murdered.
Whether true or not, the fact that the GDR authorities had withheld some of the information currently found in the Stasi files opens up a pandora's box. And feeds the myth.
Today, Dean Reed's memory is kept alive by an annual essay contest sponsored by the University of Colorado. It's called the "Dean Reed Peace Prize."