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COMRADE ROCKSTAR by Reggie Nadelson


The Life and Mystery of Dean Reed, the All-American Boy Who Brought Rock ’n’ Roll to the Soviet Union

by Reggie Nadelson

Pub Date: June 17th, 2006
ISBN: 0-8027-1555-9
Publisher: Bloomsbury

An encore from the biggest Cold War celebrity you've never heard of.

Every Soviet citizen has a soft spot for an American named Reed, a charismatic, handsome, idealistic fellow traveler who wined, dined and serenaded the eastern Bloc, and then died, too young. This is not John Reed, played by Warren Beatty in the 1981 cinematic saga Reds. This is Dean Reed, a corn-fed son of Colorado. This is a messy but rollicking account of Reed's adventures behind the Iron Curtain and the mysterious death that landed him in a simple grave outside East Berlin. The author, journalist and documentary filmmaker Nadelson, first learned of Reed from a 60 Minutes segment in 1986. She, along with half the female population of the Soviet Union and the GDR, fell hard for the handsome crooner and embarked on a decade-long quest to piece together his life story. She taps the usual line-up—wives, girlfriends, translators and mom—as well as a weird span of authorities from rock-’n’-roll legend Phil Everly to the ubiquitous wonk of perestroika, Vladimir Pozner. Everly sums up Reed's international fame as “the real thing.” Pozner offers a more sanguine perspective: “They thought they bought the Beatles and they didn't even buy Pat Boone.” Nadelson's account was originally published in the U.K. in 1991. The American edition, spurred by Hollywood's notice—Tom Hanks and DreamWorks hold the film rights—has been updated with details Nadelson uncovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The definitive answer to how Reed managed to drown in a lake near his German suburban home (“The Dude Ranch of Schmockwitz,” as Nadelson dubs it) remains elusive. The unlikely story of his life as a razzle-dazzle flier in the Socialist jet set endures.

Interesting, if not exactly compelling. The subtitle could be “You Had to Be There.”