The Red Elvis or The strange death of Dean Reed, socialisms biggest popstar

Posted June 16th, 2011 under Documentaries, USA

Is this going to be the next Tom Hanks movie?

25 years ago today a good revolutionary died. On the 17th of June 1986 a man is dragged out of a lake in the outskirts of East Berlin. He turns out to be the American singer and actor Dean Reed, one of the most mysterious legends of global pop culture during Cold War times. Dean Reed became the protagonist in the former eastern bloc’s favorite conspiracy theory and his myth survived until today. In the Western World hardly anybody ever heard of him, although Dean Reed once had been a famous star in South America, the Arab world and the Eastern Bloc.

Since our editor Stefan Ernsting wrote a book and worked on a movie (both called “The Red Elvis”) about the man a few years ago, he gets the opportunity to do a bit of advertising today… And, yes, the German media has confirmed that Tom Hanks is still working on the feature film. A fascinating life story sort of hard to sum up.

“From the Berlin Wall to Siberia – Dean Reed from Colorado is the biggest star in popmusic. Reed is called the most prominent American after President Ford and Henry Kissinger by Russians and other East-Europeans.”
(People’s Magazine, 1976)

Dean Reed was a good friend of Salvador Allende, Daniel Ortega and Yasser Arafat, throughout the whole world he protested against military regimes or the Vietnam war and mobilised for universal peace. He appeared in 20 movies, produced 17 LPs and gave concerts in 32 countries. Dean Reed acted in spaghetti westerns in Italy, he was the first US-American to tour across the Soviet Union and he kept on touring. He was the first american singer to play in Iraq, Bangladesh, Palestine, Mongolia and many other places no other entertainer from the US had ever seen before. He sang US country songs on GDR television and posed for photographes in Lebanon with a machine gun in his hand at the same time. Dean Reed was a one-man anti-globalisation show par excellence.

„The red Elvis“ composes the mosaic of a life in-between tragedy and success, political engagement and naivety. As a young man from a small town in Colorado he moved to Hollywood to record a handful of singles. Then „Our Summer Romance“ conquered the charts in South America for some reason.

Dean Reed was a cowboy and an entertainer, he was admired like a teen idol and a heartthrob, he was a freedom fighter and a rebel, who travelled around the globe with endless energy – thereby not only challenging his own limits, but also the boundaries of the contemporary map of ideologies. When he moved to the GDR in 1972, Dean Reed was a celebrated star of socialism. He was a political idealist who enjoyed simple entertainment, a showman, who lived in the socialist GDR, a womanizer who sought for affinity.

Dean Reed remains a phenomenon and his death has kept amateur detectives busy ever since 1986. The Stasi claimed, Reed accidently drowned after hitting his head when he was trying to wash his hands after having had a little accident with his car.

In the meantime East Germanys Head of state Erich Honecker personally supervised the investigation and glossed over the real story. The exact details of Dean Reeds death remained unknown though. Crime didn’t exist under socialism.

But nobody in the east believed the official version. Rumors about a mysterious last letter and a wet job carried out by either CIA, KGb, Mossad or Stasi started to spread at the same time.


“The Red Elvis” is the first complete biography of Dean Reed (foreign book rights still available!) with striking new facts about his mysterious death. The book and the film are based on three years of research and interviews with former friends and colleagues of Dean Reed and Ex-officials of the GDR who used Dean Reed for their state-propaganda.

The author managed to get hold of large parts of Dean Reeds lost Stasi-files, personal documents and his last letter which was locked in the personal safe of East Germanys former state-leader Erich Honecker until 1989.

Tom Hanks has announced a movie about Dean Reed for Dreamworks in 2004. He blocked Reed’s widow Renate Blume and hist first wife and daughter in California for any kind of interview. Stefan Ernsting and Leopold Grün, director of the documentary, had been working on the project together for two years at this point. Hanks never returned their phone calls.

Now it’s 2011 and Tom Hanks has put the project back on the table. We have a date in Babelsberg and we will keep you informed.

Dean Reed – Venceremos

Links:
- Deanreed.de – The No. 1 info center in various languages!
- The Red Elvis – Website for the documentary
- Dean Reed on Youtube
- Dean Reed at IMDB

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