Red Elvis: The Cold War Cowboy TV - Indie Cinema online -
Dean Reed lives in East Berlin because he likes it better over there. An entertainer who has become the Soviet version of a superstar: he sings, he acts, and he speaks with what seem to be genuine conviction the Soviet line. Red Elvis: The Cold War Cowboy ***** 60 Minutes, Sky Documentaries 2022
Six weeks after the 60 Minutes interview is broadcast he disappears. ibid. historian
From that point on there is no way back; he is an enemy of the government of the United States. ibid.
By the late 1960s Dean Read is a fully fledged political radical. ibid.
He is rebelling against the government [East German] he previously cooperated with. ibid.
The film Red Elvis: The Cold War Cowboy is a documentary film dedicated to an American singer Dean Reed, who became a superstar in the Soviet Union and Eastern Germany. In a way he was much more than Elvis Presley. He was not only a singer, he was also a film director, a writer, an actor and a social activist. He was a rebel with a strong feeling of social injustice and was fighting the existing capitalist system of the Western World. American Rebel – it is written on his grave and he lived as a rebel.
The film was released in 2022 and was screened on British Sky TV and American documentary streamer Curiosity.
The story of Dean Reed told by several people, including Dean’s daughter Ramona Reed is touching and captivating. It is illustrated by numerous footage which show the actor in Latin America, in the USA, in Russia and Eastern Germany.
The life of Dean Reed reflects also the complexity of that time. For the first time he visited Russia in the sixties – time of hope and freedom. Dean Reed was a breath of fresh air in Soviet Union and Eastern Germany. He was singing revolutionary songs but at the same time he represented to Russian people the American dream; tall, artistic charismatic cowboy with a Hollywood smile. He was like a ray of sunshine coming through the iron curtain.
In the seventies Dean Reed often appeared on Soviet TV, and he was very popular. He toured the Soviet Union and crowds of people cheered him at stadiums. Women fell in love with him and men wanted to copy his haircut. For the Soviet Government Dean was a useful tool of propaganda – he was singing revolutionary songs and was a living proof that the West is on the brink of revolution.
But in the eighties his popularity started to decline. The leaders of communist regime were carefully preparing the perestroika – demolition of communism and privatization of manufacturers. They were preparing to benefit from the new order. Red Elvis was not needed for them any more.
Russia little by little opened up to Western culture. When in the eighties I studied at university, we were listening to Joe Dassin, Boney M, ABBA, Frank Sinatra and other western music. Seldom to Dean Reed.
When Dean Reed died there was very little information in Soviet press concerning his death. He was supposed to have drowned, but this version obviously did not look credible, as he was an excellent swimmer and was found near the shore. Later it was suggested he committed suicide.
Ramona Reed, daughter of Dean Reed, raised in the film concern regarding her father’s death. She did not believe in the official version of events. Other American relatives of Dean also did not believe in accidental death and neither in his suicide. And they have a reason because this tragic story has many missing links. Unfortunately, this horrible end was not investigated properly and even now, after many years, no more facts came out. As it turns out, secret services guard their secrets properly.
It is interesting that in 2007 a German film Der Rote Elvis was made. The creators of the German film interviewed several people, but not American relatives. Somehow the film wanted to leave the impression that Dean committed suicide. I personally do not believe in that because too many clues show that it was a murder.
I personally do not believe Stasi or KGB could kill Dean Reed. It was the time when these secret services did not kill people like that and they were especially careful with foreign citizens. To spy on them? Yes. To murder? No. It just was not possible.
And even if we suggested that secret services for some very important reasons wanted to eliminate Dean Reed they would not do it in a park just a mile away of his house in Eastern Berlin. It was not the style of secret services, that is for sure.
It was stupid and reckless to put a body so near the shore and so near his house. This botched murder was not a deed of professionals, but of a desperate person who hardly knew what he or she was doing.
It looks like Dean did not die in the lake, where he was found in shallow water covered with stones. Probably the body was taken there by the murderer.
Dean Reed’s car was found near the shore. It hit the tree.
I cannot imagine that Dean Reed himself hit a tree. He was a very good driver and he was not drunken. But the person who hit the tree was probably the killer, scared out of his wits and disoriented. Probably it was planned to drive further away and bury Dean in a place where he would not be discovered soon. But the accident stopped this plan and he was left very near the beach and covered with stones to prevent his body to come up.
The murder of a foreign national and especially a famous singer would be a huge international scandal. Suicide version or accident suited authorities better. So the killer or killers escaped from punishment.
I do not believe for a moment that such a clumsy murder could be work of any secret service or professional killers. But Stasi and other authorities did everything to cover it up. Death of Dean was announced an accident, then suggested it was a suicide. Even a suicide note was found in archive, but it does not look remotely authentic. The man who appreciated justice and was fighting for social justice did not get it at the very end.
Now that the capitalism won in Russia, the music of Dean Reed is not promoted there any more, nor in Russia, nor in the USA, not in Germany.
But despite this, his music is still listened by many and loved by many. Now the real ugly face of capitalism has hypocrisy, cruelty – everything what Dean hated and now position of Marxist Dean Reed becomes more and more understandable and current.
Sometimes I like to listen Dean Reed singing My Way. He put more special meaning into this song than any other singer because he really lived his life his own way, fought for truth and justice.
The film Red Elvis: The Cold War Cowboy is a loving tribute to a singer and a person, whose name should not be forgotten. His talent, his struggle for peace and social justice will be with us as a candle in the darkness of modern times and a bridge between two societies divided by a New Cold War. Indie Cinema online article Elena Ringo 9th May 2022, ‘Red Elvis: The Cold War Cowboy’