The Colorado blue spruce (1981)
The first shoot in the GDR was in the autumn of 1981. There is a nice story around that. Before we left to go to Berlin I telephoned Dean. I asked: Dean, is there anything I can bring you from the U.S.? What do you mean? asked Dean. Well, I said you know, blue jeans, Coca-Cola, peanut-butter. I lived abroad and I know there were certain things I missed. No, Will, I can get everything I need here in the GDR. Are you sure? I asked. He hesitated for a moment and the said: Well ...maybe there is one thing ... What is it? I replied.
He said: A tree ...a tree from Colorado ... A tree from Colorado? I said. No, he said maybe not, that would be too difficult. Anyway, I knew what he meant. He was talking about a variety of spruce tree known as the Colorado blue spruce. I went out and bought one at the local nursery, and boxed it up in a large cardboard box. The box was five feet high because of the large root ball. I investigated and found that its illegal to move trees across US state lines without a permit so I decided not to contact the GDR and ask what their policy was for transporting live plants. I sent a telegraph ahead to Karl Fritz Boetzel at Panorama (our GDR contact sponsor) saying something like we will be flying into the GDR airport, with a film crew of 3, a trunk of un-exposed 16 mm films, and one live tree from Colorado. Dean and Fritz were meeting us at the airport. Obviously we were held up in customs. The tree was surrounded by uniformed custom officials demanding to see papers. Fritz told Dean that we had brought a tree and there was a problem. Dean was totally surprised and excited. Dean opened a door through which we had to pass to meet him and stood on the other side of the line and began to call something in German to the officials. He later told me that he was asking them if maybe there was bugs in the tree and those bugs were planted by the CIA? He was laughing, they were not. When they again asked for papers I produced the purchase receipt and planting instructions from the tree nursery in Ohio where I bought it. Finally after some German conversation which I didnt understand, they waved their hand and allowed the tree to pass.
Dean was so excited that he ran in and picked up the tree and carried it out to the parking lot and sat it down in a puddle of water (it had been raining in Berlin) and began to plash water on the cloth covered root ball. He was like a little boy with a treasure. We planted the tree in his back yard on the lake. That was twenty years ago.
When I last saw Sasha Reed in the US (We drove from Los Angeles to Denver together in 1993) he told me the tree was huge and healthy. The Colorado blue spruce is known for its magnificent size and distinctive color. I trust it is still doing well. It is my understanding that Renate placed Deans tomb stone under the tree when his ashes were moved from the Waldfriedhof Cemetery in Rauchfangswerder to the Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado.
Will Roberts, May 12, 2001