Pittsburgh Press 02.06.1981
Ex-U.S. Singer Wows Moscow
MOSCOW (UPI) - The pop star who is the leading heartthrop of Moscow matrons, the crooner whose smile captivates Russian teen-age girls is American expatriate Dean Reed.
The average American's reaction to this Russian entertainment phenomenon is Dean who? But though he may be unknown in his homeland, Reed is a genuine hit in the Soviet capital.
His repertoire of pop, rock and folk songs, belted out at maximum volume and laced with a line of anti-American patter, sounds like a second-rate Las Vegas lounge act to Western listeners.
But his breezy attitude on stage wins adulation from Soviet audiences. At a sold-out concert in Moscow's Estrada musical variety theater recently, breathless young women rushed the stage after each of Reed's songs, pressing bouquets of carnations and roses into his hands and receiving a kiss in return.
Reed performed songs ranging from "Mack the Knife" to "Give Peace a Chance" and "My Yiddish Momma," backed by a 12-piece Byelorussian group, Verasy, featuring horns, guitars, keyboards and back-up singers.
He wrapped up his set with a fortissimo rendition of "We shall Overcome," which he said he once sang side by side with the late Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Reed tells his audiences that the capitalist world practices racial injustice and exploits the working classes, and that he values the socialist quality of life.
That usually gets a warm response. But his popularity really rests on the American music he sings, and the way he sings it - bouncing down into the audience with his microphone, leading sing-alongs, serenading the silver-haired babushka in a front-row seat.
Most Soviet singers stand at military attention on a stage, as if any contact with their audience were an act of political dissent.
The 43-year-old Reed confesses privately to a desire to return to the United States someday, but he contends he would not be allowed to work there because of his political beliefs.
He claims he fears the CIA would plant drugs in his luggage, or attempt some other provocation, if he tried to go back to America.
Reed found Marxism in South America, where he says he was on tour following a brief Hollywood career in the early 1960s. His roots are in Colorado, where he was born in Wheat Ridge and attended the University of Denver.
At present Reed lives in East Berlin, sharing his home there with an actress since the breakup of his second marriage, to another East German woman. His appearances around the East bloc countries bring him an apparently comfortable income, but it is exclusively in the soft, non-convertible coummunist currencies.
"I'm the poorest rich man you'll ever see," Reed said after his latest Moscow appearance.
Sipping a glass of dark red wine from Soviet Georgia in his opulent, marble-pillarded suite at the Hotel Metropol near the Kremlin, Reed seemed to be living in the lap of socialist luxury. But he said he has difficulty scraping together $300 every month to send to California for child-support payments for a daughter from his first marriage.
"I would be very happy to go back to my country someday," Reed said, revealing a slight trace of wistfulness. "I have a great fear of growing old and dying in a country where the language is not my own.
But I see no reason to go back... In America, unless you can get access to the mass media you can't get to the public.
And the authorities there wouldn't allow me any access to the mass media."