Stevens Point Journal 06.12.2005
Author recounts singer's life, mysterious death
By Patrick Thornton
Author and newspaper reporter Chuck Laszewski is no stranger to Stevens Point. He spent many vacations and holidays visiting his relatives as a young man. Monday night, he was back to promote his first book at the Charles White Library.
Laszewski's father, Roy, and mother, Joanne Altenburg, grew up in Stevens Point. And the neophyte author saved money by spending the night with his aunt and uncle, Jim and Betsy Altenburg.
Laszewski's book is a biography of American singer, actor and political activist Dean Reed entitled "Rock n' Roll Radical: The Mysterious Death of Dean Reed." Reed, who was born in Denver, achieved a moderate amount of success in the United States in the late 1950s and 60s as a recording artist for Capitol Records. He was a full-fledged star, however, in South America and eastern European. To capitalize on his popularity abroad, Reed began an international career that took him to places such as Venezuela, Chile and East Germany.
Reed was referred to as the Red Elvis and the Communist Frank Sinatra in the American press. He was an open critic of the U.S. government and was a friend to many enemies of the United States during the Cold War. And then one day in 1986, a police officer from East Berlin found Reed's dead body. His death was described as a tragic accident, but Laszewski, along with many others, suspected foul play. With the help of East German secret police, files and interviews with Reed's friends and family, Laszewski recounts Reed's life and makes a case that he was murdered.
Laszewski, who covers transportation for The St. Paul Pioneer Press, said his interest was sparked after Reed made a visit to the University of Minnesota, where Laszewski was an undergraduate.
"I remember that he said he enjoyed living in East Berlin and I thought that was nuts," Laszewski said. "I didn't know why anyone born in the United States would want to live behind the Iron Curtain, but I also thought this guy was really something and I had to keep my eye on him." Laszewski's book started as a newspaper story in 1996. He spent nights and weekends fleshing out the subject matter until he finished the book in 1998. "I guarantee you will keep turning the pages when you are reading," Laszewski said. "You won't believe that he has done what I say he has done, but I footnoted it." Laszewski has cobbled together a promotional tour. He has a book signing at Bookfinders bookstore at 7 p.m. today.
Stevens Point, Wisconsin