Exile on Stalinallee

He started out as a Grade-B Ricky Nelson; He ended up as an American revolutionary

Laszewski knows something about this last subject. A longtime union advocate at the paper (where I used to be on staff), he and colleague Rick Linsk were suspended by Pioneer Press management for attending a Bruce Springsteen-headlined benefit concert for Kerry/Edwards at the Xcel Energy Center in the fall of 2004. The story made headlines around the world, and has inspired some ribbing from Laszewski's colleagues that the "Rock 'n' Roll Radical" in the book's title could be the author.

"In some ways, the Pioneer Press in particular and a lot of newspapers in general have lost some of their courage," says Laszewski. "They're frightened, I believe, by the drop in circulation, and the constant phone calls and e-mails they get from conservatives hounding them for alleged bias. And instead of taking the old course of action of some of the old-fashioned editors that I've heard stories about at the Pioneer Press--one guy was famous for saying, 'Ma'am, if you don't stop, I'll be forced to cancel your subscription,' and hang up--they're afraid of this stuff. And they're taking it out on their employees."

For his part, Davidov plans to bring Reed's story to his students in the spring, as an example of a dying breed.

The Dean Reed fan club--led by comrade Marv Davidov (left) and biograhper Rick Laszewski--is accepting new pariahs...
Tony Nelson
The Dean Reed fan club--led by comrade Marv Davidov (left) and biograhper Rick Laszewski--is accepting new pariahs...

"How many people could you name who put out their deepest private thoughts and feelings in their public life?" says Davidov. "Young people coming up through this capitalist system here want to make it. They want fame, money, recognition. But how many people can you name who will take a stand, with enlightened positions on war, poverty, the environment, minorities, or whatever? Most of 'em go along. [Reed] took a chance. That makes him rare.

"Every revolutionary artist I've known--and I've known a lot of them, locally and nationally--also wants to entertain, as well as impart some message and be an example in some way, and change reality. I mean, look at it. The people in power now want to take us down with them. They're destroying the earth, the air, the water. And they do this slaughter of anything with integrity in our names and with our money.

"And Dean would say, and I say it, there's only one way to take your name off the slaughter: You have to publicly resist. Otherwise, your name's on it. Whether you know it or not. Now if I tell you, you now know it. Therefore, you have an obligation to do something. Otherwise you're a fucking sellout."

Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or jwalsh@citypages.com.

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