In Yiddish, the word “mensch” refers to “a person of integrity and honor.” One would not think that it would be a term that could apply a showbiz manager, but it is the best description for Shep Gordon. Even those who have never heard of Shep Gordon are probably familiar with his clients. He’s one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful players, having represented musical heavyweights like Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, and Teddy Pendergrass. His list of A-list friends is exponentially longer than his artist stable, and the guest lists to his famous parties read like a who’s-who of Hollywood. And every one of these friends and acquaintances has nothing but good things to say about him. He’s more than a mensch, he’s a Supermensch, hence the title of the intriguing documentary about his life and times, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon tells Gordon’s story, from his humble upbringings to his complete mastery of the entertainment industry. The film begins with Gordon’s arrival in Los Angeles, his landing at the Landmark Hotel and his meeting of rock stars such as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Alice Cooper. The film goes on to tell about his climb up through the rock and roll scene, his transition into the movie industry, and his instrumental work in turning chefs into celebrities. Basically, where there was money to be made, Shep Gordon was there, and he had a nose for it. Then, he bought a house in Maui and walked away.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is the directorial debut from Mike Myers. Yes, THAT Mike Myers, of Austin Powers and Shrek fame. While making Wayne’s World in the early nineties, Myers approached Shep Gordon about using an Alice Cooper song in the film, some classic hit like “School’s Out” or “I’m Eighteen.” Gordon told him that he could use a song, but it would have to be a cut off of Cooper’s newest album instead. Myers lost that battle, but won something much more important – a friendship with Shep Gordon. Supermensch is Myers’ tribute to his pal, and the filmmaker is granted unprecedented access to the man and his legend.
Told mostly through interviews with Gordon and his friends, Supermensch paints a fascinating picture of a very interesting man. At one point, one of his famous friends makes the statement that “Shep tells the best stories,” and it’s true. He recounts tales from his years that are almost unbelievable, and tells them with wit and clarity like they just happened yesterday. His friends tell great stories, too, and the various subjects who agreed to be interviewed for the film are staggering, both in sheer number and cumulative Q Quotient. The celeb pals of Gordon’s that appear in the film include Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Willie Nelson, Debbie Harry, Mick Fleetwood – too many to list. All of them come into the film to sing Gordon’s praises as a person and a friend. It’s amazing how loved and respected Shep Gordon is amongst the Hollywood Elite. Shep Gordon is a breath of fresh air in a smoggy industry.
A huge chunk of the film is devoted to Gordon’s relationship with Alice Cooper, a relationship that is much more than just a professional one – the two men harbor an obvious respect and admiration for each other, and each realizes that neither would be where they are without the other. Cooper was Gordon’s first client when he got to Los Angeles and, when Gordon retired from the industry, he kept representing Cooper because, at that point, he says that Cooper was more like a body part than a business client. Alice Cooper fans will recognize some of the stories that Gordon tells in the film, but have probably not heard this exact version of them. Some of Alice Cooper’s wildest exploits, including the infamous chicken story and the tale of the stalled box truck, are told from Gordon’s point of view, the business side of it. There are even a few new stories, like the one about how the airplane scene in Almost Famous actually happened aboard the Alice Cooper tour plane. Casual Hollywood fans will be into Supermensch, but Alice Cooper fans will be especially engaged.
Of course, because the film is a Mike Myers film, it has its fair share of comedy. Gordon’s stories are sewn together and illustrated with old news footage and classic movie clips. Myers even shot some old-looking new footage that syncs up with the interview content, making the stories from Gordon’s mouth come alive right before the viewer’s eyes. The entire documentary is very lighthearted and whimsical, even when recounting things like serious illnesses and near death experiences. It’s a fun journey through the life of a man who has seen and done it all, and the ride is constantly punctuated by Gordon’s contagious laugh. And, when Gordon laughs, everyone laughs with him, including the audience.
Throughout all of the interviews in Supermensch: The Shep Gordon Story, not one of the subjects has a discouraging word to say about Gordon. Of course, this could be selective editing on Myers’ part, but it doesn’t seem like that is the case. Shep Gordon just comes off as a very natural, honest, and likeable guy, helping out anyone who needs it. He seems like he has a heart of gold who will do anything for a friend – and the entire world is his friend. There’s even a story in the film about Gordon making a deal with a paparazzi to keep other paparazzi away from Tom Arnold’s wedding – if the pap could run interference and lure the other camera stalkers away, Gordon would give him exclusive pics from the ceremony. Gordon called it “working things out,” and he was good at it. Very good. And Mike Myers is good at showing the world what kind of man his friend Shep Gordon is in Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.