The Arty Semite

How Shep Gordon Became a Real 'Supermensch'

By Curt Schleier

  • Print
  • Share Share

Comedian Mike Myers found the perfect vehicle to make his directorial debut: “Supermensch The Legend of Shep Gordon.”

The title makes it sound like another Myers comedy, a Jewish “Wayne’s World” or “Austin Powers.” In fact, it is an extremely well-executed documentary about one of the most captivating figures in the history of rock and roll.

Shep Gordon is not someone you’ve likely heard of. He managed Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass, and Pink Floyd (inexplicably for just nine days), among others. He created the celebrity chef category. And he lived a remarkable life — something between a frat boy’s fantasy and a rabbi’s delight.

Even better, from Myers’s point of view, Gordon is a brilliant raconteur with a vivid memory that apparently survived the prestigious amount of drugs he consumed. Part of Myers’s success here is simply based on his ability to point a camera and press record.

Gordon grew up in a Jewish family in Oceanside, New York, and accidentally found a career in show business after he was slugged in the face by Janis Joplin. A word of explanation:

A Jewish liberal, Gordon moved to California to become a juvenile parole officer and, in theory, help children walk the straight-and-narrow. When it turned out the young delinquents repaid his efforts by kicking his tukhes, Gordon checked into the Hollywood Landmark Motel in search of an alternative career. There, upon hearing strange noises in the courtyard outside his room, he interrupted what he presumed was a rape in progress.

It turned out to be Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix in the throes of passion. She was so upset by his barging in, she punched him out. Hendrix, on the other hand, gave Gordon career advice: “Are you Jewish? You should be a manager.”

Gordon took the suggestion, if only because managing rock stars provided a cover for his other nascent career, dealing in, uh, pharmaceuticals. By all accounts, he fully availed himself and enjoyed the rock and roll life. He wore a T-shirt that read “No head, no backstage pass” — and meant it. He was a regular at the Playboy mansion, married (briefly) a centerfold model, and dated Sharon Stone.

But he also was a creative manager who even made white bread Canadian songstress Anne Murray seem cool. He genuinely cared about his clients and fought for them. He got Pendergrass and Luther Vandross out of what was known as the Chitlin Circuit, where they frequently didn’t get paid. People who’d tried that before got themselves hurt — but Gordon didn’t care.

Beyond that, what was notably different was Gordon’s sense of morality. In the early days, he and Cooper had to sneak out of motel rooms without paying or left bad checks in their wake. When they became successful, Gordon went back and paid off those bills.

It wasn’t all about the money. He became what Michael Douglas calls a JewBu, and helped the Dali Llama in his travels around the country as a volunteer. He managed Groucho Marx in the latter stages of his life and helped reorganize his finances, all for free. He financially supported the four grandchildren of a former girlfriend when their mother died unexpectedly — and became part of their lives.

At one point he realized his hedonistic lifestyle was not headed in the right direction, so he retired to Hawaii, where he bought a beach-front manse on Maui. He ran an open house, where all friends were welcome. Myers, who met Gordon when he worked with Alice Cooper on the first “Wayne’s World,” recalls a period where he was going through a rough patch.

Though he didn’t know Gordon all that well, Myers called him and asked if he could hang out at Shep’s Hawaii digs for a few days. He stayed for two months.

Clearly “Supermensch” is more a love letter than an unbiased look at Gordon’s rock and roll life. Everyone interviewed — Emeril Lagasse, Tom Arnold, Sly Stallone, Fab 5 Freddy, and Willie Nelson — all sing his praises.

Are all the stories true? Probably not. Does it make a difference? Hardly. If they were true, the film wouldn’t be as much fun.

Myers did an excellent job amassing and editing the material, interviews, archival footage and creatively fashioned reenactments. You’ll walk out of the theater wishing Shep was a friend of yours.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shep Gordon, Supermensch, Mike Myers, Film, Documentaries

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.