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!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • 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.