SUPERMENSCH: THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON (2013)
Featuring Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Emeril Lagasse, Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler, Tom Arnold, Mick Fleetwood, Sammy Hagar, Bob Ezrin, Caroline Pfeiffer, Bob Richard, Nancy Meola, Dean Fearing, Derek Shook, Chase Williams, Amber Williams, Don Nelson, Herb Karlitz and Mike Myers .
Directed by Mike Myers.
Co-directed by Beth Aala.
Distributed by Radius-TWC. 85 minutes. Rated R.
Former Saturday Night Live comedian Mike Myers (Wayne’s World, Austin Powers, Shrek) has been off the pop-culture radar for quite a bit now, with a self-imposed exile… I think meant to make us all forget about The Love Guru.
People were wondering where he would finally pop back up. I doubt that many people, if anyone, would have imagined that it would be as the director of a documentary about an old-school Hollywood manager of whom very few people outside of the industry had heard.
Yet, here we are. An unpredictable choice, but an intriguing one.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is the very definition of a labor of love. It’s also rather entertaining, even if you are not in the biz.
Shep Gordon has most certainly had an interesting life. He has guided the careers of such diverse talents as Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Groucho Marx, Teddy Pendergrass, Blondie, Raquel Welch, Emeril Lagasse, Luther Vandross and many, many others. He branched out his music career to a successful gig in filmmaking. He almost single-handedly invented the celebrity chef. He’s a gourmand and a practicing Buddhist. He has a home in Hawaii which is the scene of legendary parties on a regular basis. He’s friends with Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Mike Myers, Tom Arnold and the Dalai Lama. He had a series of relationships with beautiful women, including a just-pre-fame Sharon Stone and former Playboy centerfold ex-wife Marcy Hanson.
Gordon literally just stumbled into artist management. He was living and selling dope in the famous Hollywood Landmark Hotel and became friends with fellow residents like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. One day Hendrix suggested (because Shep was Jewish) that he should manage an unknown rocker who also lived in the hotel, a guy who had a band called Alice Cooper.
Though he really had no idea what he was doing, Gordon was a savvy businessman and a savvy showman. Nearly as much as the band, Gordon was responsible for turning Alice Cooper into the character that he became, and one of the biggest stars in 1970s rock. Gordon also helmed the music career of the very different Canadian songbird Anne Murray and the solo career of R&B lover man Teddy Pendergrass. (In fact it was Gordon who had to break it to Pendergrass that he was paralyzed after the singer’s early 1980s car crash in Philadelphia.)
His career spanned into indie filmmaking and the promotion of chefs, and in every field Gordon became a success and made many fawning friends, quite a few of whom are interviewed here.
Supermensch is certainly not a warts-and-all profile: Shep Gordon comes off as unfailingly affable, a calculating-but-fair businessman, exceedingly generous and caring, and beloved by those around him.
You’d sort of like to get a little more background into the darker passages in Gordon’s life. For example, why exactly was Luther Vandross so incensed with Gordon that he literally erased him from his autobiography? This fact is mentioned in passing in the film, and no follow-up is made. Gordon’s explanation that the singer was so upset that he would leave him behind when Gordon decided to retire can’t possibly be the whole story, could it? Obviously Vandross is no longer around to explain his side of the story, but there must have been someone who had some further insight into what had happened.
Also definitely missing: not one of Shep’s exes is interviewed, not even Sharon Stone. The closest thing to that comes when in a move of personal largess, Gordon essentially adapts and takes financial responsibility for the grandchildren of his former lover Winona Williams when their mother died. The grandchildren have grown up to be smart and well-adjusted adults and speak glowingly of Gordon. However, Winona herself is not involved in the film (and she may quite possibly also be dead, but the film never addresses it) and you never get an idea of why she and Shep had broken up in the first place.
Late in the film, Myers says, “Shep Gordon is the nicest person I’ve ever met, hands down.” Perhaps that is why Supermensch does not dig deeper. Perhaps it is just not what Myers was looking to do. He’s a friend and he doesn’t want to look for skeletons in the closet. However, when you watch Gordon’s early work at image-creation, you can’t help but feel that Gordon could not have scripted it better if he had tried.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is a worshipful look at its subject. It truly is nice to see a man who has inspired such unabashed love and friendship and respect. Perhaps it’s not the whole story, but it certainly is a nice story.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 9, 2014.