Review: Supermench: The Legend of Shep Gordon
PLOT: The life and career of Shep Gordon, a legendary talent manager who – among other things – put Alice Cooper on the map, and virtually invented the celebrity chef.
REVIEW: Shep Gordon is probably the most famous guy you’ve never heard of. In the introduction to Mike Myers’ affectionate documentary, stars as varied as Alice Cooper, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, and Myers himself sing his praises. Over the course of the film we learn that Gordon helped discover and nurture the talents of people like his best-buddy Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, celebrity chef Emeril Legasse – heck, even Canadian folk icon Anne Murray. Along the way he also produced films, including a great run with John Carpenter in the eighties that included THEY LIVE, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (with a cameo for his buddy Alice) and more. But that’s not his greatest fame. It turns out, in addition to making superstars, Gordon’s most famous for an attribute that’s undervalued in the world of showbiz: he’s a nice guy.
Now, you wouldn’t necessarily think a guy who spent a lot of time hanging around with bands with wearing a shirt that said “no head, no backstage pass” was such a nice fellow, but looks can be deceiving. Sure, Shep had lots of cocaine-fueled fun, but he also proved something that seems rare among power brokers in Hollywood: that you don’t have to be an asshole to be successful. While he’s no pushover, and no stranger to excess (at one point he says he landed Teddy Pendergrass as a client because he was able to outdo him in the drugs and sex department), Gordon also has a heart. Examples include him taking on Groucho Marx as a client gratis just so he could help him climb out of a financial rut, and virtually adopting an ex-girlfriend’s four grandchildren when discovering they were destitute. This final act is especially significant, as despite all of his success SUPERMENSCH is a bitter sweet story as he was never able to get the one thing he really wanted, a family.
Gordon really is a fascinating character – with no less than Sylvester Stallone dubbing him a kind of rock n’ roll CITIZEN KANE, only nicer. Michael Douglas seems especially emotional when talking about the different ways Shep was there for him over the years, and Alice Cooper admits that had anything happened to him or his wife, his will would have left full custody of his kids to Shep, with the two men being closer than brothers (Gordon himself calls Cooper “an appendage”). At the same time he was no pushover. Mike Myers himself admiringly relates a story of how Gordon held him over a barrel when negotiating Cooper’s participation in WAYNE’S WORLD. Gordon also had an eye for the ladies, with Douglas – no slouch himself in that department – relating how masterfully Gordon was able to pick-up a post-TOTAL RECALL, pre-BASIC INSTINCT Sharon Stone one night at a party, only to date her for two years after!
Probably the best way to describe this is as a nice-guy version of THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, with Gordon’s stories being as wild as anything Robert Evans could have told, but with an undercurrent of heart and real devotion to his clients, regardless of whether they made him money of not. Gordon himself relates over and over how success destroyed many of his best friends, and says that his heart went out of managing clients when Teddy Pendergrass was paralyzed in an auto accident, with Gordon being the one who had to tell him he was now a quadriplegic.
However, for the most part the stories are fun, such as Gordon leaving Anne Murray (of all people) a vial of cocaine as a welcoming gift to his home only to discover she had no idea what the white substance was. The early tales of Shep being out on the road with Cooper are priceless (with some crossover with the recent SUPER DUPER ALICE COOPER doc – which is well worth seeing), with the infamous “chicken” story being retold by a gleeful Gordon and Cooper, who Myers catches up with playing a round of golf and sporting a polo shirt (say it ain’t so Alice!).
This is an especially nice change-of-pace for the long-absent Myers. He seems to have a flair for the documentary form, with it not hurting that large parts of Gordon’s story are comedic allowing Myers the chance to sprinkle in some goofy reenactments. On the whole, this is the kind of doc that will no doubt go over nicely with a mainstream audience, and Myers may even have a shot as a “best documentary” Oscar nomination. This is a film that’s all but impossible not to enjoy, and a heartwarming tale of a guy who managed to make it to the top without feeling the need to destroy or hurt anyone who stood in his way. That in itself makes this a unique showbiz tale, but it’s also a lesson that hopefully younger people making their way into the biz will absorb.