Lessons from Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

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MENSCH
:  a person of integrity and honor

He was responsible for Alice Cooper’s infamous chicken incident at the1969 Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. To prove his worth as a manager, he went on a 3-day bender with Teddy Pendergrass. He invented the notion of the “celebrity chef.” The story of Shep Gordon—talent manager, film agent and producer—is peppered with one salacious moment after another and will make any rock n’ roll enthusiast or pop culture buff (myself included) lament how utterly boring her life is.

 Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is Mike Myers’ directorial debut and his first film since the ill-fated Love Guru. Unlike that flop, however, Myers’ latest creation is a fun and energetic documentary comprised of psychedelic photo montages, dramatic reenactments and talking heads, ranging from Michael Douglas to Willie Nelson to Emeril Lagasse to Sylvester Stallone to Sammy Hagar to the Dalai Lama. This diverse cast of characters is aligned by a common theme: They all adore Shep Gordon.

The legend begins with a chance meeting. After a miserable first day on the job as a probation officer, Shep stumbles into the Hollywood Landmark hotel, where he ends up hanging poolside with Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the Chambers Brothers and Jimi Hendrix. Over a shared joint, Jimi asks “Hey, are you Jewish?” [Yes.] “You should be a manager!” And the rest is history. He’s been Alice Cooper’s manager for over four decades (along with Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Kenny Loggins, The Gypsy Kings, Luther Vandross and more).

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In an industry where managers tend to be more akin to vampires or pirates than saints, it’s astounding how beloved Shep is by the who’s who of Hollywood. But his biggest fans are not celebrities; they’re his four adopted children. After two failed marriages that yielded no kids, Shep made his own family as best he could. And this is the poignant side of Shep’s story. By many standards, he’s seen and had it all, but there is still a sense of longing. No amount of money or friends can take the place of real connection.

Becoming a huge success is difficult enough. Doing so with integrity, kindheartedness and charisma? That’s almost unheard of in the entertainment business. Shep Gordon proves that there’s a way to make a nice living and remain human.

 Supermensch is not just a film about the accolades and exploits of a Hollywood insider. Here are some other ideas I took away:

  • Fame has no intrinsic value unto itself. It’s a dangerous thing, the industrial disease of creativity.
  • Karma is real. Be generous, pay your debts, protect others.
  • The most interesting people are also interested.
  • Be willing to take risks and seize opportunities no matter how crazy they may seem.
  • Practice compassion in both your business and personal life. There shouldn’t be winners and losers, only winners.
  • If you’re going to be a hedonist, be an ethical hedonist.
  • The first and last lesson of being a good dinner party host: It’s not about you. Make your guests comfortable.
  • You can have a thousand people who call you “friend,” but who’s going to be holding your hand when you’re on your death bed? Make meaningful connections.

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