Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Yiddish, defines the word mensch as meaning “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.” As we see in this strong documentary film from Mike Myers and Beth Aala, Shep Gordon is more than just an ordinary mensch.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon tells the story of a man who knew nothing about the music business, but his first client as a manager was Alice Cooper. How did he become Cooper’s manager? By interrupting what he thought was a sexual assault at the hotel he was checking into. The woman who punched him for coming to her aid was Janis Joplin, the man was Jimi Hendrix and after the three got to be friends, Hendrix suggested that Shep become a manager.
That and many more stories about how this man, whose roster of clients included Cooper, Anne Murray, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and many more came to be a documentary because of a business deal Gordon made back in 1991 when Supermensch director Mike Myers was trying to get Alice Cooper to appear in Wayne’s World and to use a song of his on the soundtrack. Shep had him over a barrel and eventually they made the deal as well as becoming friends.
As the story unfolds we learn that Shep Gordon is pretty much responsible for creating the “celebrity chef” concept, slept with many beautiful women in the entertainment industry (Sharon Stone was one mentioned), and made many friends along the way as he did what he’s described as “doing compassionate business.” He talks about “coupons” and how he’s always willing to help someone first, with no expectation of a quid pro quo. He was part of the process of creating the persona of Alice Cooper on stage that made him a legendary figure in the work of rock music. Shep Gordon made Teddy Pendergrass a star by coming up with the idea of concerts for women only.
The film also delves into Gordon’s personal life, how he is Jewish but follows Buddhism these days (Myers calls him a “Jew-Bu”). So many of his long-time friends and associates talk about him in glowing terms that the idea of making even a partial list is daunting. A couple of those that stood out were Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas and Emeril Lagasse.
Mike Myers may be a first time director, but he’s got more than dozen writing credits and three for producing Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and its sequels (the 4th entry in that series has been announced) and it shows in how well-made this picture is. As documentaries go, this is a first rate film.