DVD: Supermensch – The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013)

January 18, 2015 | By


Supermensch_sFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: n/a

Label: Starz / Anchor Bay

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  January 6, 2015

Genre:  Documentary / Rock / Film

Synopsis: Documentary on super agent Shep Gordon, and his incredible career as manager, pioneering publicity stuntman, and chefs rights advocate.

Special Features:  (none)




Mike Myers was likely compelled to direct this film (with Beth Aala) because Shep Gordon is more than an artist manager: he’s the man who invented some of the attention-getting tactics which aided clients like Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Arnold, Emeril Lagasse, Mick Fleetwood, Teddy Pendergrass, and Anne Murray boost their careers.

In addition to his association with Myers, there are many other CanCon elements within Gordon’s career, but it’s the way this skillful negotiator moved from representing musicians to movie stars; became an advocate for chefs and invented the celebrity TV chef; co-founded the distribution company Island Alive in the early 1980s, handling esoteric films such as Koyaanisqatsi (1982), El Norte (1983), Stop Making Sense (1984), The Hit (1984), and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985); and became a chef in his own right that makes Gordon’s life so incredible.

His first career big break came while he was staying in a hotel in Los Angeles, selling dope and pondering his future when he bumped into Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and Alice Cooper – the latter eventually becoming his first client. Cooper is a recurring figure throughout the doc because he’s also a close friend and a fellow survivor of the sex, drugs, and booze that dominated the international touring of Cooper’s band, and certainly for Canadians, it’s amusing to hear how Gordon worked the CanCon system: when Cooper’s album wasn’t going to be released by Zappa due to its commercial tone, Gordon realized that the Canadian staffed and recorded album qualified as CanCon, and could be released and played on radio stations north of the 49th parallel.

While repping sultry R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass and breaking the Chitlin’ circuit monopoly in which African American talent were frequently screwed out of performance payments, Gordon also brought squeaky clean Anne Murray to California, and with a staged photo-op of her flanked by rock legends such as John Lennon, earned her more than a few weeks of media interest which may never have happened otherwise in the U.S.

Exhausted by the rock world, Gordon switched to repping chefs and helped them control & exploit themselves as brand names on TV and licensed products, and similar to the Chitlin’ circuit, he helped to stop skilled chefs from being denied payment in snooty venues.

The constant image within the doc is Gordon, the fair-minded negotiator; one who consistently tries to find a compromise in which both parties benefit; where the talent isn’t cheated; and as Gordon describes it, building “credit” between himself and clients and associates so that as a collective, everyone benefits from each other’s wisdom, skills, and contacts.

His career turns seem crazy, but there’s a logic wherein Gordon seemed to need a fresh start, as though sensing prolonged involvement would lead to a lethal burnout, and by surrounding himself with talented associates and clients, he found peace of mind, knowing everyone is being helped and having fun along the way.

Supermensch is filled with stills, archival footage, music clips, and hysterical anecdotes from Gordon and his clients, but there’s a bittersweet tone to the doc, as Gordon still yearns for a soul mate and his own family.

Short, tightly edited, and neatly paced, Myers and Aala’s doc is great fun, and perhaps the only qualms with the DVD is the lack of any extras, but perhaps the interviews cover more than enough without turning the doc into something that meanders, adversely affecting the narrative’s zippy tempo. Those wanting more info can find a bit more of Gordon in the doc Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014), the project that likely convinced the reluctant manager to open up on camera, and share aspects of his colourful life with audiences.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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