Rated R | Time: 1:24
Shep Gordon, a veteran and supremely successful talent agent, is one heck of a guy, according to this documentary directed by his old pal, comedian Mike Myers.
That in itself is newsworthy, since the first word of the film’s title, “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” has rarely been applied to members of his famously cutthroat profession.
The movie is pitched at fans of show biz eager for a backstage pass to a world sealed off from most of us. In the 1970s and ’80s, Gordon worked and consorted with a staggering number of pop stars, mainly in the music business, helping to make celebrities of the likes of Alice Cooper (interviewed extensively here), Teddy Pendergrass, Anne Murray and Willie Nelson.
Baby boomers may recall reading about a 1969 concert in Toronto where Cooper and his audience gruesomely dispatched a live chicken, an incident that put the performer on the map. The chicken (though probably not the violence) was Gordon’s idea, and you’ll have to decide for yourself how to reconcile that action with the supermensch concept.
On the other hand, Myers testifies that Gordon took good care of him during a down period in the 1990s. Gordon also did pro bono work for culinary lights like Emeril Legasse, helping create the celebrity chef phenomenon, and for an aging Groucho Marx. Late in his life, he became a devotee of the Dalai Lama. He also provided financial support for the grandchildren of an ex-girlfriend.
Gordon, who seems an affable sort, recounts many juicy stories, such as hanging out at Hollywood’s Landmark motel, where he encountered Janis Joplin (who punched him) and Jimi Hendrix. He’s honest about his relentless womanizing, although the film doesn’t dwell on it. He seems modest about acts of generosity you wouldn’t expect from a show biz agent.
Myers wants to accentuate the positive and presents lots of favorable (and sometimes risque) tidbits from Gordon’s famous buddies, including Michael Douglas, Tom Arnold and Sylvester Stallone.
Gordon’s had quite a life. After a serious health scare, he retired, and says he has no interest in fame, for himself or others. He seems reflective for an insider in a tough business, and allows, on an unexpectedly serious note, that he would still like to have children.
Having seen the film, I still don’t know if Gordon is really a supermensch, and I’ll hazard a guess that some unflattering material has been left out. If you can accept that, you may relish the gossipy, dishy stuff Myers serves up. For a while, you can feel like a part of the golden circle.
(At the Leawood.)
| Walter Addiego
San Francisco Chronicle