“The word mensch [Yiddish for good guy] and Shep are synonymous,” says Michael Douglas in the documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, out Friday. The Behind the Candelabra star is one of dozens of celebrities featured in the film directed and narrated by one of Gordon’s many buddies, Austin Powers star Mike Myers, who calls the Hollywood insider “the nicest person I’ve ever known.”
“I just woke up and did what I did and went to sleep,” said Gordon, 68, from The Standard Hotel in Miami Beach. “I got very lucky, and luckiest of all was I developed a way of dealing with the world. I think the weaknesses of my childhood added to that. I had a lot of time alone, and I would create what I wanted to happen in my brain.
“You never know; it’s how you wake up and how you deal with what confronts you that day. It is what determines who you are.”
The 68-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native — who over the decades before retiring to Hawaii and adopting four orphaned kids — managed the likes of Alice Cooper (still does), Deborah Harry, Anne Murray, as well as the late, great Groucho Marx, Rick James, Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass.
The film follows the life of this gutsy individual whose career started by accidentally running into Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Alice Cooper, who were all hanging out at the same Hollywood motel pool.
Fast forward to fast times in the rock and roll fast lane. Most of the crazier stories are true; some aren’t.
Gordon’s alma mater, the University of Buffalo, likes to tell a story about the class of 1968 graduate.
“That’s a great example of how we worked,” recounted Gordon. “We were up maybe two days straight studying and one of the test questions was, ‘What was the Thallus of Marchantia?’ Which was a sex organ of a specific plant. I said, ‘That sounds like the head of a country. Let’s see if we can pull off a spoof on the city and send a letter to the mayor that this sultan of Arabia is visiting Buffalo.’ One guy had a friend who worked at the U.N., so we had him send the mayor a telegram. Next day [the visit] is on the front page of the paper. We flew in a guy in wearing a sheet. People start protesting; there was a mob. We can’t believe it. That was when I realized you can create history.”
Myers’ movie covers another aspect of Gordon’s career, helping to create what is known now as the “celebrity chef.” Gordon propelled the careers of such pros as Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters.
Though the humble-as-pie Gordon is pleased with the final product, he originally was against Supermensch.
“It wasn’t until the premiere when I saw Mike’s participation in and really understood why he wanted to do the documentary,” said Gordon. “I kept saying no and he kept asking why. But he gets it. He did a great job.”