Named among the Top 10 Films at SXSW 2014, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon tells the wild, extraordinary story of its title figure, celebrity manager Shep Gordon, who fell into his career thanks to a chance, knock-out encounter with Janis Joplin at a Hollywood hotel. (She actually decked him out cold.) Joplin introduced him to Jimi Hendrix, who planted the idea to become a manager in Gordon. He took Hendrix’ advice and was at it in short order, learning as he went. When he met a struggling artist named Alice Cooper, Gordon threw caution to the wind, dreaming up racy tactics to raise the profile of Cooper and other artists and consequently proved himself a visionary in the entertainment industry.
When one looks at a famous artists or rockstars, it is tempting to believe that they made it on talent alone. Supermensch tells a different story, one that certainly included dumb luck for Gordon himself. Artists are often unable to see the business side of their work, and sometimes a strong manager is the difference between fame and a bust. Supermensch gives audiences a peek into the complexity of the entertainment industry, the underbelly of fame, and the crucial talent of a good manager. Shep Gordon was not just good; he was disruptive and innovative.
It’s almost a surprise to see him in one piece, looking staid and calm, even as co-directors Beth Aala and Mike Myers (yes, he of Austin Powers fame) piece together his frenzied life with humor, pathos and a brisk pace, through interviews with some of his A-list clients, including Alice Cooper, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Emeril Lagasse, Anne Murray, Willie Nelson and Derek Shook.
Myers is a friend and client of Shepherd’s and this is his directorial debut. This is Aala’s sophomore attempt at directing for the big screen. They play it safe for all involved, keeping it decidedly upbeat. This approach might be considered a flaw given the complex, dubious nature of the business, but even if it is little more than a love note to Gordon, it is an exceptionally entertaining one.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon will appeal to anyone who loves a good biography or insider anecdotes from Hollywood and rock and roll, but it may be particularly thought-provoking for artists struggling to see the big picture of their careers. Gordon’s life and his effect on the stars around him prove that material success often requires more than one mind and one vision. Sometimes it is the creativity, support and compassion of those around you that pushes you forward.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
Now playing at Seven Gables Theater (911 N.E. 50th Street) through Thursday, June 19. Purchase tickets online at the Landmark Theatres Web site.