Contains mild spoilers!
Before seeing this film, I did not know who he was and neither do most people. He does not even have his own page of Wikipedia. But in the entertainment industry, everyone knew his name: Shep Gordon. Trust me, after seeing this movie, you won’t soon forget it.
Comedian Mike Myers directs this independent documentary about Gordon, who is a close friend of Myers. Gordon is best known as being the charismatic manager of Alice Cooper. He also managed such artists as Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, and Pink Floyd (for 9 days). Leaving aside who he managed, Shep Gordon was been part of show business from the 1960’s to the 90’s . There is even more to Gordon than meets the eye. Shep Gordon was also an entrepreneur, chef, film producer, and according to Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Mike Myers himself, Emeril Langasse, and many others, one of the nicest and most trustworthy men they’ll ever know. The film’s format tells the story of Gordon’s life primarily through interviews with friends, clients, and Gordon himself.
To be blunt, this movie is awesome. The film works so well for several reasons. The first reason is that it provides an inside look into show business, and it is a great analysis of the rock music scene of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The actual people who lived and were present for several of the events gone over in the movie pop up add to give a unique look into the music, film, and culinary business. This authenticity brings the audience behind the scenes of many pop culture movements and breathes depth I did not realize existed into the people who engaged in them. For example, I was amused to discover that the Alice Cooper seen in Wayne’s World is not very far-off from his real-life self.
Most of the music I listened to is a eclectic mix of rock and pop from the 50’s all the way to the 90’s. Yet I never really dug Alice Cooper. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I could not even understand why Cooper’s demented persona and chaotic recklessness on stage attracted such a big audience. At one point in the movie, Gordon and Cooper meet Groucho Marx and Marx is drawn to Alice because he likens Cooper’s act to vaudeville. Marx has a great point. People love good theater, and sometimes the best theater is the most inventive and the most shocking . Cooper’s act was over-the-top in fake gore, dripping with sexuality, and it was all meant to be rebellion. Everything that parents and sophisticated society frowned upon.
And whatya you know? Shep Gordon made Alice Cooper huge!
The thrill of feeling like you are doing something you shouldn’t and the appeal of such manic excitement can be a turn-on. That is why Cooper and bands such as The Grateful Dead were so popular. I am not into that kind of music, but I respect why they appealed to others. In fact, Gordon did not like the kind of music Cooper played. He was into jazz and folk music. But he knew how to get a theater packed. Gordon, at one point, devised a plan to promote a pre-fame Alice Cooper by having him perform in a see-through costume at a concert. Gordon then intended to call the police to report public nudity. He did all of this to get Cooper onto the newspaper the next day. As it turns out, that certain ploy did not work, but that gives you a sense of what Gordon would attempt. This is part of why he is such a legend in the music industry. I love how this movie does not just give you the facts about Gordon’s brilliance but analyzes it.
Another reason that the movie works so well is Shep Gordon himsef. He is a man whose life story moves like roller-coaster, and he is extremely likable. If you tell a dog to,“Give Paw” and all it does is stare blankly at you and cocks its head, it suggest that just because you said, “Give Paw,” it does not mean the dog actually understand you. Whereas if you put your hand out or lift the dog’s paw up, the dog might understand what you mean, because alas dogs do not speak English. The point of this analogy is that this movie does not just tell you that Gordon is a great man, it shows you why. The movie paints Shep Gordon as generous, sympathetic, caring, trustworthy, and clever man who would do anything for a client and took his work seriously.
The movie does starts off by showing countless people talk about how great a man Gordon is, and it SEEMS a bit like hero-worship. As the film progresses thought, it starts to portray Shep Gordon not as a myth but as human being. This was smart filmmaking choice because it makes the material more realistic and as opposed to alienating the audience from Gordon, it makes him all the more relatable.
Leaving aside my deeper analysis, Supermensch is simply pleasure to watch. This in part can be attributed to the the passion of those who made the film. It is clear that Mike Myers and everyone else who was interviewed in this movie care and respect Shep Gordon very much. I also appreciated that Mike Myers’s role as a director did not overshadow or include himself in the film very much. Although Myers shows up in a few interviews, he knows this is Shep Gordon’s movie, not his. In addition to this, the film has solid direction and a coherent narrative, so kudos to Austin Powers.
The theater I saw this movie was empty except for myself, my mother, and one other person. I would like to think this is because I saw a Wednesday afternoon matinee, but I truly think this film just needs more word of mouth so it can attract a bigger audience. The fact that a movie called Supermensch exists is already something that might get it the attention it deserves. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is well made, entertaining, funny, and interesting. It is a perfect documentary for all rock and roll fans, pop culture buffs, and just about anybody else. So be a mensch and see it.
Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is rated R. It was released in select theaters on June 6th and will open in more theaters in upcoming weeks.