Shep Gordon is one of those show business legends whose name isn’t usually in boldface. Regular people don’t know him, but stars like Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Alice Cooper and Jimi Hendrix were or are acquainted with this supermanager.
When pal Mike Myers came to Gordon and asked to make a documentary about his life, it wasn’t a done deal. “I met Mike in Chicago on ‘Wayne’s World,’ the movie, and then a few years later in Maui,” Gordon recalls. “I love to cook, so I have big dinners at my house where I feed people and tell them stories. Mike said he really wanted to tell my story.”
Thus the new film “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” now showing at Landmark Century Centre. The documentary marks Myers’ directorial debut. “I guess Mike just loved my stories and kept coming back for me,” says Gordon.
Q. Is it strange for a behind-the-scenes person like a manager to be the subject of a documentary?
A. Yes and no. I mean, what a great life. When I look back, I can’t believe my life. Like I said, Mike kept coming for dinner because he loved my stories and then he ended up buying a house in Maui. For eight years, he kept saying, “Shep, let me make this film.” I didn’t want to do it because I felt like it could be an ego trip. I didn’t want to walk down that highway and had avoided ego trips my entire life. I must have been at a weak moment and finally said yes.
Q. Let’s get to some of your stories. Is it true that you once walked in and broke up a lovemaking session between Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin?
A. That’s not exactly true. They weren’t making out. She was sitting with Jimi when I walked in. He was just visiting. She was a pretty heavy drinker who liked Southern Comfort but was always very nice to me, although I never spent a lot of time with her. Hendrix was a great guy. Very quiet. But so talented.
Q. You managed Alice Cooper when he was on top of his career. What was your craziest night on the road?
A. We were at Green’s Playhouse in Scotland, our first time in the country, when “School’s Out” was No. 1 on the charts around the world. Alice was huge in England, but he wasn’t playing there on the tour. Now, this small playhouse holds about 2,500 people and the seats filled for this sellout. About 15 minutes before Alice went on, I heard the speakers breaking up. I ran to the monitor board to see what was wrong with the sound and the guy tells me that nothing is wrong with the sound. I said, “Don’t you hear that breaking sound?” I ran back to the stage and looked straight up. Fans had arrived with a hydraulic drill. They were drilling through the roof to get to the highest balcony in the theater to see the show.
Q. What doesn’t the public know about Groucho Marx, another client?
A. Groucho was fantastic. I knew him later in his career when he was still hysterical. He would say, “You’re Shep. My manager. You don’t look like a crook.” People don’t know that old-fashioned letter writing was his passion. If he liked you, he wrote you a long letter. He even wrote to Einstein, and Einstein wrote Groucho back.
Q. Were you ever in physical danger with any of your clients?
A. I had to go to the police a couple of times for stalkers and people who were really nuts. Fame attracts that kind of thing. I do remember doing something with the Grateful Dead and we got chased by fans and had to stand on the top of a U-Haul. The fans destroyed all of the equipment. Another time with Alice, the crowd tipped our limo over, which was wild. After they did it, a fan reached in and stole something. Two of the roadies and me chased him to the local train station, jumped on the train and got it back. He stole Alice’s guitar.”
Q. How is life in retirement now?
A. What they don’t tell you is you still wake up in the morning and do what you do. Then you fall asleep. You’re not chasing guys on trains, but it’s still pretty good.