Release: Friday, June 6, 2014 (limited)
Shep Gordon. To not know him is to not live. Or love. Possibly both.
The name’s iconic in at least the music and film industries, after the would-be social worker established his reputation as an idiosyncratic, freewheeling talent manager who stumbled into the gig thanks to a comical encounter involving Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the generally awkward misperception that Joplin was being assaulted by the musician in broad daylight. Amazingly, the situation never culminated in fisticuffs. Hendrix instead asked if the man was Jewish, which he was. (If that sounds gauche coming from me, I assure you it’s far more amusing hearing this from Shep, who tells everything like it is with only the most massive of grins plastered on his face.)
The second question from Hendrix’s mouth was less personal but far more propitious: whether or not the wide-eyed twentysomething would have any interest in management in the music biz.
“Uh. . .yes?”
The tragically-fated rockstar then pointed an entirely too naive Gordon in the direction of one Alice Cooper. And thus, off we go on our gallivanting through Mike Myers’ passion project, a tribute to one of the greats of Hollywood — a man who has always been grateful to stand behind the spotlight rather than in it. There’s little he can do now to avoid being front-and-center, though one gets the feeling the debut of this highly entertaining documentary won’t have been the first time Shep’s been left somewhat vulnerable, subjugated to public opinion.
One recurring theme that plays out in Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is this sense of great respect and courtesy that Gordon has managed to buoy throughout his lengthy and considerably prosperous career. The number and quality of the testimonials alone speak volumes. If he had a Google+ account — which he doesn’t, no one has a use for those things — his friends circle would include the likes of Sly Stallone, Michael Douglas, Willie Nelson, Sharon Stone (well, former-friend anyway. . .they dated for a time in the ’90s, though she never shows for an interview), American restaurateur Emeril Lagasse (you know, the “Bam!!!” guy?), Canadian pop singer Anne Murray (need you any more evidence of the diversity of his work?), among a slew of others which quite obviously include first-time director Mike Myers.
The man is at once incredibly hard-working, horny and wholly fun to be near. Even if the closest you’ll likely ever be able to get is a seat in a theater or your couch at home, have fun trying to resist his charm and his refreshing honesty. He’s a man who loves his women, as many in the film will also attest to. Curiously, though, for all his exhaustive altruism the fact that the closest he’s been to calling himself a family man thus far was by way of looking after four orphaned children following the death of their mother is a reality that’s jarring and somewhat this. Its particularly difficult to reconcile given Shep’s lovable personality, never mind his ability to put others before him on a consistent basis.
But the biggest surprise of all might be his grand revelation towards the end. It’s a bit of info that’s less inherently surprising as it is shocking based on whom is admitting it: “there’s nothing about fame that I’ve ever seen that’s healthy.” This comes from a man who understands life is a privilege, not a waste. From a man who’s spent his cultivating those of others, even if some of those lives ironically ceased to be. Jimmy Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Those two whom he had wrestled around with in a crummy motel parking lot when first arriving in Los Angeles, they were gone well before he could retire. Gone also were many other friends and clients — even intimate relationships he had held were disappearing with an astonishing ease.
Strange, then, that the focus of Gordon’s very first project has managed to pull it together enough to have his commentary featured throughout the film. Simultaneously, there’s a warm feeling of reassurance, that maybe. . .just maybe Gordon really is a true protector. An aging Cooper by comparison seems to be a human being one can actually hang out with, without fear of having a live chicken butchered randomly in front of them based on what he or she said to Mr. Cooper. (Granted, that stunt was actually all Shep’s idea. . .)
The interviews with Cooper and Gordon on a schooner come across most poignant of all. A non-threatening setting and the passage of time does a lot to expose the real artists for who they are, and this is one of the real treats of Myers’ production. We see not only Gordon, but we see the part of that individual, that groomed personality Gordon has undoubtedly helped shape. Despite the film failing to maintain an even consistency in pacing and possessing an arguably far too limited a runtime for a subject as colorful as Shep Gordon, Myers’ effort deserves applause.
Engaging, entertaining. . . surprisingly emotional. There are a million other ways to describe Supermensch, but these seem to fit the best.
Recommendation: Informative and often inspirational but not completely free from its own relative cliches, Mike Myers’s foray into directing and documentary filmmaking may have more to offer those who are intimately familiar with this extroverted personality, but it still will resonate quite well with anyone interested in meeting a genuinely nice man whose life story may be more complicated than anything anyone might naturally assume about a man still unwed and without children of his own who, by the way, has spent a lifetime making people rich and famous.
Running Time: 85 mins.
Quoted: “The three most important things a manager does. One: get the money. Two: always remember to get the money. Three: never forget to always remember to get the money.”
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