Mike Myers Pulls Back the Curtain on 'Supermensch' Shep Gordon
Shep Gordon knows more secrets about Hollywood than anybody on the planet, says his good friend Mike Myers, but he has never heard him gossip. The actor, producer and writer of Wayne's World and Shrek chose the personal manager of such talent as Alice Cooper, Groucho Marx, Raquel Welch and Luther Vandross as the subject of his first-ever documentary and directorial debut.
A story about loyalty, ingenuity and ultimately family, "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon," which debuted in Myers' hometown of Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival, just opened in theaters this week in the U.S.
What is it about this man that few outside the entertainment industry, or diehard Cooper fans, have heard of that makes his story so fascinating?
"He is a mixture of wisdom, compassion, nurturance; he's the most brilliant mind I've ever met in terms of weaponizing people's talent," Myers tells Billboard.
"Oh, I like that line," says Gordon, standing beside him.
"You can have that," says Myers, who began asking Gordon two decades ago to make a story about his life, "seriously the last 10 and begging the last three years." He said an alternate title to the film was Pay A Lot of Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain.
The two struck up a close friendship when Myers was making Wayne's World in 1991 and Gordon gave him a tough time about clearance for an Alice Cooper song. Cooper appears in the legendary comedy, giving a history lesson on Milwaukee and is bowed down to in the famous "we're not worthy" scene.
Cooper has been managed by Gordon for 43 years — "and we still don't have a contract with each other" — and can fully understand Myers interest in documenting the man.
"It's because he is one of the only real honest guys in the business, which is his power," Cooper tells Billboard. "If Shep says something, you know it's for real. That's a huge power in this business because most of it's BS. With Shep, if he says it, it happens or it doesn't happen."
Amusingly, Gordon's career in management began when he was a petty drug dealer at LA's Landmark hotel in 1968 where he met Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Cooper. "Are you Jewish? You should be a manager," says Hendrix. Cooper recruited him next.
"We've been through a lot," Cooper says. "We went through a period where everybody thought we were the biggest joke in the world and we got thrown out of every place. We couldn't get a record contract and Shep stayed on, stayed on, stayed on until it all happened."
Myers remembers the advice of comedian Del Close, one of his teachers at Chicago's Second City, when it came time to put together "Supermensch."
"He said there's many many approaches to acting, many many approaches to making stuff, but in the end we are watching somebody want something," Myers says. "As he said, 'Fight 'em or seduce them,' but he used a different word that started with 'F.' He always said, when in doubt, seduce, which is to say figure out what it is that the character wants.
"So as I looked at [Shep's] amazing body of work, I was trying to figure out what is the essence of what he truly truly wants and, without embarrassing him, it's family, which I've always been in search for and finally have found." Gordon adopted four motherless children, but never had kids of his own.
Gordon told Billboard he loves the film. "I didn't do any censoring at all. I felt it really was Mike's journey to do with it what he could and I just talked as openly as I could and as honestly as I could.
"I'm not comfortable in front of the camera and as you'll see when you see the documentary, I'm very focused on the fact that fame kills. Nobody who's famous escapes damage. They'll survive, but nobody escapes damage. Knowing that, why would I want to be in front of the camera? And I still don't know exactly why," he laughs.