Shep Gordon- Jewish Polynesian

Shep Gordon, legendary Talent Manager

Shep Gordon, legendary Talent Manager

Shep Gordon, legendary Talent Manager, is the subject of a new documentary film by comedian Mike Myers Called Supermensch. It hit the headlines recently when a drunken Johnny Depp presented Myers with an award for his film at a glittering Hollywood ceremony.

I didn’t have time to ask Shep about this but I suspect it was all a stunt and stunts are what Shep does.

He was still only 19 when he took on Alice Copper and made him notorious. He didn’t know what he was doing which turned out to be a good thing, “I was right out of the box and it worked for me.”

“I bought this poor chicken along to a gig and threw it into the crowd. Alice knew nothing about it and we were both surprised when the audience tore it apart. Blood shot out everywhere. It was insane. I hadn’t thought it through but it worked.”

The next day photos were in all the papers and a shocked nation wanted to know more about this crazy Alice Cooper guy.

A little while later the phone rang and a sultry female voice asked him if “he could do for her what it was he had done for that freak Cooper?”

“Who could say no to Raquel Welsh,” he says with a wry cackle. Then she says to me, “I want you to be my Escort at the Academy Awards in four days time.”

“Well, of course,” he barks down the line. Suddenly there he is, bemused and bewildered and walking Raquel along the red carpet, crowds cheering and cameras flashing arm tightly around her waist.

“We arrived in a limo and as she got out she tore her dress. “Welch slides back into the car and says, “Shep, my dress is broken and you are going to have to hold it together for me.”

“So here I am at the Academy Awards, sweating nervous buckets because my arm is wrapped around the most beautiful movie star in Hollywood.”

His father, who had watched the whole thing on TV, rang him the next day to express his pride and admiration at his son’s achievement.

Only a couple of years before Shep was making a living dealing pot. “A dangerous profession?” I prompted.

“Not really,’ he replied, “Pot was not on the radar. I remember one day the cops knock at my door. There’s a pound of weed sitting on my couch and all they care about is my car which is parked in the wrong place.”

It was through Pot that he got to meet a certain crowd of musicians that included Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. “I would sell them pot and one day Jimi asked me what it was I do and I said I sell Pot.” He told me that I needed a cover story in case the Cops got curious, “a cover story that accounts for the money”. That’s when Hendrix asks Gordon if he’s Jewish.

“Back then when a man asks you if you are Jewish your best option was to run, but Jimi was different so I said ‘Yes’.”

Hendricks looks at him and thinks for a moment before saying “If you are Jewish then you should be a manager.”

Shep stumbled upon the struggling Alice Cooper a few days later agreed to pay him $10 a week to tell people that people that Gordon was his manager.

“Suddenly I was his manager, I hadn’t thought about it but now it occurred to me that perhaps I should actually do something, not that I thought I was a manager or knew what a manager did.”
Honour and integrity are not words often associated with the music business and Gordon muses for a while before saying that he has never done anything bad to his clients nor wanted ever wanted to.

He knows secrets but would never tell. That’s a given. He would never betray a client confidence nor seek to rip them off. It’s not in his nature.

He warns his clients, “this business might kill you, fame is dangerous,” and he often wonders at the moral dilemma of giving someone fame. “On one hand you’re giving them what they want but one the other hand you are aware that what you are offering is a mixed blessing.”

I cannot let the time slip by without a brief mention of Groucho Marx, a man I have admired since childhood. When Gordon became his manager, the frail old comedian was nearing his end. Despite his age related difficulties, Groucho remained intellectually sharp. “I couldn’t speak around him. Here’s this old man who is just so clever with words. What could I possibly say?” Shep pauses then adds, “Words were his life.”

Shep has lived in Maui for 40 years and we talk about living in Polynesia. He mixes with the locals and enjoys Polynesian culture, ‘the real one, not the Disneyland version.” I ask him if he feels Polynesian and he replies that he would like to think so, “In a former life” before wondering if a Jews Polynesian is thing. He laughs.

He’s off to a Umu, (hangi) the next day. With wild pig and deer hunted from the hills, it’s going to be a large familial gathering of friends and he’s looking forward to it.
He expects to die on Maui, but he’s not dead yet.

These days he manages Celebrity Chefs, a phenomenon he is credited with creating.

I tell about my year in hospitality industry and my conclusion that chef’s can be sociopathic narcissists.

“That was true for a long time but those days are gone. These days Chef’s study at Culinary Institutes and come into the workforce prepared and focused. They are a lot more respectful of their staff and better team players.”

He goes on to say that the Culinary Arts are populated by all shades of personality, and just like every other art suffers the rogues as well as the geniuses.

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