Title: Supermensch:The Legend of Shep Gordon
Director: Mike Myers
Major Players: Shep Gordon, Mike Myers, Alice Cooper et al
Out Of Five: 3
It’s the 60s. A young Shep Gordon checks into an LA motel and takes “a little acid.” He comes round to the sound of what he thinks is a young woman being raped at the poolside and rushes out to intervene. It turns out that the sex is consensual and Shep gets punched in the face. The following day he meets the woman again. She’s Janis Joplin, her lover is Jimi Hendrix – and Shep becomes their manager.
It’s a good story – and Gordon is full of them. So full, that it’s surprising that nobody’s made a documentary about him until now. But, as the best connected manager in Hollywood, he tends to shun the direct glare of the limelight, preferring a little of his clients’ fame to rub off on him. Which is why we see him in so many celebrity-packed photographs. And now one of those celebrities, Mike Myers, has committed his life and stories to film in Supermensch:The Legend of Shep Gordon.
Question one. Supermensch? In Yiddish, a mensch is a person of integrity and truth – the film takes the trouble to explain.
Question two. Shep Gordon? Essentially, he’s probably the best connected manager in the entertainment business. He started as a music manager, extended into the movies and finally invented a whole new beast called the celebrity chef.
He’s certainly the man you’d want as your manager, even though he’s semi-retired now – that “semi” is open to question – and anybody who is anybody knows him. Most of them have been clients at one time or another and many have become personal friends. The A list status of many of his clients – Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone et al – says it all about his abilities as a manager, although it’s never discussed in any detail in the film. But what’s clear is that he does business with such charm and good humour that he could cut the toughest deal in the world with somebody and they’d walk away laughing, feeling that he’d done them a favour!
Unsurprisingly, Myers is also a client and friend, so this is an affectionate and funny portrait of his mentor. Which isn’t difficult. Gordon is enormously engaging, entertaining, full of those great stories and has a great laugh. It’s spontaneous, infectious, often directed at himself and is frequently impersonated, especially by Myers himself, who is just one of the many of film’s talking heads. But the emphasis is on showing just how great Shep is so, as well as all his stories which often involve copious amounts of drink and drugs, we’re left in no doubt about his personal generosity. One of his long-term girlfriends, Winona, had a daughter called Mia. When Winona’s relationship with Shep came to an end, he didn’t hear from her for 15 years, then she phoned to say Mia had died. At the funeral, he realises that Mia had several children, so he buys them a house and sets them up in Winona’s care. He’s still their honorary grandfather and it’s the closest he’s come to having children. Despite an enviable life, his wish for children of his own is still an empty corner.
If you didn’t know that Mike Myers was behind the camera, it wouldn’t be difficult to tell. The pseudo-psychedelic poster, the references to Canada and Canadians, the deliberately hammy re-constructions which almost wink at the camera, the frantic Tom and Jerry style music, the cartoon graphics ….. they all hark back to Austin Powers.
In essence, Myers has followed the standard advice for somebody starting out, this time in directing – creating something based on what he knows. In Shep Gordon, he has a great subject – engaging, happy to talk and full of great anecdotes. No especially salacious stories, though, just funny ones. And you sense that both of them enjoyed the whole experience from start to finish.
Supermensch:The Legend of Shep Gordon is released at selected cinemas on Friday, 18 July. http://www.supermenschthemovie.com