Author’s journey includes sex, drugs and chicken soup

“They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock ’n’ Roll”


Readers beware, talent manager Shep Gordon no-holds-barred memoir is not for everyone. He opens with a story about how he stumbled upon a Hollywood, Calif. hotel in 1968, took a hit of acid and then tried to save a woman who he thought was being raped but was actually having consensual sex. She also turned out to be a famous rock star and told him to go away. 

This the sort of story Gordon tells in “They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock ‘n’ Roll” and one he is likely to share when he takes the stage at the Jewish Book Festival Nov. 19.

If you thought that “supermensch” meant the nice Jewish boy who always abides by the rules, Gordon quickly disavows that notion. Early in the book he writes about using all of his bar-mitzvah money to buy a Ford Mustang and driving to the Mexican border to pick up a “big bag of pot.” 

After interrupting Janis Joplin (the rock star having consensual sex), Gordon met her and Jimi Hendrix the following day by the hotel pool and soon started selling them drugs. Later another musician joined the trio and suggested to Gordon that he needed to have an excuse for the money he was earning. Since Gordon was Jewish, why not be a manager, Hendrix asked.  

So goes the origin story of how Gordon became a manager and friend to stars like Alice Cooper, invented the celebrity chef (according to Emeril Lagasse), and cooked meals for the Dalai Lama.


  The publication of Gordon’s memoir was preceded by “Supermensch,” a 2014 documentary directed by Mike Myers. 

“I was fairly embarrassed by the title when I first heard it, but it was his movie and I didn’t get involved. I have become more comfortable with it as time goes by,” said Gordon, 71, in an interview with the Jewish Light

That title originates from the idea that Gordon did business differently than the others Jews working in show business.

According to stars and family members in the documentary, Gordon has always been honest and generous. 

He was raised in New York where he learned the secrets to good chicken soup from his grandmother. 

“Only use dill; don’t put any other herbs in it,” he said.

These days, if you were to ask people who they picture as a Jewish Hollywood agent, they would probably say “Ari Gold,” the “Entourage” character played by Jeremy Piven.

And Gordon says that brash, cut-throat character is the “typical person who does what I do.”

“If I had a competitive advantage, it’s that I wasn’t one of them, which is why I was able to draw the type of talent I drew. I never had contracts with my artists; I operated from a very different place,” he says. “Most people who do what I do — it’s very difficult to focus on your artists, because it’s always about your artists; it’s not about you.”

That selfless philosophy squares with Gordon’s Buddhist principles.

“When I go to a Buddhist country, I feel good. There’s an approach to life that they have, an understanding of the impermanence of everything, which is something I always used to tell my clients, ‘You’re going to die, take a chance. Do what you want to do.’ ” says Gordon, who now lives in Maui. 

Gordon first became interested in Buddhism while he was dating actress Sharon Stone. After learning that the Dalai Lama would be visiting Hawaii, Gordon decided that he would like to “feed the Dalai Lama,” he writes. He orchestrated an elaborate meal with a team of chefs and artists that culminated in Gordon bringing a tray of food to the Buddhist leader. 

“I look at this picture and think, Oh my God, Little Shep from Oceanside sitting with the Dalai Lama—holding his hand. Can anything top that?” Gordon writes.

Despite his interest in Buddhism, Gordon says he still identifies as a Jew. He then adds, “Culturally for sure.”

He helped start a synagogue in Maui that is not affiliated with any stream of Judaism.

“I think everyone wanted it to be sort of a New Age (congregation), very accepting,” Gordon says. “We were very focused on not charging for tickets for the High Holidays. It was funny, we all had the same little road. We were all basically poor kids whose parents were embarrassed to go to High Holidays because they sat in the cheap seats.”

Now on the total opposite end of the spectrum, with plenty of celebrity friends, Gordon says he has enjoyed the book tour — though he wishes he had a manager.

“I don’t have a manager, and I can see the randomness in what I do, whereas with my clients, I used to make sure their schedules adhered to their life,” Gordon said.

When asked about coming to St. Louis, Gordon brought up Alice Cooper, the artist who he has represented for 47 years. (The name Alice Cooper was originally used for the band but the solo musician later adopted it as his name.) Gordon said Kiel Auditorium was one of the first places the band played and that the city “has been one of his best cities.”

“We never had a contract; never had a fight; never raised our voices to one another. We have been through alot together,” Gordon says.

That included arriving at the conclusion that in order for Alice Cooper to get famous, they “had to get parents to hate him.” At one point, Gordon instructed the band to take the stage naked, covered only by transparent plastic clothing. Despite their best efforts, Alice Cooper was not arrested for indecent exposure. The artist still managed to build a successful career around shock rock and songs like “School’s Out.”

“That’s always what I tried to do with my artists, is go out to the edge,” Gordon says.

Here’s hoping Gordon goes out to the edge on Nov. 19.