'Supermensch': A remarkable right-place-right-time tale
'The quintessential manager ... " "He has the Midas touch . . . " "As if Brian Epstein, Marshall McLuhan, and Mr. Magoo had a baby."
The testimonials come fast and affectionately in Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, but how can you not love this guy, this story?
Directed by Wayne's World and Austin Powers funnyman Mike Myers, paying serious homage to his dear friend, this documentary portrait of a media playmaker is doubly fascinating: for its remarkable right-place-right-time tales of fame and fortune, and for its subject's personal journey - from a hard-partying Hollywood sybarite to what his buddy Michael Douglas calls the "Bujew" he is today. That is, a Jewish kid from Long Island transformed into a sage and sanguine gent, a practicing Buddhist, living in the palmy bliss of a beachside home in Maui.
Gordon - who still manages his first client, rock showman Alice Cooper, but is otherwise mostly retired - happily provides accounts of his adventures in the music, movie, and, yes, culinary trades. In 1968, just out of college and on his first trip to L.A., he found himself poolside with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. He sold them weed, and sold another would-be star, Cooper, a bag of goods: Sure, Gordon assured, he could manage him.
Turns out, he could.
Through the decades, Gordon steered the careers of Anne Murray, Blondie, George Clinton, Raquel Welch, Groucho Marx (yes, Groucho Marx), Teddy Pendergrass, and Luther Vandross. A "professional bachelor," he married a Playboy Playmate - and quickly had the marriage annulled. He launched an indie film company, Island Alive, producing Oscar contenders and cult hits (El Norte, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Koyaanisqatsi). And he pretty much invented the concept of the celebrity chef, trumpeting the talents of toque-wearers Roger Vergé, Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, and many more.
Myers mixes interviews, archival material, and playfully spurious reenactments; Gordon's anecdote about his neighbor, Cary Grant, and the house cat whose custody they shared becomes a Photoshopped piece of "reportage." Douglas, Tom Arnold, Willie Nelson, and Sylvester Stallone share reflections. And through it all, Gordon's philosophy of "compassionate business" emerges, as do his views about family (his mother was a piece of work), children (he unofficially adopted, and has remained close to, four kids), and spirituality (he and the Dalai Lama are friends).
Supermensch is one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tales. And even when the film, and Gordon, gets apocryphal, you feel like, well, that could have happened, too. The gleam in his eye makes you believe.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon ***1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Mike Myers. With Shep Gordon, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Anne Murray, Emeril Lagasse. Distributed by Radius-TWC.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, sex, nudity, drugs, adult themes).
Playing at: Ritz Five.