They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock ‘n’ Roll
By Shep Gordon
HarperCollins, 309 pp., $25.99
One of the more entertaining rock docs of recent years was Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon. Produced by Mike Myers (yes, Austin Powers himself), it profiled the legendary music manager and entertainment gadfly best known for his decades-long association with Alice Cooper (“mensch” being Yiddish slang for a man of honor and integrity).
In this sort-of companion memoir, Gordon tells his own story, an incredible journey involving luck, skill, balls, fate, and sex, drugs, more drugs, and rock and roll. All that after an introduction to the music business that sounds like fiction.
After moving from New York to Los Angeles to take a job that ended up lasting half a day, a young Gordon found himself at a hotel that night. Hearing a woman’s screams by the pool, he rushed out ready to pummel a predator, only to have the woman yell back, “We’re fucking! Please leave us alone!”
The next morning, he met the damsel in not-so-distress. It was Janis Joplin. She introduced him to her friends, who were also guests sitting poolside: Jimi Hendrix and the Chambers Brothers. He soon stumbled upon this bizarre group who cross-dressed, played dirty music and alienated audiences whenever they played: Alice Cooper, which was then the name of the entire band. He vowed to make them all millionaires.
Gordon tells the story of many of his greatest PR stunts with the Alice Cooper band, designed so parents would hate the group: having them perform naked underneath plastic suits, then calling the cops; having a truck with a large billboard of a naked Cooper with a snake over his private parts “break down” in heavy London traffic; wrapping copies of the School’s Out record in paper women’s panties; and the famous Chicken Incident.
However, all of this was already covered heavily not only in the Supermensch and Super Dooper Alice Cooper docs, but in books by band members. Though his idea of having the giant “Cyclops” from the “Welcome to My Nightmare” tour go through airport checkpoints in costume — with tipped-off photographer nearby — sounds pretty hilarious.
Hilarious – and tragic – also can describe Gordon's professional and personal relationship with late R&B crooner Teddy Pendergrass. To set himself apart from the other white Jewish men who were pursuing the then-superhot R&B singer as a client, his approach was to boldly vow to out-drink, out-drug and out-screw the Lover Man. Pendergrass took the challenge, and the pair adjourned to a hotel’s luxury suite.
At the end of two days, a triumphant Gordon had a picture taken of him, arms held high with his foot on the chest of a passed-out Pendergrass. He got the gig. Later, when a car accident left the singer a quadriplegic for the rest of his life, Gordon quietly engineered a comeback, though Teddy never regained the status he once had.
Gordon also gives ample space in this memoir to his side careers and interests in film producing, having sex with beautiful women (He dated Sharon Stone for years! He wore a shirt that said “No Head, No Backstage Pass!”), following the Dalai Lama, and the world of fine cuisine, as both gourmand and manager of scores of chefs.
Though his adventures in the last might test the patience of the more music-minded reader and often come off as a rich man’s travelogue. At one fancy dinner, Gordon throws a tantrum about not getting special olive oil at his table.
In the end, while anecdotes and incidents – some pretty far out there – populate the narrative, it’s also about Shep Gordon’s inner journey and search for meaning in his life. And it certainly gives some hope that a loner, awkward, not particularly attractive kid from Queens could grow to find an inner peace not many people can attain. And also get to bed Sharon Stone.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.