Monday, June 30, 2014

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

As near as I can tell, manager/PR agent Shep Gordon was really, really nice to Mike Meyers at a time when Mike Meyers really, really needed someone to be nice to him, and so Meyers decided to make a movie about him. This leads us to a couple of conclusions, one surprising, and one not so much.

The not-so-surprising conclusion: Decent people are so rare in Hollywood, the few there are seem like nearly divine characters.

The surprising conclusion: Mike Meyers (with an assist from Beth Aala) can make himself a fun documentary, with a lot of creative use of archival footage, photoshop and sharp editing.

It's a fun story, too: Gordon, after being summarily driven off on his first day as a juvie hall social worker, winds up crashing at the Hollywood Landmark Hotel, where a few musicians happened to be staying. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Musicians in need of weed that Shep happened to have.

Hendrix says he should be a manager. Who should he manage? Well, how about this "Alice Cooper" guy? They're not doing so well. Then, the cops start busting the hotel for drugs, and before you know it ol' Shep has to become a real manager. Which, of course, he has no clue about.

Life is funny.

Gordon's clever, though, and he understands how the media works, and how sex, violence and gaining the ire of parents is the key to success when marketing to kids. Some of his early attempts are hilarious failures, but ultimately he hits on some stunts that work and launches Cooper on his international career as the first shock/horror/goth/whatever star.

He employs subtler, though no less effective tactics, with Anne Murray.

This would've been a fun movie just with stories about his musical career, but Gordon notices something at the height of his career: Fame seems to get people killed. People he thinks of as family.

This sets him on a quest for something larger, something deeper, something to put his career into perspective. This is kind of interesting: The clich├ęs of Hollywood fame are death-by-excess on the one hand, or dropping out on the other, but Shep seems to manage to maintain and grow his career while doing other things.

He manages more people. He produces movies for a stretch. He falls in with the Dalai Lama. He invents the "celebrity chef". He makes his home in Hawaii a little oasis for people who need to get away from it all. He evolves a philosophy to try to make everyone a winner, rather than a narcissistic pursuit of self-aggrandizement and destruction of his enemies.

And he's rather successful as a result.

So, yeah, fun movie. Seems like a cool dude.

And yet, even the Supermensch can't have it all: The most endearing aspect of the film is how Shep, a notorious womanizer, longs for a family of his own more than anything. In the twilight of his career (and life), his only regret was that he worked so much he never made enough time for a family. There's something charming about this megamillionaire super-agent wistfully musing that "there's still time".

And it might be a good reminder to all the women who listen to the "you can have it all" nonsense: Nobody can have it all. Not even—or maybe especially even—the most successful men on earth.

But you can have a lot of fun, make a lot of friends, and get some respect.

I enjoyed it; The Boy loved it. He likes stories of people who go out and live their lives balls out and never stop taking on new challenges. And Shep's one of those people.

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