SHEP GORDON REDEFINES THE TERM Bram Bessoff
BY BRAM BESSOFF
I haven’t been inspired to write lately, but that all changed last Tuesday upon screening “Supermensch.” Shep Gordon is my new hero. Arguably the first super manager and live music producer, he pioneered the industry through a series of perchance events like it was busheret – meant to be.
We were a few minutes late due to rain and ATL traffic so we walked into the story where Shep gets punched in the face for trying to help what he thought was a poor helpless woman being raped in the pool courtyard of the Landmark hotel on his first night in LA. Turns out he interrupted Janis Joplin having sex. The story continues with Joplin feeling so bad about the encounter she apologizes the next day and in return introduces him to Jimi Hendrix – who in few words, changes his life forever.
“He said, ‘You Jewish?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘You should be a manager,” recalls Gordon. “So I became a manager. You can’t argue with Jimi Hendrix.” And by manager, they really meant drug dealer. Jimi introduced Shep to The Chamber Brothers who in turn intro’d him to a new Phoenix band on the scene looking for a manager called Alice Cooper. Although it began as a whirlwind of drugs and debauchery it quickly became serious when the money started to run dry and it was up to Shep to find a way to keep everyone clothed and fed.
As part of my teachings in the Live Music Method and performance coaching, we instill in artists that who you are is more important than what you do. There are hundreds of guitar players, only one Hendrix, Page or Beck – and they are all equally as talented but stylistically worlds apart. And that’s exactly how Shep launched Alice’s career. By egging them on to take their flamboyant avant garde performance to new heights and fueled the hype machine with gonzo publicity tactics like calling the cops on his own show for indecent exposure and causing a four hour traffic jam in Piccadilly circus to sell out Cooper’s UK debut.
So how does being a drug-infused ladies man and rock n’ roll insider qualify Shep as being worthy of the title? Regardless if you agreed upon his lifestyle, his actions are what set him to the highest standard of being a mensch. A true loyal friend, Shep speaks highly of everyone, conducts what he calls compassionate business – another term for win/win – always honoring his word and paying his debts. In fact, Shep went in the moment back and paid each hotel in full for every bad check they wrote during the early Alice touring days. I’d say if five people outside of someone’s immediate family speaks highly of them, they are a mensch. When Michael Douglas, Emeril Lagasse, Mike Meyers, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray, Sylvester Stallone and more vouch for your mensch-ness, you are a hall-of-famer.
Shep is like the real-world, cool version of Forrest Gump, he has lived more lives than humanly possible. Not only did he tour the world living the rock star lifestyle, present for moments like the Almost Famous plane crash scare. He started a film company to help a friend out of work producing such horror classics as “The People under the Stairs.” He invented the concept of the celebrity chef to help his culinary friends get the respect and monetary compensation they deserve, subsequently creating a billon dollar industry with no aspects of profiting from the endeavor.
He adopted the grandchildren of a past lover who lost their entire family, cooked breakfast for the Dala Lama, shared a cat with Cary Grant, dated Sharon Stone and had an open door policy for any friend or acquaintance in need of help, inspiring Mike Meyers to make this movie during his two month stay on Shep’s Maui estate. The title is starting to fit. It seems Shep even defied death surviving a four day intestinal surgery that flatlined him on the table. Anyone looking to get me a gift, buy this DVD, watch it first and then send it to me – I need to add it to my stash of personal development tools I should be frequently reviewing to make myself a better person like the Abraham Hicks law of Attraction dissertation (get URL from Bram) and my Dale Carnegie collection.
In fact, I am going to start a mensch hall of fame with the second inductee being Hilly Kristal, founder of CBGB – also a must see biopic. Criteria for nominations? Simple, worthy inductees must be Jewish, human and willing to put others before themselves. Send me your nominations.
Bram Bessoff is a drummer and musician. When not onstage, Bram is a performance coach and music industry entrepreneur helping artists get the most out of their live shows and chart on Billboard. He sits on the board of directors as VP for The Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. Follow Bram’s experiences on, off and backstage @bram_rocks. Interact with him at #InItForTheMoment to share thoughts, comments and ideas about this column.