Review: ‘Supermensch’ tells of Shep Gordon, a real-life pop culture Zelig

The documentary "Supermensch" focuses on Shep Gordon (far left), a manager who helped popularize everyone from Alice Coop and Anne Murray  (next to him). Credit: RADiUS-TWC
The documentary “Supermensch” focuses on Shep Gordon (far left), a manager who helped popularize everyone from Alice Coop and Anne Murray (next to him).
Credit: RADiUS-TWC

‘Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon’
Director: Mike Myers
Genre: Documentary
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

As of this writing, Shep Gordon doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. As the new doc on him, “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” this is both inexplicable and completely fitting. Its subject not only knows everyone in showbiz and vice versa; he is, if the film is to be believed, one of the chief architects of modern culture, having popularized — or at least brushed shoulders with — major artists and trend setters. He may have taken actual credit for the work, but he never tried to profit off of the success to vault himself into the mainstream. He’s content to be the puppetmaster, and genuinely and unfailingly modest — a true mensch.

In fact, Gordon seems somewhat embarrassed to be in the film made about his life, even as he enjoys rattling off crazy stories. His largest accomplishment is being co-responsible for Alice Cooper, a rudderless anti-showman he carved into an arena god who shocked parents. Gordon’s own musical tastes ran more mellow, which is why he also unleashed his prowess on Anne Murray and Teddy Pendergrass, pulling strings largely by knowing the right people. He’s proof that business works best between chums who can do eachother favors.

But for the most part Gordon is mostly in the background of a wild bacchanalia — a Zelig-type who hobnobbed with Janis and Jimi and used to wear tees bearing fellatio jokes. Making his directorial debut, Mike Myers — one of Gordon’s untold fawning friends — goes too far and too rookie on the craziness. He’s so insecure about not capturing the frenzy of the time that he insists on finding dumb archival clips, from TV, movies and cartoons, to illustrate every last sentence uttered by interviewees.

These days, Skip Gordon likes to chill in his Maui home. Credit: RADiUS-TWC
These days, Skip Gordon likes to chill in his Maui home.
Credit: RADiUS-TWC

Even with less than 90 minutes, Myers winds up stretching out his story beyond where it’s interesting. After the ’60s and ’70s heyday, Gordon’s life calmed down considerably. (He embraced the constant chill of Hawaiian living, where he resides today, occasionally throwing star-studded parties.) Myers dwells too much on this section than is likely warranted, all while skipping past potential juicy tidbits, such as the nine days he spent managing Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.

What’s more, he puff up Gordon so much that some of his claims — such as that he is solely responsible for the culture of celebrity chefs — start to call out for fact checking. (Gordon himself as said his business partner Joe Greenberg is as responsible as he is for Alice Cooper.) That Gordon is incredibly, immensely likeable carries viewers through some less essential patches, but several minutes spent on his love for Tibet, his patchy love life and his love of island life threaten to feel like wasting time better spent on killer anecdotes.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


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