A few months back I received a voicemail from a publicist in Los Angeles. She told me that she stumbled upon my PopJewish.com blog on the web, read some of my posts, and thought I'd enjoy watching a movie she was promoting. I returned the call and we talked a little about Hollywood icon Shep Gordon and the film about him that Mike Myers directed.
I quickly agreed to screen an advance of the movie and within a week I received a copy of Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon. I put the film on one of my monitors and continued to do some work on the other. Well that lasted for about 30 seconds until my full attention was directed to the very Jewish-looking guy on the screen who sounded a little like Larry David with a nasal infection.
I was hooked. The film has interviews from some of Hollywood's biggest celebrities talking about why Shep Gordon is such a great guy (read: mensch). This biography documentary could easily have felt like a bar mitzvah tribute video, albeit to a seventy-year-old Hollywood agent, but Myers succeeded in making this a truly touching film that shows the best parts of Hollywood.
For several decades Shep Gordon was a Hollywood agent to the likes of Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Groucho Marx, Luther Vandross, Blondie, Raquel Welch and even Pink Floyd (for only 9 days). Later in his career he developed the concept of the "Celebrity Chef" with his client Emeril Lagasse. But more than a name-dropping history lesson in how a trumpanick of a kid becomes a successful agent in Hollywood, this film is a warm, touching story of a guy who really was a mensch. Throughout his diverse career Shep Gordon gave out "coupons" to help people out. These were favors or loans that he'd float to help out his friends in difficult times. When the great Groucho Marx was struggling after his career was over, Shep cashed in some of these coupons to help out the legendary comedian.
Shep Gordon had the unique ability to make someone famous. Whether it was hiring people to hold up cameras with no film to create a paparazzi feel for his new client or getting a client to be close to actual famous people so their fame would melt off, Shep was brilliant. Alice Cooper was completely created by Shep. He made the very plain Anne Murray the "It" girl of the decade in the 70s. He helped Teddy Pendergrass find his Mojo. When Mike Myers needed to get away from it all, Shep's home in Maui had an open-door policy for the comedian. When Michael Douglas needed someone to talk to in confidence, he called up his best friend Shep Gordon (who also hosted Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones' wedding at his Maui estate).
Of all his good fortune in the entertainment industry, the film shows that deep down Shep Gordon was just a good guy -- a mensch. His greatest accomplishment was in selflessly helping other people. He helped talented people find their voice and their persona. He helped some amazing people become rich and famous. He took people in (part of the film shows the relationship Shep had with the four African-American kids he adopted) and he always had time to lend an ear when someone was in need.
It's his buddy Michael Douglas who first called Shep a "mensch," but it is truly the non-Jewish Mike Myers who demonstrated to everyone why that is such an appropriate moniker for Shep Gordon. I'm glad I screened this film and I really hope today's Hollywood elite watch it. They might learn a thing or two about how it's possible to stay true to a code of ethics and be a mensch... even in 21st century Hollywood.
Follow Rabbi Jason Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rabbijason