Shep Gordon, looking like a Maui high school graduate festooned with lei, received the "Maverick Award" on the opening night of the Maui Film Festival (MFF) in Wailea on Wednesday, June 4. The Maverick Award honors an individual who has the courage of their convictions and spares no effort to do the right thing to help those whose life's work inspires him.
Gordon, who, as the super-manager of such mega-stars as Alice Cooper, Blondie, Pink Floyd (he managed them for just nine days) , Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Anne Murray and Groucho Marks, to name a few, said he felt "weird" about being on the stage instead of behind the scenes.
"I'm enjoying it though," Gordon said. "I must say I'm very, very comfortable doing it and I find it's so much easier than in my real life. I never had the luxury of thinking about only one thing. Yeah, I'm having a really good time with it.
Before a capacity crowd at the newest MFF venue, the Seaside Cinema at the Grand Wailea, Gordon received the Maverick Award from Keith Carradine, and was also there to oversee the Maui premiere of Mike Myers' directorial debut of the bio pic "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon."
Myers, who he met on the set of Wayne's World, felt that Gordon's life was movie material and pursued him. Gordon didn't want to, but later relented.
"I was in the hospital with some stuff, was heavily medicated and feeling real sorry for myself and said 'yes,'" Gordon joked. Gordon had a heart attack of the intestines and almost died, but, according to Myers this incident happened two weeks into shooting. Gordon insists that Myers' recollection is "different" from his.
In a recent New York Times story, Myers explained one of the reasons he wanted to do the film.
"In all of his [Gordon's] stories," Meyers said, "it occurred to me that fame is the industrial disease of creativity. There's a toxicity to fame that will have reproductive harm."
"I think if you're industry is acting, you have to become famous in order to continue working," Gordon explained. "The industrial waste from mining might be minerals in the water. The industrial waste from acting is 'famous.' It's toxic. A lot of famous people have died or ended up in rehab. It has no purpose unto itself. Just like the waste in a lot of industries. I really related to that. I thought it was a brilliant way to put it."
Of all the 19 films he's been associated with, he's most proud of Koyaanisqatsi, El Norte and The Whales of August. He also mentioned Alan Rudolph, with whom he did both Alice Cooper films.
"Working with Alan was a complete joy," said Gordon.
Gordon came to Maui in 1974 to quit smoking. Unsuccessful at the attempt, it's one of his few failures in life.
Most celebrities, who choose to live on Maui, give back (with one notable exception). Gordon famously made a deal with the paparazzi in which he would allow them to get their shots so that his people would look good. The paparazzi in turn, would donate 10 percent of the proceeds from the photos they got to the Maui Food Bank. One photo alone yielded a $50,000 contribution, according to Gordon. It was a win, win, win, win!
Gordon is also the coordinating sponsor of the Roger Vergé Culinary Scholarship Foundation, sits on the boards of The Tibet Fund and Reel FX, and the advisory board of the TAJ Hotels. He has served on the board of the American Liver Foundation, is the founding member of the Hawai'i Regional Cuisine Movement and was inducted into the Hawai'i Culinary Hall of Fame. He has also won numerous industry awards, including being named one of the 100 most influential people by Rolling Stone magazine.
Credited with inventing the celebrity chef, in typical low-key Gordon fashion, he said, "It's what I do. I make people famous and they happen to be chefs so... that's what I do."
Actually, when he found out how badly chefs were treated, he set about to right the wrong. Such chefs as Roger Verge, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, among many others owe their careers to Gordon.
On Maui, he opened both the Mala Wailea and the Mala Ocean Tavern Lahaina, had a hand in bringing Mark Ellman to Maui and recently lured Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon from Star Noodle so that he could open Migrant at the Wailea Marriot.
Asked about his vision for Migrant, Gordon said, "It was more Sheldon's than mine. It was to give him a place to present what he wanted to say. It's really his voice. I don't know if you know that right after he opened the restaurant, he won "Best Chef" from Food & Wine Magazine. It's really amazing for a restaurant to be open for that short of time." He added, "The food is amazing. Everybody should get in there and try it."
When it was suggested that he was a personal friend of the Dalai Lama, Gordon said, "I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't. I am of service to His Holiness. I've been really privileged to be in his presence."
He laughed when asked whether the Dalai Lama would see the film.
"He has so much better use of his time," Gordon said. "I'd hate for him to spend an hour and 30 minutes watching it -- as much as I enjoy the film."
"It's been wonderful to read the reviews and people are saying it's the type of movie that can make people want to be better people," Gordon concluded.
Just in case you don't know the meaning of "mensch," it's a German word, which in Yiddish, means "a good person." A mensch has the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague.
That must make Shep Gordon an ubermensch.