International Cannabis Business Conference

Review: 'Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon'

High-flying music manager Shep Gordon wears a famous t-shirt during his heydey during the ’70s.

Supermensch, the directorial debut from Mike Myers, is a rollicking ride through the life of Shep Gordon, manager to Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Groucho Marx, Teddy Pendergrass and a host of others (including Myers). Interviewed for the documentary are Cooper, Murray, Michael Douglas, Mick Fleetwood, Myers and many more. Willie Nelson, who worked on a film with Gordon, is interviewed saying, "We have both enjoyed pot for years and years and years. We are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine," and seen standing next to the Dalai Lama.

After graduating from the University of Buffalo, Gordon wanted to do good as a social worker, so he took a job as a probation officer at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall outside of Los Angeles in 1967, a job that lasted only a few hours for the long-haired, unwelcome hippie. As fate would have it, he landed at the Landmark Hotel in L.A., without knowing it was a favorite hangout for rock stars. After taking "a little acid" in his room, Gordon ran to the rescue, he thought, of a woman screaming by the pool. Turns out it was Janis Joplin on a date with Jimi Hendrix.

The film does an amazing job of intercutting footage and stills of Joplin, Hendrix and others in Zelig fashion to place Gordon and the viewer in the moment, as when Hendrix first suggests Gordon manage Cooper. Admittedly only taking the job seriously when his dope-dealing business at the Landmark was infringed on by the cops, the stories of the stunts he pulled to make Cooper a star are priceless. "You could see from me to you from the smoke in his room, and I don't mean cigarettes," Cooper says of his first meeting with the man who became his lifelong manager.

Gordon regales with tales of signing acts by opening a drawer "filled with grass" and offering handfuls to prospective clients. His story of how he signed Pendergrass is the height of the debauchery, signaled by his famous wearing of a t-shirt that read, No Head No Backstage Pass. But seeing how success and fame wasn't making his clients happy, he went in other directions, studying the culinary arts and creating the "celebrity chef" craze, and letting girlfriend Sharon Stone bring him to Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. Significantly, Gordon didn't crash and burn, or repent his past, except for his lack of focus on making a family of his own. It's a tale of a life well lived by a pot-loving man who earned the title of mensch, a Yiddish word meaning "someone to admire and emulate, a human being."

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Ellen Komp

Ellen Komp

Hemp/marijuana activist and writer based in Berkeley, California. She blogs at tokinwoman.blogspot.com