Music Industry Mogul Shep Gordon
They Call Me Supermensch Book Cover
In his autobiography, They Call Me Supermensch, Shep Gordon gives his readers a backstage pass into his life as one of the most influential players in the music industry. Most music and entertainment industry moguls dream about their success in the industry way before it occurs, but this was not the case for Shep. Shep’s claim to fame was an accidental occurrence.
5 LESSONS I LEARNED FROM A SUPERMENSCH
Shep Gordon’s Business Card
Shep Gordon was born on October 18, 1945, to in Jackson Heights Queens. His parents Benjamin and Pauline were first generation American of Polish immigrants. Benjamin and Pauline raised Shep and his older brother Edward in the suburbs of Oceanside, Long Island. Shep lived there until he left for college in upstate New York at the University of Buffalo to major in sociology.
According to his mother, Shep was the irresponsible child of her two sons. Maybe her judgment on behavior was right because Shep spent more time dabbling with drug use, drug dealing and women more than he did his studies. After completion of his degree, Shep took off to California to become a juvenile probation officer but shortly left after he was bullied out the door by his peers and the detention home’s delinquents.
During his time in California, Shep stayed at the Landmark hotel, a hotel known for housing some of music’s most celebrated acts. One night at the Landmark hotel his life took an unexpected turned after he ran towards the scream of a woman only to find Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin engaging in public intercourse. Eventually, Shep became Janis and Jimi’s drug dealer and their relationship transformed into a friendship.
Jimi advised Shep that he should become a manager because of his Jewish ethnicity. After, Shep retired from his drug dealing and took on a cross-dressing male band named Alice Cooper as his first client. Since then he has gone off to managing other performing artists such as Blondie, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, and Pink Floyd. He has also diversified himself in the industry by producing and distributing independent films and creating the idea of a celebrity chef.
1) Bad Press is Good Press.
Newspaper article stating to band Alice Cooper after Shep Gordon’s infamous PR stunt.
“I thought the more outrageous, obnoxious, and offensive Alice could be, the more we’d stand out.” (pg.66)
By 1969, drug raids at the Landmark hotel were occurring more often. Looking for a way out of the illegal pharmaceutical business Shep approach Alice and his band and said, “ If you want to do this seriously, let’s do it. And not quit until we’re all millionaires.” Shep created a radical approach to gain the big rockstar appeal. He wanted to develop hateful press and sought to make that happen by making parents dislike him. He tried to create bad news around the band, but his first attempt was a failed attempt.
Shep’s first attempt to create bad press was to have Alice and the band perform naked and get arrested for indecent exposure at a club called Thee Experience on Sunset Boulevard. When the group started to play there set in front of a crowd of ten to fifteen people, Shep stepped outside and called the cops pretending to be an upset parent. Shep stated to the dispatcher, “My child is in this club, and the band is on stage naked. This is horrible. How can they allow this to happen?” When the police arrived on the scene, they were confused at the call because the plastic outfit had fogged up. (pg. 65-68).
If at first you don’t succeed then try again…
Shep’s second attempt at bad press equals good press will forever be a memorable event. Shep hired a truck driver to drive a billboard truck of Alice photoed naked with only a snake covering his genitals onto Piccadilly Circus. The driver was told to push onto the circle during rush hour and break down. Piccadilly Circus is known to be on the busiest traffic and pedestrian ridden streets in London. The truck jammed traffic for two hours and eventually caused the driver to be arrested by the London police, later Shep bailed the driver out.
In the end, the billboard stunt turned out to be a huge success and received bad press everywhere. Someone from Parliament called for the show to be banned and headlines like “Ban Alice the Horror Rocker. He’s Absolutely sick” emerge. (pg.100-102).
2) It’s No Business Like Show Business.
Shep Gordon is known for having an artist who put on a performance filled with showmanship and theatrics. When Shep met Alice and his band, his longest client ever, they already were using theatrical stage props unlike their peers in rock. (pg.56-57). However, Shep wanted to develop Alica more and started thinking of ways to get Alice a standing ovation. The first trick was attaching dollars to a sword and having the crowd jump up for the dollars. The next method to develop a standing ovation was throwing feathers into the crowd. The band would slit feather pillows taken from their hotels and throw them into the crowd.
Later on at the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival Festival, the band took theatrics and feather throwing up a few notches. Alice had already kicked a football, chopped a watermelon, and throw feathers everywhere. And now their show included a live chicken in their performance, which was purchased by Shep. Alice tossed the chicken into the crowd, and the crowd went crazy and ripped the chicken apart. Moments later the bloody chicken was torn into pieces, and the audience was throwing back the wings and feet back at Alice. (pg.68-71)
3) Being A Manager Means You’re Always Putting Out Fires!
Throughout the book, Shep is continuously being pulled to the rescue and putting out fires with Alice Cooper. However, one of Shep’s client he put out many fires for besides Alice was the late Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy rose to fame and success by taking on Shep Gordon as manager after his previous manager Taaz was murdered by someone from the Chitlin’ Circuit. Shep branded Teddy as the Black Elvis and created a diverse audience for him by having him play at the white-owned venues who paid for the performance unlike the black venues in the Chitlin’ Circuit.
One night Teddy was booked for two shows at the Apollo. Teddy performed one show by refused to play the next show without giving Shep Gordon a reason why. Shep then had an entire building on people who needed to be refunded for their tickets. He called up his business manager and asked for $87,500 in cash to be delivered to the Apollo in fifteen minutes. His manager then sent him to a restaurant on the Lower East Side to obtain the money. Shep refused to give any additional details on the situation in the book, but he was able to get the money to the box office to refund the audience. (pg. 182-190)
The second incident was at a sold-out show in England. Shep stated that he pleaded and explained multiple reasons why he should go out, but Teddy still refused to go on stage. (pg. 190-191)
One month later Teddy crashed his Rolls Royce into a tree in Philadelphia. His passenger a transgender woman name Tenika Watson walked out with a few scrapes and bruises and a chipped tooth. Sadly, it wasn’t the same for Teddy. The accident caused Teddy to be forever paralyzed from the chest down. Many stories were surrounding the story with transgender Tenika Watson but Teddy never formally put out a statement himself. (pg. 190-193).
4) Everyone is Equal.
Outside of management another activity that Shep took on was culinary arts, and from that, he started hosting dinner parties. One of his mentors was the renowned chef Roger Verge who the art of cooking and hosting dinner hosting. He stated that the roundtable was significant because it creates equality. “Nobody is the head of the table; nobody is more important than anyone else at the table.”(pg.181)
5) Always pay your debts.
“Karma is important.” (pg. 68)
In the spring of 1970, Alice Cooper and his band started toured cities throughout the Midwest and Southwest. The money they made from playing, hardly paid for gas, so they when on the look for free housing. The guy that ran there shows Ron Volz told them about a frat house which they stayed at until the boys had returned. The next thing they did for housing was staying from one motel to the next motel. Since the band was unable to create income from touring the often wrote bounced checks out of necessity. However, once the group started making money, Shep repaid every motel for their debt. (pg. 68)
After you read the book check out the documentary!
In May 2013, Jaraee “Ray” Bryant graduated Ramapo College of New Jersey with a BA in Music. In 2016, Ray enrolled in William Paterson’s University MBA Program with a concentration in Music Management. Upon graduation, Ray plans to pursue a career in the music industry.