A Backstage Pass to Supermensch

Tauhida Smith is currently pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Music Management from the William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania. Tauhida is a violinist in a classical/contemporary string trio, Stroke Strings based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As an artist, she became intrigued with the business side of the music industry and enrolled in the MBA – Music Management degree program to learn more. 

A Backstage Pass to Supermensch

by Tauhida Smith

Shep Gordon – talent manager, film agent, and producer

Shep Gordon’s memoir They Call Me Supermensch – A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock ‘N’ Roll takes readers along with him through numerous journeys within the world of entertainment. Gordon, known as Supermensch, has seen it all and done it all. From managing Alice Cooper, to inventing the “celebrity chef”, has “mastered the art of giving people a great show”. The memoir starts with journey through Gordon’s life from growing up in Queens, moving to Oceanside with his family, to attending college in Buffalo, and finally ending up in L.A. at the Landmark Motor Hotel where his “new life’s journey began” (Chapter 3, pg. 50). While at the hotel, Gordon stumbled upon a career in the entertainment field by way of drug dealing to rock legends (then just groovy musicians) such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Alice Cooper.

Photo of Jon Kamen, Shep Gordon, and Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper, a weird rock band with the name of a suburban housewife, made an oral agreement with Shep and declared that the union would hold true at least until they were all millionaires. Soon after, Gordon began to truly develop the career of Alice Cooper, revamped Groucho Marx, literally held Raquel Welch together, produced movies, and opened the hottest nightclub in Los Angeles. Putting his non-conventional antics to test, he began to expand his client list by developing acts in completely different genres of music than Alice Cooper such as Anne Murray, Teddy Pendergrass, and Luther Vandross.

By this time, the name Shep Gordon became synonymous with understanding what is needed to build a buzz and take an artist from DIY to the big league. With relationships throughout the entertainment industry, Gordon was able to utilize his talents with his straight-forward approach to become the ultimate talent manager in the business. He applied these same skills the world of culinary arts by turning Chefs Roger Vergé and Emeril Lagasse into world-renowned “celebrity chefs”.

Through the partnership with Vergé, Gordon learns that planting seeds of compassion and kindness whenever you can will gardener an abundance of happiness for everyone. He narrows in on conducting “compassionate business” where all parties can be winners (Chapter 12, pg. 16). From a sociology major to one of the most influential talent managers in the business, Shep’s loyalty, love for family, and overall character is why so many people have trusted their careers to his formula and why he is a Supermensch.

Shep Gordon in his younger days

Within the memoir, Gordon gave readers a front row seat to the show of artist management. He dropped crown jewels of knowledge and gave potential managers tools of the trade. There were five key lessons that I learned about managing artists. They are as follows

Get the money!

“The three most important things a manager does are number one, get the money. Number two, always remember to get the money. Number three, never forget to always remember to get the money” (Chapter 3, pg. 64). This is very quintessential information for artist managers. As the quarterback of the artist’s team, it is your job to make sure to handle the affairs for the band and bring home the money at the end of the night. The artist is doing their job performing; it is imperative that you do yours.

A handshake goes a long way.

“I sat Alice and the band down and said, if you want to do this seriously, let’s do it. And not quit until we’re all millionaires. We shook hands, and I’ve been Alice’s manager ever since. Just on that handshake, never a written contract between us from that day to this” (Chapter 4, pg. 65). Loyalty and trust are very important in any relationship, especially in an oral business agreement. The agreement between an artist and their manager clearly displays that one party trusts the other to hold up their end of the bargain. Gordon did not sell Alice Cooper a dream; he proposed an idea, got the band to agree in this vision and enabled all  parties to hold one another accountable.

We all CAN be winners!

An entertaining yet knowledgeable memoir written by Shep Gordon

“It can be win-win. You make other people happy, they make you happy. It’s very simple, and it’s probably the most important lesson of my life. It’s what I mean by compassionate business” (Chapter 12, pg.164). Kindness will take you a long way. Being a manager does not mean you must be a stern “stick in the mud”. Being direct and treating people the way you wish to be treated is an age-old mantra that needs to be enforced more today than ever. To effectively manage artists, I feel you should be their biggest cheerleader; pushing them to reach their fullest potential. There is no way you can effectively manage someone if you don’t want to see them win.

Can I really be successful at this managing thing?

“Everything I’d done for Alice I had invented. Was it just luck that worked? Or did I really have a knack for this that I could apply to other kinds of artists? I had to know. I had to challenge myself” (Chapter 9, pg. 125). If becoming a talent manager is a career choice, you should determine whether you have the proper tools to be successful. Developing a formula and working it through, just like any job, will effectively show you if you have what it takes or was your first success by chance. A great deal of managing is completed through relationships. Developing meaningful contacts and mentors along the way will assist in your success.

The manager is the hardest working person on the team.

“I have killed myself to make this thing happen. We’re right there. We’re the biggest group in the world. What do you mean you want a year off? I am not taking a year off. And if you let me out of the cage, I may never come back, either” (Chapter 8, pg. 123). In group situations, it is never easy to keep everyone happy. If one member is gaining more fame than the other egos start to appear. This was the case for Alice Cooper. The group dismantled yet the brand continued. At this point in Alice Cooper history it was evident that the manager was the hardest working person on the team. Although Gordon put in his blood, sweat, and tears, the group still was not satisfied. All is well that ends well. In the case of the original Alice Cooper, the brand and the manager prevailed.

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