Shep Gordon (@SupermenschShep) is a talent manager, Hollywood film agent, producer, and author of They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll. He is also the subject of Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon — a documentary by Mike Myers that chronicles his life and times.
What We Discuss with Shep Gordon:
- How do you create history rather than waiting for it to happen?
- Do you have to be a jerk to make it in Hollywood?
- What’s Shep’s coupon system?
- What’s the most selfish thing you can do?
- Is fame toxic?
- And so much more…
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By Shep Gordon’s account in the Mike Meyers-directed documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, he was beaten up by Janis Joplin and advised to become Alice Cooper’s manager by Jimi Hendrix before he’d even been in Los Angeles for two days. And by the accounts of those who have known him over the years, he’s accomplished everything between then and now by being nice. “Shep Gordon is the nicest person I’ve ever met, hands down,” says Mike Meyers — which means a lot coming from a Canadian, eh?
When you’ve lived a life like Shep Gordon and influenced the entertainment industry’s movers and shakers since the ’60s, you can retreat to an island in the middle of an ocean and make people come to you if they want to grab an interview — which is exactly what Jordan did for this episode. If you like the stories here, make sure to read Shep’s book They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll — because there are a lot more. Enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript (Coming Soon!)!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
THANKS, SHEP GORDON!
If you enjoyed this session with Shep Gordon, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Shep Gordon at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll by Shep Gordon
- Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (A Film by Mike Myers)
- Shep Gordon at Twitter
- Shep Gordon at Instagram
- Alice Cooper’s Website
- A shout out to Jayson Gaignard of Mastermind Talks for introducing us to Shep and making this episode possible!
Transcript for Shep Gordon | Interview with the Supermensch (Episode 295)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:04] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most brilliant and interesting people, and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you.
[00:00:20] I want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave, and I want to help you become a better thinker. You know, sift through some of the BS we see these days. If you're new to the show, we've got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, public speaking, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you're smart, you'd like to learn and improve, then you'll be right at home here with us.
[00:00:45] Today on the show, another one from the vault with my friend Shep Gordon. He's one of the most legendary talent managers of all time. He's the subject of the Netflix film Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, which is both entertaining and a really fun watch. We did this one live at Shep's house in Maui, and it was great to hear his stories of Alice Cooper, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix -- all firsthand. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. He's got a great, unique way of doing business. Always, always, always got a story. By the age of 21, 22, he was managing all these legendary rockers and still manages Alice Cooper. He invented the concept of the celebrity chef. Those chefs, those cooks you see on TV all the time., that whole thing -- that was his idea. All of that stuff was his original idea. The celebrity chef, how hard to believe that somebody just popped up, came up with that, and boom, Emeril Lagasse and that whole industry. He also cooked for the Dalai Lama and even shared a cat with Cary grant. Now, to be clear, she didn't eat the cat, him and Cary Grant shared custody of a cat. I know that might sound a little strange. He shares a lot of values here with The Jordan Harbinger Show family, always doing win-win handshake deals with great people. He's got the coupon system that he uses to track how much he helps others as well. And today we'll get a glimpse into how he solves problems and makes people famous. Last but not least, why fame is actually quite toxic. There's a reason he tells his clients, if I do my job right, it'll probably kill you.
[00:02:09] If you want to know how I managed to book all these amazing folks, I've got systems and tiny habits that helped me along my networking process. I'm teaching you how to do that for free in our Six-Minute Networking course. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us and you'll be in great company. Now enjoy this episode with Shep Gordon.
[00:02:36] One of the reasons I really wanted to talk to you so much that I'm intruding on your family vacation here at your own home is because you've had so much success. It's almost kind of like Forrest Gump of Hollywood level.
Shep Gordon: [00:02:49] My friends call me Forrest Gump.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:50] Yeah. I mean, it's unbelievable. It's like this super nice person does a lot of bright by everyone, and then amazing things seem to fall from the sky and later in the book you actually clarify, "Look, it's not like you just snap your fingers and it happens. You've got to hustle and leverage those opportunities as well."
Shep Gordon: [00:03:05] The first group I worked was with Alice Cooper, and we didn't do well. I don't know if you know it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:09] I mean, I know a little bit.
Shep Gordon: [00:03:10] Alice actually played last night in Vegas, two nights ago in Vegas.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:14] So Alice still does shows. I didn't realize that.
Shep Gordon: [00:03:15] Alice does a lot of shows.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:17] I thought he's just golfing 24/7.
Shep Gordon: [00:03:19] He's rocking. He did 150 shows this year. Part of it as Alice, part as part of the Hollywood Vampires with Johnny Depp and Joe Perry and all other guys. So we finally left Los Angeles saying we were going to go on the road until we got our first standing ovation and we played in a Pop Festival in Saginaw, Michigan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:37] Which is kind of a rough area even today.
Shep Gordon: [00:03:39] Yeah. This is a big open field. We came on after Arthur Brown. We got the standing ovation in Saginaw -- first standing ovation we ever got. We didn't realize that the Hells Angels were on bicycles at the back of the field, pushing everyone to the front. So we go to a real estate agent and we find a place we can rent by the month. It's very cheap and it was a farm in a town called Pontiac, Michigan. We move in at night. We wake up in the morning, they set up the equipment to practice, maybe a football field away as a fence, and all of these people are watching us at the fence rehearse and applauding and stuff. It looked a little bit weird. It turned out we had moved in next door to an insane asylum.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:20] So they're all shaking their head and --
Shep Gordon: [00:04:22] Yeah, which is perfect, they were exactly our target audience.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:25] I can imagine it this time, like, all right, we just need to find as many of these types of people, and this is our gold record.
Shep Gordon: [00:04:30] We moved to the right place.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:30] Yeah. Yeah. Nailed it. Confidence builder though, right? Look at them line up outside the fence. We're going to kill it.
Shep Gordon: [00:04:36] And Detroit was great because Detroit was the antithesis of California Rock where California Rock was, you know, I love the flowers. Aren't the bees beautiful? Look at the rainbow. Detroit was, you know, your face and knock your teeth out and here we can pick out the jabs, motherfucker, all that stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:55] It's still like that only, it's not just the music, it isn't anymore.
Shep Gordon: [00:04:58] I was just back in Detroit. Shinola, this company Shinola has done a great job. Jack White just opened a vinyl record store. And they have eight pressing machines, and they just press the record on the ball and great that it's added. Detroit, which is the home of manufacturing for American, really drives the point home.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:16] I mean, my parents still live there and it's --
Shep Gordon: [00:05:19] In Troy?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:20] In Troy, and we go down to Detroit and it's great because five years ago when I went back there, you really couldn't go. There was maybe one block of Detroit you could go to and then there were six blocks of Detroit.
Shep Gordon: [00:05:30] it's slow progress but you have to give them a lot of credit, all of these people who've come in.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:34] it'll take 15 years but hopefully it will get back to or at least rebuild itself a little bit.
Shep Gordon: [00:05:40] Detroit in those days was so great because you had the Motown sound, you had the Roostertail Nightclub which was the Bible of Motown music. And then at the same time, you had the East town in Grande Ballrooms which were the Fillmore's of really tough music. It was just a great city for us. We got very lucky.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:57] My dad's cousin was a VP of Motown, along with 500 other people, or however they run that company in those days.
Shep Gordon: [00:06:03] Amazing presence in Detroit. And did I ever tell you about the Roostertail?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:07] My mom's friend owns it actually now. They didn't back then.
Shep Gordon: [00:06:11] It was like walking into a Martin Scorsese movie, smokey and fedora hats everywhere and Cadillacs outside. I don't think you could get in without a pinky ring.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:20] Like a big gold with a ruby on it or something. Even on your own vacation, a while back, you had a computer problem and you were one of three people on the Island other than the girl that you're with, and then the other guy on the island ended up being Steve jobs. I mean, this stuff doesn't happen to normal people.
Shep Gordon: [00:06:36] It is amazing. It's a convergence of luck Chutzpah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:40] Yeah, exactly because there's nobody that lucky seriously. It's off the meter.
Shep Gordon: [00:06:46] No, I think they are because I'm sort of an example of it. There's a lot of things that I grasped for and maybe that's part of what makes it work. I think there's a part of me that's a little bit groupie. I'm really attracted to fame and power. There's a part of me that's always been looking for a substitute father. Mentors I tend to stretch out too. One of the things I always told my clients is I can get you in know very fast, but yes, I can't tell you how long it's going to take. So when I set my targets on meeting someone, I'm able to sort of find the path, usually to get me into it.
[00:07:25] Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:25] Our friend Jason did a good job of that. I mean, he put it up everywhere. I don't know if he told you how he finally got connected to you. He was asking, "Hey, has anyone seen this? Has anyone seen the Supermensch thing? Does anybody know Shep Gordon?" And if it's on a little private community that we have for events he set up and then he just kept asking. And finally, someone said, "I think I know somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody," and he got introduced to you. And then he, to my knowledge, lived in your house for three days.
Shep Gordon: [00:07:49] Yeah. It's so funny because I never thought about it, but he actually is a perfect example of those things I talked about luck chutzpah. Being a little bit of a groupie. Jason, for those of you who don't know, Jason is this wonderful guy, lives in Canada who runs a thing called Mastermind.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:05] Mastermind Talks.
Shep Gordon: [00:08:06] And I never go on Facebook.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:08] I know I added you and I thought --
Shep Gordon: [00:08:10] I will never go on Facebook. I've started to now but Jason was insistent. I don't remember if it was my secretary. Somebody highlighted to me an email from Jason and I read it and I said, "Boy, this sounds really interesting." And I didn't answer it and then another one came in and I said, you know, this is different than the others. He was able, in a very aloha way, to hit on things that he knew would get my attention. He said, "You have a book coming out. I'd love to help you promote the book. I don't know if you care or not, but if you care about how it does, I think I can be useful." And that hit a note with me because I don't have a manager.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:48] Yeah, I guess, that's your job so why would you.
Shep Gordon: [00:08:48] I know how much work it takes. You know, they get above the noise for anything.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:53] Especially now.
Shep Gordon: [00:08:53] Yeah. Amazing. So I answered them, which I rarely do, and every one of his answers was so honest -- full of aloha and intelligent.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:02] When you say full of aloha, do you just mean, is that like a synonym for humility in some ways?
Shep Gordon: [00:09:06] Yeah, humility, the concept of innocence, win-win, a thankfulness. He was very confident of what he did but didn't push it. Just a beautiful approach. One thing led to another, we started talking on the phone. He said to me, "I have some free time. Could I come out and see you?" I said, "You're kidding. You really would do that." And he said, "Yes." And he came out and we spent three days together and I sent him back a note after the three days. And I said, "You know, if I had a birth son, I sure like him to be like you."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:35] Wow.
Shep Gordon: [00:09:35] And in the end, it serves him well. It's a beautiful win-win. It's what I try and do. I talk in the book about how you try and make things a win-win situation. So for me, he's given me a viewpoint on how to get this book to people to read. He does these conferences. I can't wait to go to one of his conferences. I mean, I like to crawl to get to the conference now and that's a win-win.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:59] Well, I asked him if you were coming to Mastermind Talks and he says, "Well, let me sell some books first."
Shep Gordon: [00:10:03] He hasn't even asked.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:04] Yeah, let me help you sell books. So one of the reasons I've down here is because we're going to sell a few thousand books.
Shep Gordon: [00:10:08] Thank you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:09] Fingers crossed. Right?
Shep Gordon: [00:10:10] But no, I mean, there's no way to keep me away from it. And that's a win-win. So he sort of gets what he wants for his life. I get what I want from my life. We have a beautiful exchange. You get to meet another human being who's on the same journey, which is great. That's a perfect example of how's some luck, perseverance, and having a little bit of groupie in you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:31] When you say a little bit of groupie, you mean being a fan of --
Shep Gordon: [00:10:33] Yeah, being a fan about the humans. So many people in the world are six inches from their nose. If you can really appreciate what another person has done and want to get to them and say thank you, maybe have some of what you're attracted to bleed off into you. That's a beautiful thing. The first comes from desire and consciousness. That's a great person. I'd love to meet them. Then work on it, which is, I'm sure the first thought of Jason was, "Wow, I'd like to meet him. How do I get to meet him? How do I do it in the right way?" He perceived the need for me, he filled that need, and we got to meet and he got his sort of thing. I got mine and the value continuum.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:10] Yeah, he's a great person. Like none of that. What you saw was even one percent fake. He's just --
Shep Gordon: [00:11:16] Oh no. I just got it completely,
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:19] He's one of the guys where the reason people think Canadians are super friendly is because of guys like Jason.
Shep Gordon: [00:11:25] Yeah, I agree plus he's smart.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:26] And smart and sharp, and he's --
Shep Gordon: [00:11:27] All the right stuff. I can't wait to go to his Mastermind.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:29] Yeah. I can't wait. It's such a fun event. As you can imagine, a guy like that brings in a great crowd of people that are all super nice. I mean, it's just entrepreneur Woodstock.
Shep Gordon: [00:11:39] Yeah, I agree.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:40] It seems like there has to be an element of luck. On the other hand, you're clearly very conscious of creating the right connections and creating the right relationships and creating the right scenario.
Shep Gordon: [00:11:50] You know, it's funny. It's a great follow up. I got taken to a speech in Los Angeles by the Dalai Lama who I wasn't really aware of. He was a picture, but I didn't really know much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:01] No internet that you can go, no Wikipedia for you to take a look at really quick.
Shep Gordon: [00:12:05] It wasn't part of my consciousness. It wasn't any goal of mine. I got taken by a girl I was living with who was an actress.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:12] Was it Sharon Stone who took you there?
Shep Gordon: [00:12:13] Yeah. We got backstage because of Sharon and he walked in the room and I felt like I had just taken the greatest shower of my life. I don't know how else to describe it. Just him coming in through the room, I saw his face, he came walking in and it was like, "Wow, that's wild." I just felt clean, like really clean. I got to be on a line and he gave me a scarf.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:36] Wow, nice.
Shep Gordon: [00:12:38] And I got back home and I said, boy, I sure would love to be able to spend a little time near him. See what this is all about. And I did some research and I got ahold of a friend of mine. I asked them about Buddhism. What is the real essence of it? And then I went to a bookstore here and there was a sign that he was coming to Hawaii to give a speech. This is way before secret service and as crazy as it is now, right? Well, I would love to spend some time with him. He is coming to Hawaii. He's got to eat ideal in culinary arts. Why don't I make an offering of the food while he's here? And maybe that way I'd be able to see the world get a little closer, and that's what I did. I reached out, went through some connections, found out from Sharon who had invited us, got ahold of the person who invited us. His name was Rinchen Dharlo. He accepted my offer. And the only thing he said to me was, "You can't have any expectation that you will meet his Holiness or interact with him."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:32] That's a very Buddhist thing to say.
Shep Gordon: [00:13:33] And I said, "Okay, I understand." I was sort of sad. Then the first morning they asked me to bring him breakfast. And I've walked right in and he was brushing his teeth in the bathroom, and here I was with the Dalai Lama. It was so wild. And then I made more offerings and I went to Trinidad with and went a few other places and got to accomplish what my goal was for me, which was to spend some time near him and could I see something in the way he conducts his life that would help my life be better. I ended up going to New York with them to cook, and in New York, someone actually knew what I did for a living because they thought I was a cook to them. I joined the board of the Tibet Fund, which is the vehicle that finances the government in exile, and I've been on the board for the last 20 years. So it's a win-win for everybody. Again, it's turned into a beautiful win-win, but it was luck to have been taken to that speech, and then dedication and work and sincerity. It was selfless. All I really wanted was to be near him and serve him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:32] I think it makes sense that they asked you that question, right? Make sure you have no expectations because that's the screen. Because somebody who says, no, I'm just here to get a selfie with the Dalai Lama isn't going to cook breakfast with no return on what they consider an investment. And it's funny to hear that he's sitting there brushing his teeth when you go in, and then even the things he says in the book.
Shep Gordon: [00:14:51] Right, he's so funny.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:51] He's brushing his teeth. He goes, "Is that yak butter? This is why I left Tibet because it smells like dirty socks."
Shep Gordon: [00:14:58] He is so funny. I think another great one was when I tell the stories and I talk about it, it sounds as if I have an important place in his life and I'm sure I do because I'm a human, but not because of anything else. And I that I'm one of a blur of life going by. I truly have no expectation of ever remembering me any of that stuff. Part of my journey, we went to Trinidad and I got on an airplane to go to Trinidad and he was on the airplane and I walked past him to go to the bathroom and I could sort of tell that he didn't recognize me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:33] Right, because he meets a thousand people a week easily.
Shep Gordon: [00:15:36] And when I came out of the bathroom, I could tell that his handler, it told him who I was. "Oh, how are you? So good to see you," so he has been prepped. We get the Trinidad and there are only two people and me with them. There's a very little entourage, one security guy, Rinchen Dharlo, who was ambassador and me. And we get there and we're in a holding pattern backstage, and we're right at the airport. There's a convention center, and they had the dignitaries of Trinidad there to meet him, and he was going to give a little speech. So what backstage, a security guy goes off and the other person goes off and it's just us. And he says, "Oh, you cook for me in Hawaii?" And I said, "Yes, Your Holiness." "And oh, you cook in New York, yeah." "Yes, Your Holiness." And he said, "Now you're cooking in Trinidad." And I said, "Yes, Your Holiness. I'm very happy to do this." And he says, "You only cook on island?" Now, they say it's time for us to walk out. And in Trinidad, I had never been to Trinidad before, but what makes Trinidad really unique is that everyone gets along, but none of them have merged together the different cultures. So the Africans were pure African garb. The South American Indians were pure South American Indians. So we walked into a room. It was beautiful with all these costumes. And His Holiness was wearing his orange robes and he looks around, gives it a minute and said, "Oh, must be in the wrong room. This costume party?" And then you look at himself and he looks down and he goes, "Oh, no, me dressed right and robe for a costume party."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:05] Oh my gosh. Everyone loses it.
Shep Gordon: [00:17:07] And then he becomes a human, now all that other stuff has gone. And now he can talk to him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:12] He must've learned that over years of just --
Shep Gordon: [00:17:14] Over lifetimes ago.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:15] Maybe, yeah, because there's got to be a lot of work. If everybody is treating you like you're floating your whole life, it would get really tiring.
Shep Gordon: [00:17:22] So I've noticed now I've been in enough things to see. He always comes up with something to make himself human.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:27] To diffuse the defused the attention.
Shep Gordon: [00:17:29] Thing in the air.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:30] Interesting. Do you see that as a skill that a lot of famous people learn over time?
Shep Gordon: [00:17:34] I think most people don't care about that. They enjoy the step ladder. I think they enjoy the privilege of almost being above the fray. I think that's the difference between the compassionate ones and the ones who don't maybe use their power like they possibly could. It's a powerful position, as you well know because you're on the air.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:54] You can influence a lot.
Shep Gordon: [00:17:55] You can get into a lot of minds and it's a responsibility.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:58] I agree. A lot of times when authors come on, they'll sell books by the thousands, they get really surprised. Even presidential candidates have said, "Look, why don't we come on and you can endorse this person?" I was really surprised to see that even most authors have to look up what this is, but people who are really, really in the know, they see where the influence is starting to shift, and it can be powerful, but it can also be very intoxicating. And I'm talking about, look at that minute sliver broadcasts.
Shep Gordon: [00:18:21] Absolutely, you're going to get a good sense of it. It's a good sense, and it's a power that's, I always think of it as like Star Wars.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:28] The lightsaber.
Shep Gordon: [00:18:28] Yeah. So to hold onto the fame and the thing, and you just try and use it for good stuff, but it's, there's so much fool's gold out there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:35] Right, don't turn it on in your pocket.
Shep Gordon: [00:18:36] Don't turn it on in your pocket. Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:38] I mean, you started early enough where you met Janis Joplin, Hendrix, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, and you were what like 22 years old.
Shep Gordon: [00:18:45] Not even.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:46] Not, even so, you weren't even old enough to drink, but you were hanging out with people who only did stuff like that.
Shep Gordon: [00:18:53] I got really lucky. I got lucky. I took advantage of the luck. And for me, strangely enough, being Jewish is really what led me into my life's career, because that came up in conversation those days. Are you Jewish? And Jimi Hendrix said to me, "Are you Jewish?" And I said, "Yes," and he said, "You should be a manager. All the managers are Jews."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:10] Because back then, that wasn't a weird thing to say, right?
Shep Gordon: [00:19:13] Yeah, politically not correct. That's really what led me on my journey. I think if the answer had been different that day, I have no idea where I would be today.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:21] Right. He could have said, you should sell carpet. That's what people are doing now, and you'd be, you'd have sold a lot of carpet
Shep Gordon: [00:19:26] A lot of carpet. It might have been easier.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:29] Yeah, it might have been a lot easier. It certainly would've been better for your liver. That's for sure. I read the whole book.
Shep Gordon: [00:19:35] That's unbelievable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:36] I watched the documentary, I Googled everything, and I can imagine reading your own book would actually be really painful in a lot of ways. Because you've already heard it and you wrote it and you read it and now you're reading it again, but you got to make it a performance.
Shep Gordon: [00:19:49] Yeah, it's wild. But I've enjoyed it all because it's also new to me. One of the Alice always says is that the only time of the day that he knows what to do is when he's Alice on stage. He always knows what Alice will do on stage.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:04] He's got the Alice Cooper persona down.
Shep Gordon: [00:20:06] Got it down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:06] The rest of it, he's winging it.
Shep Gordon: [00:20:07] Doesn't matter what happens, anything could happen. He knows what that character is going to do. Everything else in his life. He sort of winging and I think most of us are winging most of our lives.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:17] I think so, yeah.
Shep Gordon: [00:20:17] And for me it's been really interesting because I feel the same way about Shep Gordon in interviews and on stage. I sorta know who I should be.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:27] Right, yeah, tell some stories. It would be funny and entertaining.
Shep Gordon: [00:20:31] I'm very bad at speeches because the speech is just about me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:35] Right, it's just about you.
Shep Gordon: [00:20:36] I have no idea still at 70 years old who I am. I'm still trying to figure it out.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:41] You got to have to take some bullet points, man,
Shep Gordon: [00:20:43] But that guy who's in the book and on the screen. Am I sort of know really well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:51] I can see that. I mean, I originally started out having to be or thinking I had to be some kind of character on the show as well. And after a while, Jenny, who I met through this show as well, the reason she met with me in the first place, well, she said, "I just wonder if he's like this in real life. Is he like who he is on the show in real life?" And then we met up and I was according to her, the same person at the show.
Shep Gordon: [00:21:13] I think when you're a communicator when your business is communicating, it's like Alice's character on stage or my character if it isn't the essence of who you are, it's almost like a classic comic book read of who you are, then it doesn't come off as real. It just doesn't come off.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:29] And you become kind of a commodity. Because if you're just acting like somebody else, then somebody else can act that way.
Shep Gordon: [00:21:37] And I think it starts that circle the trouble downward. You know you're living a lie. That lie starts to eat up, then a drug or a liquor or a food or something comes in to fill up that hole.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:48] Because you start to say, well, I'm clearly not good enough who I really am. And that's got it. That burns and the more you have to be somebody else, the more that would reinforce itself.
Shep Gordon: [00:21:57] Absolutely.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:57] You even mentioned in the book that famous is corrupting. It's the stove you don't touch. It's the toxic waste of celebrity. I think Mike Myers' word.
Shep Gordon: [00:22:05] Yeah, that has a Mike Myers' line. I thought it's a great line.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:07] How does that work in your eyes? I mean, why does that happen?
Shep Gordon: [00:22:10] I think it's different for different people. I think I have a narrow viewpoint because I worked with entertainers who perform live on stage for the most part, and I think that's the most dangerous, then the most at risk of all fame because the amount of rejection you have to go through to get to a point where you're selling out in a stadium is inhuman, and you only do it if something's driving you more than making money. And that drive is normally some hole in you that you need people to pull you and telling you you're great, filling some kind of a hole, and it doesn't get filled by applause. The performers are the most at risk to me because they, for the most part, have a need that will never get fulfilled.
[00:22:55] I had a moment when my documentary first came out because no one knows who I am and I can talk about fame. It's always easy to talk about stuff that. Does it touch you? You know, once it touches you, it's a different thing. It was the first week of the film and it was at Tribeca Film Festival, I think, and I was walking in New York City to a screening where I was doing a question and answer with Michael Douglas. My quiet zones, you know, the Joseph Campbell concept of finding a quiet space and do what you like -- for me, walking is one of them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:25] Yeah, I feel you.
Shep Gordon: [00:23:27] I love walking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:27] Especially in New York somehow.
Shep Gordon: [00:23:29] Somehow, and I love multitasking. And I love seeing the faces go by and thinking about stuff. It relaxes me. It's just a beautiful thing. And so I was taking my walk to Tribeca thinking about something and I heard my name. "Mr. Gordon, Mr. Gordon," and I looked little nosy. There's a young lady on the street and she said, "You mind if I talk to you a minute? And I work at CNN and we screened your movie yesterday. And I want to be a producer and I had a tough childhood and I wonder if you could give me some advice on how you got through and how you stayed happy." You know, as a human, you sort of wait for those moments where somebody actually needs help and reaches out to you and maybe you can help them. That's sort of what we do different.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:12] Yeah, that's the whole point.
Shep Gordon: [00:24:13] That's the whole point. So here it was, you know, presenting me this beautiful gift.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:17] And I got to run.
Shep Gordon: [00:24:18] And I got to go to this thing, and I said to her, "I'm sorry." Then I gave her my card. When I got to the event, we got up on stage and I said, "Michael, before you ask me questions, I need to ask you a question." I told him what happened and I said, "You know, I've spent most of my life having my hand up in front of people like you, separating you from people like that. And I know that had to be plenty of people in wheelchairs and plenty of people on canes and plenty of really old people and plenty of new babies and every day you have to be blocked from those kinds of people getting to you. What does that do to you? What does that do to like walk past the guy who was in a wheelchair, who you know, how much you would add to his life just from, he only wants to say, ‘Oh, I met your father 40 years ago.' Or, you know, something that's important to them." And he said, "It's really tough at the beginning. It was really tough for me. And then I found out that I had a sort of make myself unconscious and it's not something I'm proud of, but there's no way to get through life in my position and be that conscious person that I would like to be. So I compromise myself and I try and do a lot of good stuff outside, but I know that when I'm out in public, there's a lot of people who I would love to make their day better, who I'm probably making their day worse."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:40] It sort of flips the script on what people think about celebrities because we think, oh, they go to these private things so I don't have to interact with us, common folk, which is only true up and to the extent where they don't want to interact with us because it makes them feel terrible that they can't interact with everybody or they can't give everybody what they wanted. They can't be everybody that we all want them to be in the moment. And that makes them feel bad. Not because they can't stand the smell of the commoners or whatever.
Shep Gordon: [00:26:05] I think it's an individual thing, but I would say, for the most part, that's 90 percent of it. There are some who live on a high horse and just go get what life is about, go through and it's beautiful. They're great too. But for the ones that are conscious, like a Michael Douglas, you can see the pain. You know when you talk about it, you can feel his pain.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:23] When I was a kid, he was one of my favorite actors because he seemed kind of, he was really serious a lot, but when he was funny, he was very understated with it, and I liked that about him. I thought that was a cool thing, but he also seems like the kind of guy you just don't want to cross because he's still got a little Gordon gecko.
Shep Gordon: [00:26:44] I won't say who it was, but there was an actor that I worked with on a movie who was very disrespectful to everybody that all the wrong stuff really disrespectful. And about a year later, I like way beyond disrespectful. That's just the wrong word disrespectful. He was --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:01] Just a terrible person.
Shep Gordon: [00:27:02] Yeah. And we walked into a restaurant. He was there and Michael went over to him. It was my movie, not Michael's, that he punched him. "That's for the crew of the movie."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:12] Wow, during the meal.
Shep Gordon: [00:27:14] Coals got them, a well deserve.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:18] Too understated applause.
Shep Gordon: [00:27:19] I mean, really, really well deserved. He's just writing a speech to introduce him in New York at a dinner for a very famous chef who died, Roger Vergé. I was saying in my speech, he is one of my best friends, my mentor, he's an amazing man. He's been focused for 30 years on deterring nuclear weapons. He worked a bit to the UN, probably 20 times giving speeches. I mean, he does all this amazing stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:45] So fun to see the other side of some of these celebrities who you only see on stupid shows.
Shep Gordon: [00:27:50] They're humans. They're humans who have real emotions and trying to do the best they can do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:55] Roger Vergé taught you a lot. In fact, he mentioned it's never about what you want. That was something that was kind of a recurring theme in the book as well, and I think that's obviously something that you live seemed to be living by as well, especially in your dealings with others.
Shep Gordon: [00:28:08] For me, one of the hardest things to get through my brain and one of the most rewarding things that got through my brain was the people that I was attracted to Roger Vergé, His Holiness. Their happiness came from serving others. That was their real joy. You know the words of the words. That's a hard concept sometimes to get through your brain that the most selfish thing you can possibly do is serve other people because it makes you so happy. That's what both of them really taught to me, and I try and live my life by it. And I think all the religions sort of say the same. Everybody sort of says it. Hopefully, you know, all of you listening out there at one point, I'll have an epiphany because it takes an epiphany. I don't think we're raised that way anymore. It's not the way we're raised.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:56] A lot of people try to fake it too, where they go, "No, I'm going to do this for you." "Oh, no problem, no problem." Then they go, "By the way, can you introduce me to Cary Grant." "No, I'm sorry. I can't do that." "Well, screw you, Shep Gordon. I've done so much for you. How dare you?"
Shep Gordon: [00:29:10] That's so the wrong approach to it. Once that really started to settle in my brain and I saw it really through Roger Vergé the best, I realized that my life had lean that way without me understanding what I was actually doing. I made so many choices in my life that lean towards that direction, but I never thought of it as service. It was just choices.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:33] I was just choices. Everybody, even the paparazzi likes you, which, I guess technically they love a lot of folks, but not in the same way. And the documentary that you managed to make them happy and get them to do what you want, which is a group of people that nobody can seem to control.
Shep Gordon: [00:29:48] You know, so much of it is attitude. If you come in angry, you usually leave angry. It was so obvious to me that the interest of this star and the interest of the paparazzi are the same. No matter what store you are, you have a PR person who's looking to spin good stuff about you. You have a movie come out of record, come out of your new restaurant, opens. There's no celebrity. It was important enough for the paparazzi to care about who doesn't make their livelihood off press. So the two of them meet at the exact same place. The problem was nobody was talking to both of them to say, be of mutual interest to each other. So what I did, luckily, I live on a small island. There's very few paparazzi.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:29] And they're hanging out down there on the beach.
Shep Gordon: [00:30:31] I know all of them, and I said, "Listen, if I tell you someone's coming in, you don't take any random shots, they'll set up a photo session for you. You'll get the only shot, give half the money to the Food Bank here on Maui, keep the other half. Everybody's happy and that's what we do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:48] And then you get a little semblance of control over it.
Shep Gordon: [00:30:50] You get control. You got to picture you one out. It helps your career. The Food Bank makes it a lot of money, feeds a lot of homeless people. Paparazzi guy doesn't have to sneak around bushes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:59] Right, he's not hanging out.
Shep Gordon: [00:31:00] I invited him to dinner and here. I invited him to Tom Arnold's wedding. He came to the wedding with us. But it's great cause it's, you can't be a public figure and lie to yourself and your public that you don't want attention.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:16] It's kind of a weird game to play.
Shep Gordon: [00:31:17] That's a weird game.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:18] Please leave me alone and here's me doing something scandalous in public.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:31:24] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Shep Gordon. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:29] This episode is sponsored in part by HostGator.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:47] This episode is also sponsored by Skillshare. Make 2020 a year where you explore some new skills, deepen your existing passions, maybe get a little bit lost in creativity was Skillshare's online classes. What you find just might surprise and inspire you. Skillshare is an online learning community. Basically. It's a great way to learn new skills like illustration, design, photography, video freelancing. And frankly, there's a bunch of stuff into that seems random, but it's really, really fun. The classic example I keep giving from before Jen actually got mad at me because she loved the book --
Jason DeFillippo: [00:33:18] So, you're going to do it again, no matter what.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:19] She loved the bookshelf organizing class, but she's like, "You keep mentioning that example and it just makes me sound like I sit around organizing random stuff instead of working on the important stuff. So tell them about how I'm learning. Adobe illustrator or some of the other InDesign stuff," because that stuff's actually complicated. So yes, you can learn all this Adobe Software. Jason, are you in Skillshare? What are you working on right now?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:33:41] I'm still working through Final Cut, man. I am loving the classes. I get there. I learn new stuff every day and I tell you what, the people that they have, they're teaching these classes. No joke. No joke. I am learning the bare bones of what I need to learn because you know, every program has like 10 things that you need to do and if you read the manual, you just get like bogged down and confused. But these Skillshare classes, it's like, okay, here are the 10 things you need to do to edit video on consistent basis day-to-day. It's like, here they are done. Boom, move on, go, go practice. I love that. Saves so much time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:14] Plus, it's less than 10 bucks a month when you do it annually. So it doesn't even, it's not even close comparing it to pricey in-person classes. Plus I've done in-person classes all the time. I love learning stuff, but I love learning on Skillshare because you do the in-person class and there's always like three people that never bothered to do anything or practice at all. So you're waiting for them the whole time while you text your friends because you've already learned it. So you can go at your own pace, which is always good because you're probably faster than other people, especially if you want to get the skill done. Jason, tell them where they can get two free months of Skillshare.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:34:48] Well Skillshare is a proud sponsor of The Jordan Harbinger Show and you can explore your creativity at skillshare.com/harbinger and get those two months free of your premium membership. That's two whole months of unlimited access to thousands of classes for free. Get started and joined today by heading to skillshare.com/harbinger. That's skillshare.com/harbinger.
[00:35:09] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Shep Gordon. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don't miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Shep Gordon.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:47] To sort of put another fine point on this, serving people doesn't make economic sense for you or for anybody in the beginning necessarily. I mean, like the chefs, for example, one of the reasons for the massive success was because you didn't have to see an opportunity there to help out Roger Vergé and the other chefs. This wasn't something where you went, "Okay if I help these guys out, dot, dot, dot, profit." This was pure love.
Shep Gordon: [00:36:11] And pure service, really service. It was really a service. It was Mr. Vergé asked me to bring some dignity to the profession and I was of service.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:22] I think this is an important point because I think a lot of folks kind of just what we've talked about before, they try to plan for the opportunity. Then they try to offer an air quotes service at that point where they can then leverage it later on or something like that. And this proves that you can't really plan for what opportunity will come because sometimes the opportunity doesn't even exist at the time that you end up serving. I mean, you could have easily either failed to bring dignity to the profession or brought dignity to the profession at the return of zero dollars for anyone involved.
Shep Gordon: [00:36:50] And also, I was lucky and that I had resources. You do have to provide for your family. You do have to eat. There are certain real necessities of life. I was very lucky that I could truly serve for the service. And not have to think I had a music business. It was doing really well. I had happy clients. I think that's also an important part of it. I had that ability because it's rough out there and I get it if you can buy dinner, it's hard to be of service.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:18] Sure. Do you think you would have done it even if you weren't successful? Do you think you still would have ended up?
Shep Gordon: [00:37:23] I don't know if I would've had time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:25] You had been too busy hustling.
Shep Gordon: [00:37:26] I don't know. Yeah. I don't know.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:27] Hard to say.
Shep Gordon: [00:37:27] But I know that you know, feeding the family is sort of the first line.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:31] Yeah. That's just biological imperatives at that point.
Shep Gordon: [00:37:34] So when I say luck, that's part of what I mean by luck.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:37] Tell me about the coupon system that you have that you kind of keep in the back of your, or maybe in the front of your head.
Shep Gordon: [00:37:43] Yeah. I think it's very much in the front of my head. For example, Jason, who we talked about before, who's done me all these things for me, it's not even a question to me. Of course, I'm going to his, I'm buying a ticket to his series. It's not even a question. That's a key. I had a coupon with me. I think the word coupon maybe is a little demeaning to it all, but it just means, you know, if you come across a fellow traveler in this journey and they're willing to go out of their way to make your life better and happier, you owe it to him to go that extra mile to try and make his life happier and better.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:18] Look, I mean, you've obviously mastered the art of leveraging relationships. I mean, some of the stuff in the book, I'm just scrolling through here. I mean, there are some unbelievable stories in here. First of all, a great quote from Alice Cooper that I think maybe comes from the book jacket I would imagine. "Reality has never seemed too important in the 50 years Shep and I have been working together. When we needed something to happen, Shep just worked his magic to simply make it a reality. I'm still not sure how he did it, he just has that natural ability to create scenarios and relationships that help to get you where you needed to go." That's a powerful statement, and it's not something that sounds like somebody's PR person crafted for him to throw in there. I mean, there's some of the stunts that you had done in the past to get him on his feet and moving are incredible. I mean, first of all, maybe we can a little background and how did you get into the rock scene at such a young age? How did you even get involved with all these crazy folks?
Shep Gordon: [00:39:10] I went out to California as a probation officer, which lasted one day, was a very ugly experience.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:17] I thought my law career was short.
Shep Gordon: [00:39:18] This was short, but I was a long hair during the Reagan era, working at a jail, it wasn't a good thing. I got beat up by prisoners. Left, checked into a motel, very cheap motel late at night, took some psychedelics.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:32] Yeah. I noticed that you got in, you're tired. You quit your first job that you had driven across the country for it. And your plan is, I'm going to drop some acid. This is the first thing I got to do is just drop some acid.
Shep Gordon: [00:39:42] And try to figure this out. Like, where am I going? I'm sitting on the porch, my life is fucked completely. I have $400 to my name. I just got beat up in jail. What else are you going to do? I was a bit of an acid head at the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:58] Yeah, it sounds like that was like a place to go to.
Shep Gordon: [00:40:01] And I heard someone screaming, broke up the screaming. The girl punched me because they weren't fighting. They were making love. Turned out to be Janis Joplin.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:09] So you got beat up by prisoners and Janis Joplin on the same day.
Shep Gordon: [00:40:12] Yeah, big day and at this motel, which is where she sadly died, The Landmark Motel, years later, where all these rock and rollers, the Chambers Brothers who obviously big fans of Jimi Hendrix, guys like Jim Morrison were there all the time. I started selling psychedelics to some of the people there, and one day they asked me what else I did for a living, and I said I didn't really do anything either Hendrix or Lester Chambers, the one who said, "Are you Jewish?" "Yeah." "You should be a manager." And then they introduced me to Alice Cooper, and that started my journey and I still manage Alice.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:47] But you chose, you said yes to Alice Cooper, not because you're gung-ho to be a rock manager.
Shep Gordon: [00:40:51] No, I needed a front for dealing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:53] Right. So you said, "Look, this band is so terrible."
Shep Gordon: [00:40:55] This will never happen. I'm never going to have to do any work as a manager and I can just continue selling drugs.
Shep Gordon: [00:41:00] Exactly, this will never happen. And then people started getting busted all around me, and I knew I couldn't do it anymore. I sat down with the band and I said, "Listen, somehow I'm going to become a millionaire. I'm not quite sure how, but if you won't want to do it together, let's shake hands and let's make this thing happen."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:18] And that was the only contract you ever had.
Shep Gordon: [00:41:20] Yeah, I never had one.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:21] Even now, people don't try to say, "Hey, look, you got to put this on paper and you got to do it."
Shep Gordon: [00:41:25] People try, but we don't.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:27] You just don't. No need to worry about it. That's amazing.
Shep Gordon: [00:41:29] Yeah. Contracts make lawsuits.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:31] They do. Yeah.
Shep Gordon: [00:41:32] Handshakes make friends.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:34] And even if something happens at this point, now you get to work it out with whoever it is. You don't have to call in five thousand dollar an hour lawyers to deal with it.
[00:41:42] Shep Gordon: [00:41:42] and we're, we're so past that now. We're like body parts. It's insane.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:49] At this point, at this point, you guys are family, whether you, whether you like.
Shep Gordon: [00:41:53] What I always tried to do with Alice and I thought very young in my life at Buffalo, I was involved with an event that I guess sort of shaped me, but not that I'm promoting psychedelics at all, but I think the psychedelics opened my mind up to the possibility that you could create history that the rules didn't have to apply. When I was in Buffalo, we did a ridiculous thing when we made to believe that a leader of a country was coming to Buffalo and that he was and we got thousands of people out and folks through the window of the airport, and it was insane
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:27] Protesting that Thallus.
Shep Gordon: [00:42:28] Thallus was coming, but it worked. It was a thought that ended up being a reality. Later on when I started working with Alice, and we decided we really had to make it, that's what came into my head. What we used to say with, Oh, we got to do something that'll get parents to really hate us. We got to somehow figure out. Then we said, well, let's just do something. So we did see-through clothes and I called the police.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:54] This see-through clothes, while Alice Cooper is playing on stage, essentially like a shower curtain around --
Shep Gordon: [00:43:00] To get him busted for obscenity which we thought would be fantastic because our goal was to get parents to hate Alice which made kids would love them. That was our goal. We came in the backdoor and it didn't work. Police came, the clothes were fogged up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:15] The clothes are fogged up because they were sweating on stage.
Shep Gordon: [00:43:18] We just kept trying. Then we had the chicken incident, which again was history. Alice biting the head of the chick but we set it up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:26] He didn't bite the chicken?
Shep Gordon: [00:43:27] No, he didn't at all. He didn't need to.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:29] That's just what happened. That's how it evolves.
Shep Gordon: [00:43:31] And that's how I sort of tried to work with all my clients, was to create history, not wait for it to happen. So with Teddy Pendergrass, for example, we did for women only concerts. You know, as a manager, what can you do for an artist. You're not going to remake his body. You're not going to remake. You can try and take the artistry that he has that appeals to the public, narrow it down to a message that can be conveyed and then figure out how to tell people who this person is. And in Teddy's case, it was about sex. It was pure sex, and songs were about sexism. So how do we get that across? We'll do concerts for women only. We'll give them little chocolate, teddy bear lollipops.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:16] I had nightmares about chocolate, teddy bear, lollipops. I've read about that.
Shep Gordon: [00:44:20] But then when it came to Luther, who was a very similar artists, Luther Vandross, he was all about romance. So how do you define romance to your public? Well, with him, we had, we did a series of contests across the country and radio stations. Get married on the air by Luther Vandross, the most romantic thing in the world. So weddings, and you became the song that got played a wedding, and that's that. That's what I always call creating history, rather than waiting for it. As soon as we did for women only, all the press started calling him The Black Elvis. You know me, boing, boing, boing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:57] Handled. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, what a good --
Shep Gordon: [00:44:59] So that's what I tried to do for all my acts and I tried to do for the chefs and try to create the history.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:04] Yeah. You got the chicken incident or the chicken story, the broken-down truck.
Shep Gordon: [00:45:08] The broken-down truck was fantastic.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:10] This one was really incredible because essentially you had to find some guy who was willing to take the dive.
Shep Gordon: [00:45:14] The incident was in London. We were playing London for the first time, Wembley Arena, a big hall about eight thousand, nine thousand seats, which was big for us. I got into town and we hadn't sold many tickets at all, very few.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:29] At that point, when you didn't sell that many tickets, are you thinking, "Oh shit, we didn't sell that many tickets," or do you just go, "All right, we can figure this shit."
Shep Gordon: [00:45:37] I'm looking in the mirror saying, "You completely fucked. You blew it this time. The whole thing's over. You are really an asshole."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:45] Okay, that's the same reaction as I would have.
Shep Gordon: [00:45:48] As every human being has and then, "Okay, asshole, what are you going to do? You know you can feel sorry for yourself or you can make this thing work. Okay, how am I going to make it work? Bingo. Bang." I go to the record company. There's a guy there named Derek Taylor who was a living legend, brilliant man. And I went into him and I said, "I'm Alice Cooper's manager." He didn't know who else was. And he said, "Tell me about him." I said, "Well, instead of telling you about them, let me ask you a few questions." I said, "What's the fastest way to get to every parent in England? Is there an Ed Sullivan Show in America?" If you're on Ed Sullivan Show, every parent, and I explained to him about Elvis Presley. Colonel Parker wouldn't let the hips be shown on Elvis Presley and that's what exploded Elvis.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:36] Because they were too sexy.
Shep Gordon: [00:46:37] Because parents said you can't watch this, he's too sexy. And he picked up kids at a point of rebellion. I said, "Alice is a guy named Alice, the way he dresses. We've built a career on parents hating him, just like the Elvis thing. I need to get to those parents really fast. Is there something like the Ed Sullivan Show?" He said, "No, here it's like morning news, BBC morning news,"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:58] Which isn't going to feature some rock band.
Shep Gordon: [00:46:59] Which is never going to feature him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:00] Especially not Alice Cooper.
Shep Gordon: [00:47:02] And I said, "What did they show on in? And he said, "It's the weirdest thing, a lot of traffic where people coming to work in the morning."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:09] So British.
Shep Gordon: [00:47:10] You know, how to grow wheat and soy and Ostrich Festival in Cambridge. And I said, "Did he do traffic a lot?" And he said, "Yes. How did they do it?" He said, "Helicopters." And I said, "I had this great picture of Alice naked that we just shot? What about if we've figured out? What's the busiest intersection in the morning?" And he said, "Piccadilly." I said, maybe we take this and we put it on a truck and break it down to Piccadilly and get the helicopters." They show the traffic backed up and parents say, "Who is this disgusting naked person who's backing up traffic." And when Derek and I figured that out, he found the driver who was willing to go to jail and we broke it down twice. They took him off the second time and it backed up traffic for 30 to 40 miles.
[00:47:54] And luckily, here's where luck comes in, two members of Parliament got caught in the traffic, Mary Whitehouse, and I forgot the other guy's name. And when they got to the legislature, they put in a bill to ban Alice in coming to England. So, that was the front page and we hit them, and it was sold out like one day. And life was beautiful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:15] Oh yeah. Wow. And then he had a different problem. We better crush this show in the UK. Reminds me, I got a friend, Ryan Holiday, who does similar stuff. I don't know if you've ever heard of this kid. He's done similar stunts where. He'll work for an author, another friend, Tucker Max. And what he did was a lot of people thought that his writing was really disgusting because it was kind of like this immature stuff back in the day. And so he created buzz that Tucker Max is coming out with a movie and we should protest this. And so he went to all these frat houses and got them to go to this movie, but he also got all these feminist groups to show up and say, ban this movie.
Shep Gordon: [00:48:50] That's perfect.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:52] And they went out and force and it made news and it was banned The Tucker Max movie, and I mean, at this point, even if it went straight to DVD, he made up for it in book sales. Because then everybody knew who was.
Shep Gordon: [00:49:01] I love that kind of stuff. As long as it doesn't hurt people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:04] Right, yes, it has to draw no blood. That's the idea.
Shep Gordon: [00:49:07] Not to get political, but we're seeing so much of that stuff in politics where truth doesn't matter. In the entertainment world, that's one thing. When it bleeds into real life, it gets a little dangerous.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:16] Yeah. The theater starts to get confused with various lies, and that causes major problems for everybody. It looks like the celebrity chef movement is a large part of your legacy would you say that.
Shep Gordon: [00:49:28] I think for me the three things that I'm probably proudest of in my professional career, not my personal career, but Alice helping to get rid of the Chitlin' Circuit with Teddy. The respect brought to the culinary artists that the chefs are now culinary artists and not cooks.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:46] Not cooks. The Chitlin' Circuit thing was kind of an interesting -- to give people a little background -- this was essentially a take it or leave it circuit for. Afro-American entertainers that had to play just because they thought, if we don't play here, we're never going to get any sales and we're going to be out in our butts, and so they were just taken advantage of.
Shep Gordon: [00:50:05] It was maybe the next, I don't mean it as cold as it sounds, but it was a direct link to the slavery issue. It was a plantation owner that plantation on and normally own the record company. He had affiliations with radio stations around the country. The lifeblood for that record company was to have radio stations play the records. All those radio stations made a lot of money promoting concerts. And when a white artist, for example, would have a hit record and go to Cleveland and the radio station would promote it in conjunction with a white promoter and the act would get paid, the station would make a little money. Record company was happy. In the Afro American world, the artists would have a hit record. We'd go to the same town like Cleveland. The radio station would promote the show, but they'd keep 99% of the money, and the artist was told by the record company if they wanted to keep the record contract and have hit records, they would do these shows basically for whatever the stations wanted to pay them. And the stations had promoters who were black promoters. There was a Black Promoters Association. It was run out of Chicago. Then I believe Jesse Jackson was the lobbyist for it. They were very powerful and very annoyed if somebody tried to break that circuit. So when a Teddy Pendergrass went to Cleveland, for example, he had a play for those guys. If he played for a white promoter and got paid, he would get picketed. We got picketed Radio City Music Hall. We got picketed in a lot of places.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:43] What's the excuse for picketing? They just call in their cronies and they stand out there and cause trouble.
Shep Gordon: [00:51:47] Just gross.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:47] Jeez.
Shep Gordon: [00:51:48] It was a tough time. Nobody was breaking it. Nobody was willing to break it. You would hear about the other side of the record company would give the guys Cadillacs that were rented and get the keys back if they stop having a hit record. So it was, you know, when we did our first show, when we broke out, we got death threats and the FBI had to watch us. His last manager had been shot to death, Teddy's.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:09] Were you worried about that at all? I mean --
Shep Gordon: [00:52:12] I was worried, but it was a point in my life where I didn't really care.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:15] Was it the young and invincible phase?
Shep Gordon: [00:52:17] It wasn't so much younger than invincible -- I never had a, particularly at that point in my life, I didn't have a wife, I didn't have children. My dad had passed away. My mother was living. I hadn't figured out what life was about. I had a lot of those moments looking in the mirror and you know, "What are you a schmuck?" I had a lot of three o'clock in the morning putting stuff up my nose. So if life had ended, it wasn't a disaster. Injury, I was scared.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:43] Sure. You mentioned in the book, if I had a stroke, just kill me.
Shep Gordon: [00:52:46] It wasn't part of my thing. When I came up against this unbelievable injustice, there was something in me which I hadn't figured out really until I wrote the book because I never really thought about stuff. I just would wake up in the morning, do what I do. I got to the first show with Teddy and it was unbelievable. The PA system was like for a lounge show. The lighting was non-existent. He didn't pay us. He gave me a ring.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:13] Okay. That was weird. When I read that, I was like, what kind of mafia crap is this?
Shep Gordon: [00:53:17] And that's what happened. That was life the way it was.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:20] Well, you just expected to pawn the ring and try to get some cash and that's it.
Shep Gordon: [00:53:24] it was so far beyond me. It was like it was so different than anything I had known. I was really naive. I was a naive white Jewish kid.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:32] Yeah from Long Island.
Shep Gordon: [00:53:32] From Long Island who had no idea. Alice had played that building for a white promoter. We got paid. Everything was beautiful. We did less business than Teddy. It's really after that showed it. I got educated. I don't know if I would have even agreed to manage him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:46] Knowing the uphill battle,
Shep Gordon: [00:53:47] I didn't know his manager had been shot to death. I didn't know those kinds of things. But once I was in and I got confronted by this, it was like, somebody's got to do something. This is so wrong. And probably economics came into it also because like, I'm not going to work for nothing. This is crazy. I made a commitment to the guy. I'm going to live up to my commitment, but we're going to get paid. Because I can't get paid if he doesn't get paid. If I had thought about it, I probably would've taken a different path.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:14] Sure, like, hey, this is pretty tough.
Shep Gordon: [00:54:16] Oh my god.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:18] How the chef's looking?
Shep Gordon: [00:54:19] Yeah, exactly. You know, I was at a point in my career where I could have taken acts who were making a lot of money, but never live like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:29] You could have not dealt with the headache, and just assume to move along, Jason told me you've been in the business space for, I don't know, what are we talking about? 45, 50-ish years but you never like the business. Is that true?
Shep Gordon: [00:54:39] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:42] How is that possible?
Shep Gordon: [00:54:43] Yeah. There's nothing about it that I find enjoyable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:48] What keeps you going then?
Shep Gordon: [00:54:49] I think it's service. All of my stuff is service. I just got a new door in my bedroom. I haven't been able to open my bedroom door leading to the outside for 20 years. I just got to change this week. I said to one of my kids, I said, you know, I may have carried this service stuff a little bit too far because I certainly could afford a new door.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:14] I mean, this is a nice house on the beach here in Maui. The door doesn't have to stick.
Shep Gordon: [00:55:22] So I think, which one I do. You know, I'm really good at it. I tried retiring and --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:29] Great job.
Shep Gordon: [00:55:30] Yeah, it doesn't work. For me, it doesn't work. I wake up in the morning, I still do what I do. I love the challenge of doing stuff that no one thinks can be done. I love the challenge of connecting the dots, and you know, I'm working on a campaign now to try and move a couple of food companies, the do-home delivery into a Tom shoe model.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:51] Oh, I see. So you buy a meal and they could give it away. That's great.
Shep Gordon: [00:55:54] Yeah. Which is great stuff. It's the same kind of thing. It's putting the pieces together and it's what I do. I know that I can maybe help some people doing it. And what else do I got to do? How many joints can you smoke a day?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:11] It seems like the service and this sort of unique mover and shaker kind of arrangement goes way back. I mean, you write in the book that you went to work with your dad one day. Never talked about his work, and then you went there and you saw why because it was just this like fluorescent light bulb dangling from the ceiling kind of particle board office. And you thought to yourself, "I'm never doing this."
Shep Gordon: [00:56:31] I think to bring up my dad, I mean, for me the biggest revelation of doing the book was I'm realizing that I'm basically living out my father's life in service. He sort of gave up the things he enjoyed in life. At least, that's my impression to be of service to me and my brother and my mother, and he, without ever any hesitation, without any desire for anything in return, he lived and serviced us. And I think, I'm sort of trying to live out his life. I never realized that before.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:03] Before you wrote the book.
Shep Gordon: [00:57:04] Yeah and then Norman Mailer came out with a fantastic autobiography in the middle of my writing the book, and I read it and he talked about his father, and it just turned the light bulb on in my head. I said, wow, that's what he would've done if he had confronted the Chitlin' Circuit or that's what he would've done if he had gone to the funeral and the four kids were there, very quietly, never would have said a word and take no credit. So, I see them really living out in some ways his life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:32] I mean the four kids you mentioned, you essentially adopted kids. I don't want to say on a whim, but certainly --
Shep Gordon: [00:57:41] Yeah, definitely on a whim, not even a whim.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:42] Just kind of a sub-whim.
Shep Gordon: [00:57:44] It was a sub-whim.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:47] Because they needed it. They needed it.
Shep Gordon: [00:57:49] Somebody had to do it and I happened to be there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:53] And this is why they call you the Superman.
Shep Gordon: [00:57:55] And by the way, the best thing I ever did in my life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:58] Really good, good because the last thing you want to hear is, and I've regretted it ever since.
Shep Gordon: [00:58:02] Yeah. That's the best thing I ever did in my life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:04] You mentioned that when you went to work with your dad, you saw the way that he was living in. Yes, maybe you're living out the way that he would have done it now, but you still have that drive. It wasn't, "Oh, I don't want to work. This looks boring." It was, "I'm willing to work my ass off, but I got to love it." Which made me think that you're a millennial that's 30 years ahead of his time.
Shep Gordon: [00:58:21] I think the only way to get what you want is to wake up earlier and go to sleep later and do more work in between the hours. There is no shortcut. I think if the people that I've seen who have shortcuts in their lives, the damage of those shortcuts is almost insurmountable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:37] How do you mean?
Shep Gordon: [00:58:38] Being born too wealthy, being born to really powerful parents who know they're powerful and don't back off it for you. Winning a lottery, not working for these fool's gold items because they are fool's gold stuff. And if you don't work from all of a sudden you think that that's actually what life is about and not about the work and the journey to get to it. And it's just so hard to overcome. Whereas when you get up and you work for what it, you understand that accumulating more money than the next guy is not going to make you happy. Accumulating enough to eat can make you happy. Getting up earlier, working harder. That's all part of it. Whether it's working in a relationship or working at a business or you know, working for something that you want. That to me is a key to luck. It's getting up early and going to sleep later, working harder.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:28] Is that an Edison quote? The harder I work, the luckier I get.
Shep Gordon: [00:59:30] I don't know but yeah, somebody but that's very true. And I think the other thing when I was talking to somebody that there was doing, became really apparent to me, is in a business of service and particularly in a high profile business, the ability to fail is almost more important than the ability to win.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:52] How do you mean?
Shep Gordon: [00:59:53] Nothing gets done alone. Almost everything is in relationships. And the most important thing for my relationship with my artists that I managed was having the ability to fail. Because if you're not willing to fail, you're not going to do anything worthwhile. You're going to be doing what everyone else did.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:10] Sure. Yeah, because you have to go down the sure path.
Shep Gordon: [01:00:12] You have to go down the sure path. I was telling a story about Alice and I and the cannon, which I think I tell in the book where I put him into this horrible thing. You know, he's a guy in front. He's on stage. He was doing his first stadium show. I advertise we were going to shoot him out in a cannon across the stadium.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:28] It just sounds so dangerous.
Shep Gordon: [01:00:30] Yeah, that's what he said when I called him up, but I thought I had it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:36] I got this out. What could go wrong?
Shep Gordon: [01:00:39] I got this covered. I know I went to some guys who built it for me, very cocky. They were so cocky. They asked me what period cannon, you want a World War I, World War II revolutionary war like you got to be kidding me. So anyway, we filled this cannon 40 feet long. It weighs five tons or something on its own truck. We do a break in show in Lansing, Michigan. Alice gets in. The trick was you get in the crawl down the barrel of the cat and you go into a fake door. You crawl out the side of the stage, a motorized vehicle takes you around to the other side of the arena. While that's happening on stage were torch lights and drums beating, we're meeting or building tension light the fuse. Explosion. Dummy flies out. Spotlight hits Alice, who's now running around.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:24] Ta-da. Yeah. Right.
Shep Gordon: [01:01:26] So dummy comes out, it goes maybe one inch. It was a complete nightmare. We're now two shows away from 50,000 people who we've advertised, see Alice.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:40] Shot out of a cannon.
Shep Gordon: [01:01:42] Big rookie mistake.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:43] Oh my gosh.
Shep Gordon: [01:01:44] I've made a lot of rookie mistakes. That was a big one. "So what are we going to do?" I said, "I'll figure it out. Go to sleep." Gets up the next day in the hotel with these foam fire extinguishers. So he said, what are we going to do? I said, "it's going to be a giant penis. I put two little balls at the end of the cannon. I loaded it with these fire extinguishers. You get on and masturbate it and we'll shoot the foam out of the go 40, 50 feet. It would be fantastic." So he gets on, he's working so hard.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:10] He's on top of the cannon.
Shep Gordon: [01:02:12] He's on top of the cannon. He's like working so hard and it's horrible and trips out like one inch. Me and him are the only two people in the idea what this thing is now, we wouldn't show away. We've got 55,000 people who see him shot out of the cannon. And here's where I think a great lesson to be learned this, in a normal, what an outsider would think of a normal relationship of two human beings trying to work together to get to the same place, they would be killing each other at this point. The artists would be screaming at the manager. "You jerk. I can't believe what you've done to me. It's my whole career. You're ruining me." You know, the manager would be screaming at the guy who built the cannon. We didn't have time for that. If we had spent our time beating each other up, it would have been a disaster. I said, go to sleep. I'll figure it out. He went to sleep. When he showed up the next day, he said, "You get it?" I said, "You probably not going to enjoy this one." And he said, "What's going to happen?" I said, "I got a TV crew here from Cleveland. They're going to film tonight. Unfortunately, I have a feeling when you get in the cannon, it may explode with you in it," and he said, "You kidding?" And I said, "No, you'll be okay. It's all special effects. I got it covered, but there'll be an ambulance and a crew and they're going to take out of the cannon. You're going to spend the night in the hospital." "Really?" I said, "Yeah, I got it covered. Just trust me." He said, "Okay." And he got into cannon. And we blew it up and then, "oh my god." People screaming and we heard the sirens and put them out on a stretcher and took him to the hospital.
[01:03:38] I went on the air because I had the TV station there and I said, we're going to check from the hospital. I don't know if we'll be able to do the show, but I hear he's all right. It's nothing too serious. Check back from the hospital. About two hours later, I did a live feed to the radio station saying he's got some burn, but with medical supervision, they said he can do the show, but he might have to do it from a wheelchair. And that's what we did. We did the show in Pittsburgh. We had the bass player in a wheelchair. Alice said with blood and stuff. We had nurses coming out and doctors. Checking loud and the city went crazy saying what an artist. How many artists would ever come out after going to the hospital and do the show for us? He's the greatest
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:16] Perfect excuse for not shooting somebody out of a cannon. Yes, they're in a wheelchair.
Shep Gordon: [01:04:20] So it ended up better because we've got the sympathy of everyone. We still got the show in. But the point is, if we had ended up fighting, we never would've gotten to this place.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:29] You did not waste any energy doing that.
Shep Gordon: [01:04:32] Those are the failures. That you have to have to get the new great creative stuff. You can't win every time, or you're not doing stuff that is worthwhile. For what it meant only could have been a disaster, but you have to have the faith to be able to fail. And I think that's really important for people listening out there who are trying to do stuff, particularly creatively, the ability to fail and to use it as a strength rather than a weakness is really important.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:04:55] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Shep Gordon. We'll be right back after
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:04] this. This episode is sponsored in part by Heineken 0.0. Heineken 0.0 is an alcohol-free drink you can enjoy anytime. Unlike many non-alcoholic beers, Heineken 0.0 is completely alcohol-free at 0.0 percent and still tastes like Heineken. At 69 calories per can, it's a solid option for anyone who wants to skip the alcohol but still enjoy a beer. January is actually a popular time for people to start thinking about their resolutions. And for many people that means no alcohol, no booze for a month. So Heineken is here to help with a limited edition 31 pack of completely alcohol-free Heineken 0.0. They packed the beer into this advent calendars style box, which is kind of fun marketing. You open each little window on the top. There's a beer in there. And I've been given these packs away to friends and relatives the past few weeks here because I had a garage full of Heineken 0.0.
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[01:08:16] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget the worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you're listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Shep Gordon.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:45] You've got a common thread throughout the book as well. That's "Don't get mad. Accomplish the goal." It seems like a divorce emotion from the business as much as possible so that it doesn't distract you from what's really important, which is getting it done.
Shep Gordon: [01:08:58] Absolutely.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:58] How do you do that? Even in situations where maybe you should be mad as hell. Someone stiffed you. A guy gives you a pinky ruby ring instead of a check. How are you able to go? "Okay, I'm not going to get emotional." I mean, do you feel it well up and you push it down or just don't have it.
Shep Gordon: [01:09:12] Yeah, oh, absolutely. I'm a human. I mean, we're all human. I have little practice. It depends on what the anger is. I think from being around His Holiness, he's never said this to me ever, but being around him and Roger Vergé, my sense is that when they see somebody, when they see this table where they see you or they see that plan outside, the first thing they see is the miracle. And if you see the miracle first, you can't get mad. You can get disappointed maybe, but you can't get mad. So I try and instill that into me when I can feel the emotion of anger coming up, and if it's a human I go through, "Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do, but I can't let them take me on my journey." How do I get back to where I need to be. Not to get angry. I feel sorry for him and try and turn the emotion that way. If I'm having real trouble, which sometimes I am. For me, I have a little thing like if I cook for a half hour, all the anger, it gets out of me.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:07] That's your workout. Yeah.
Shep Gordon: [01:10:09] Or if I go to a jacuzzi, if I can find a jacuzzi.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:12] I assume you got one here.
Shep Gordon: [01:10:12] Yeah, I do. I can get in. It's like a tuning fork, but I stay on point. All the other stuff is, you know, as humans, we've got a lot of stuff we've got to get through and anger is one of them. There's no way to get rid of it. There's a way to understand that and then deal with it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:27] How did you manage to stay nice and I hate this term, so pardon me, but open-hearted in such a cutthroat business. I mean, Hollywood and being a manager, especially in a rock scene and films, not really known for the sweetest people and the easiest to deal with types of people. I mean, how come that didn't turn you rotten?
Shep Gordon: [01:10:46] You know I don't know. One of the reasons is that accumulation has never been one of my goals. You know, I used to tell all my acts when I would sign them. If you're looking to make the most amount of money, other guys are better than I am. If you're looking to be a one-name artist, if you want to be not having people say Alice who, or Raquel who, or Teddy who, that's what I do. I know how to get you through the noise, preserve your artistry, make a connection with your audience. I won't make you the most money because I'm not willing to take it from other people to give it to you. You know, your fair share is what I'll fight for, not your fair share and his fair share and his fair share and fair share.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:29] I saw that in the book and I was so surprised. I mean, there were guys in there, I can't remember this guy's name, but you were advised he will stay with you if you fail and they'll stay with you if you do okay. But if as soon as you win, he will screw you over. It's just who he is and then sure enough, at the end of the book, he just turns around and tries to vote you out of a successful company. He was the snake. He was like, "This is in my nature. I cannot do it."
Shep Gordon: [01:11:53] But if we give him a lot, he knows that what he does.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:56] He even said, "I'm sorry. I'm compelled to do this. I just cannot."
Shep Gordon: [01:11:59] You got to feel bad for you got to feel bad. I mean, I really feel bad. It's what's it all about. It's really interesting when I go to the Mainland and I've been in LA for a week or two, I feel the greed start to come in. I can feel like I'll feel sorry for myself that I don't have a private plane, which is insane.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:17] That's FOMO.
Shep Gordon: [01:12:20] It's insane but I feel it. It comes into my system. And then I fight hard to like, "Are you absolutely insane? You're healthy. You have money for food. You have people who love you." You know, I go through the list of my good stuff and I get through it, but I think all of us as humans at fool's gold stuff is so ingrained in all of us. That's what I mean to get up early. You go to sleep later, it takes work. You know not to fall victim to being a jerk. Just because you say it. It's actual work and actual practice and actually doing stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:53] It seems to be where you find positivity and just about everything, which is great. And you have a lot of gratitude practice, which like you said, look for the positives, but I feel you, even personally, I definitely have that. We call it FOMO, fear of missing out and what that essentially means is now --
Shep Gordon: [01:13:08] FOMO that's a good word.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:09] FOMO. When you hang out with somebody or you hear about somebody else who's doing something and you think, "Wow, I don't have that. I don't have that." And the problem is that you end up comparing your blooper reel to their highlight reel. You don't look at their inside life and say, "This is the loneliest son of a bitch with a plane."
Shep Gordon: [01:13:25] Right, exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:26] He would trade it. I guarantee you.
Shep Gordon: [01:13:27] And hopefully, he's the happiest guy in the world with his plane. God bless him.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:31] Hopefully, but a lot of them would kill to have one person that they could call that didn't want something from one person.
Shep Gordon: [01:13:38] I think it's tough being a human right now. It probably always was tough being a human. I was watching Game of Thrones. I was just in Italy, in Tuscany, and after watching Game of Thrones, and then you go to Italy and you see the little towns, and every town has a wall around it. You realize how tough it must have been living then when everybody wants to kill you for no reason, they don't even know.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:00] Did you that when they see your town and they're going, "Let's burn that thing down."
Shep Gordon: [01:14:02] They'll burn that thing down. It's like so insane. There's something in the nature of humans, it's really bizarre. And I think it's sort of from burning the town. It's now translated in our day and age to having everything your neighbor has it more. Everybody's jealous of everybody. Everybody wants what everybody else has. Everybody wants more. I hope that there's a generational change because it seems like generations go against what the last generation had. So I'm hoping that it comes back to some sense of sanity because right now it's insane. It's insane.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:39] I've noticed that when you say helping artists make a connection with their audience and everything, one of the quotes that I thought was summed up in large part at the beginning of the book was, if I do my job right, I will probably kill you. And so you help people achieve that fame and that notoriety and that one name artistry. So you have kind of this weird complicated relationship with fame, right? Because on the one hand, you're building this big bonfire, but you don't want to jump into it yourself.
Shep Gordon: [01:15:02] It's a large part of going back to why I don't enjoy doing business because that's the business I'm in is helping and destroying people at the same time. It's what I do. It's what they want.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:14] It's like chemotherapy.
Shep Gordon: [01:15:15] I put a lot of disclaimers on all the time. It's weird, and I've had, sadly, so many of my life, Teddy's gone. Luther's gone, you know, so many are gone. The fable sort of comes to life.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:28] I'm just imagining for myself, if you sat me down and you said, "Jordan, we're going to make you a star, but it might kill you and you're going to have drug problems." I would imagine literally everyone says, "That's not going to be me. I'm going to be able to handle that." And you know from experience that they're not going to be able to handle that. It's just going to get you.
Shep Gordon: [01:15:44] Most people will come back. Take the fall and come back, but it's going to knock it down.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:49] Yeah. And even Alice's rife tales just in your book that aren't even gone into in detail where he's starting to drink 24/7 and then towards the end, there's a mention where it's like, Alice was smoking crack at this point and we got him back into rehab and now he's in Vegas doing shows. But at some level, these people are playing Russian roulette with everything.
Shep Gordon: [01:16:06] The more famous, the more Russian roulette.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:09] Yeah. It's a complicated relationship.
Shep Gordon: [01:16:11] You know, it's hard. I'm just living through it with the young lady. My assistant's daughter is a very talented young singer. She was got discovered at 12 by people, was on stage with Willie Nelson at 13. My advice always to her is to become a school teacher, have some kids. You're so happy. Enjoy your life. Sing at parties. And she's now in LA, you know, following her dream, knowing the consequences, and a great girl. But I think that just comes with the territory. It's part of that game and if you have the bug, it's a very tough bug to get rid of
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:46] The bug meaning?
Shep Gordon: [01:16:47] Fame. 99 percent of the young people starting to fool themselves by saying, it's about my art. It's not about being successful or famous. You don't need to be in front of people for your art.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:59] Right, you could do the art --
Shep Gordon: [01:17:00] You can to do that in your living room. So, it's always about fame. It's not even a question. It's tough to get, especially in this day and age, when fame is now the end goal completely. I'm 70 so I'm not like a complete relic, but when I was 30s and 40s and 50s and I have a huge network of people, my friends would reach out to me and say, "My daughter loves to cook. She's going to a cooking school. Could you get her a job at Emeril's?"
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:27] Emeril Lagasse.
Shep Gordon: [01:17:28] Emeril Lagasse's restaurant. Or they'd call up and say, "My son plays guitar. He's always wanting to be in a band. Is there any way you can get him a job on Alice's tour so we can see what it's like?"
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:37] Oh, wow.
Shep Gordon: [01:17:38] Lot of calls like that. Over the last 10 years. Now the calls are completely different. Now, the calls are, "My daughter loves cooking. She's going to cooking school. Can you get her on Top Chef?" Or "My kid is a guitar player. He just went to Julliard. He's doing great. Anyway, you can get him on American Idol." The end goal is not the craft anymore.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:00] It's now step one.
Shep Gordon: [01:18:01] It's step one and that's really scary to me because there's no foundation to fall off of
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:06] You can't fall back on. Well, I always love playing music on the club circuit, so it's just, yeah, you started off in your mom's basement, now you're on television, and when that goes away, you are --
Shep Gordon: [01:18:16] Really empty.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:17] You mentioned in the book part of the tactics where if you want to be famous, get next to someone famous where you would put –who is that folk singer?
Shep Gordon: [01:18:25] Anne Murray.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:28] Anne Murray and then you said, "We got to spice this up. Let's get her hanging out with Alice Cooper and John Lennon in the Rainbow Bar and Grill where they're all drinking their faces off and then take a couple of photos."
Shep Gordon: [01:18:36] I called guilt by association, which I love. I use that for the chefs a lot too. Yeah, it works with everything. You know, if you bleed off the fame, it bleeds off, you do it enough times.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:48] And I brought that up because it seems like what you just mentioned is now though, that's all people are doing.
Shep Gordon: [01:18:52] That's all they do. That's all they want. Fame has become the end game. You know, I think the Kardashians are a couple of people who have really changed the dynamics to where fame is the goal. Rather than being so good at your craft, you become famous.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:07] Right. It's not about creating something anymore. It's about, there's a Hollywood term star fucking all the time. One thing that you and I share in common is that after you achieve something, it seems like we're kind of over it. I didn't go to my high school graduation, didn't go to my college graduation. I didn't go to my law school graduation. It's just like you said, you high five yourself in the mirror and you either go to sleep or you say, what's next? Yeah. And I never really understood that part of myself, so I was really glad to hear that you are like that as well.
Shep Gordon: [01:19:33] Yeah, I still haven't figured it out either. Alice and I are very similar in that way. It was really funny when he got in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which is gigantic. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I'm a kid from Oceanside Long Island. "Oh my god, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame." And for Alice, this is the crowning achievement of a lifetime.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:53] This outlives everybody.
Shep Gordon: [01:19:54] And it was at a hotel in New York. And they were having a party for all the inductees and every one afterwards in the same hotel. Alice was staying in that hotel. I was in another one. So the show ended, my granddaughter was a member and said, "Are you going to come to the party?" And I said, "Nah maybe I'll meet you there." And I jumped in a cab and I went to my hotel and I was 15 minutes after we got the award, 20 minutes I was in bed watching CNN and I did the high five in the mirror.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:21] Oh you actually do it.
Shep Gordon: [01:20:22] Oh yeah, motherfucker, you got to the Hall of Fame. Holy shit. And then I got in bed. The next day I saw her Alice, and I said, "How was the party?" And he said, "I ain't go to the party. I went upstairs, went to bed." "But you didn't even stop at the party." He said, "No." I said, "Isn't it weird?" For me, I don't have a lot of regrets. But I wish I could enjoy those moments and I don't understand why I don't. I still haven't quite figured it out.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:46] I think for me, I always assumed it was because the journey was interesting and I was getting pulled into the next thing, but there's still no reason not to even go to the one-hour aftermath.
Shep Gordon: [01:20:59] I still don't get it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:00] Because graduation ceremonies, you got to rent that stupid thing and you've got to stand out in the heat, and then there's a bunch of people you don't know and you just want to go home when you're there. But I would imagine a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame party. It's air conditioning. You got drinks there. It's a fun time,
Shep Gordon: [01:21:11] Yeah, I still don't get it, but that's just the way it is. I've always been like that. Get it done and move on.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:17] And move on to the next thing. Or go watch CNN, you're in your underwear, whatever.
Shep Gordon: [01:21:21] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:22] I just thought that was so interesting because very rarely do you meet people who do that. Most people are living for that kind of experience.
Shep Gordon: [01:21:28] For that moment.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:29] For that moment. And you hear a lot about that with the Olympic athletes as well though, is that there's a hump day over when they win that gold. And I think part of me is avoiding. That feeling of you got this, but it's not completing you. So that's an uncomfortable feeling. I kind of avoid --
Shep Gordon: [01:21:45] It's a false god
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:46] –facing it
Shep Gordon: [01:21:47] It's a false god. So maybe that comes into it worshiping of these false gods.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:51] Like you're making it not a big deal so that it doesn't end up being more disappointing later when it doesn't change your life.
Shep Gordon: [01:21:57] Weird.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:57] It is a strange occurrence. I was glad to hear I was not the only one in there with that look. A lot of the early parts of the book link food to relationships. You mentioned your grandmother, you're eating food in the kitchen before you even say hello sandwiches with your dad. You remember what you got was like chopped liver and something like that.
Shep Gordon: [01:22:14] Yeah, brisket.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:15] Brisket on right. Ice cream, that big ice cream sundae with the editor of Mad Magazine and his daughter, meals with friends. And these are just detailed things that it's like, how do you remember what you ordered after the Cannes Festival at some hotel. I mean, it's just incredible.
Shep Gordon: [01:22:29] For me, that's the only thing I do remember clearly. I remember all my meals.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:34] You see the world through food.
Shep Gordon: [01:22:36] Everything else. Not the world so much through food, but my life and the times. It's almost embarrassing with the kids because we'll do stuff and I'll say, "Why you got to go?" "I know I was with you, grandpa Shep." I said, "Well, I don't remember. I know we had a pastrami sandwich with somebody having this big star." "That was me." I just remember it all by food. It's really bizarre. I wasn't a foodie or at least a knowledgeable foodie until I met Mr. Vergé. Ketchup and macaroni was for me, a great meal.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:03] Oh, before that? That sounds absolutely horrible.
Shep Gordon: [01:23:06] Yeah, my diet was basically Swiss cheese, macaroni and ketchup, frozen cheesecakes. That's what it and I was like a couch potato, and when I met Mr. Vergé, it all came up. Then I looked back in my life, I realized, I do remember meals were a really important part of my life.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:27] I thought that was interesting because most people write about, and it looked like this and then it felt like that and you're like, and we ate pastrami and there was cheese on it and they put way too much cheese on it. And I'm thinking, that's what you got.
Shep Gordon: [01:23:42] My life has become basically the celebration of dinner for the last 15 or 20 years. That's the most important thing in my existence.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:49] Like Jason said he came in and two hours later, 25 people showed up for dinner party, and that's just how you roll.
Shep Gordon: [01:23:55] That's just how I roll.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:57] When you're dealing with folks now in business --
Shep Gordon: [01:24:00] Oh, he was here. It's a great night. Did he tell you who was here that night?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:04] No I don't think so.
Shep Gordon: [01:24:04] Wow, two heroes of mine. Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie. Joseph Wilson was the ambassador to the African country who said that nuclear stuff didn't you go to Saddam Hussein. And then they outed his wife who was a CIA agent. They made that movie about her free fall or something. It was amazing to see these two American heroes who were outed by the government. The only time that the CIA agent's name was published. And it was published while she was on active duty.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:34] That's awful.
Shep Gordon: [01:24:35] Yeah, but they were amazing. We had a great time then that night. It was really what a joyous thing to be in their presence.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:41] I mean, talk about putting it all on the line.
Shep Gordon: [01:24:42] Putting their lives in line.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:44] You do a great job with achieving goals, and you mentioned that if you can see the goal, no matter how distant it might seem at the start, it makes it easier to start creating the path to it. But how do you look for and visualize these lofty goals that just seem kind of nebulous?
Shep Gordon: [01:24:59] I think it's, you know, it depends on what the situation is. Again, it's spending more hours and time on it. So in the case of, like for example, a Teddy Pendergrass. How do I define the people, their sex appeal, you can't stand up and say he's sexy cause that's arrogant and you lose all your sex appeal. So it was doing little things like instead of a picture of him on the ad for women only, it was a stuffed Teddy bear with a note on it that says, "Spend the night with me. Love, Teddy." So it was soft. My goal was to tell the world that women would go crazy over him. How do you do that best? By creating that moment where women are going crazy over him and getting that picture out, that story out, that word out.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:41] It's almost like working backwards.
Shep Gordon: [01:25:42] How do you do that? Well, he sells a lot of tickets. Let's do it live in New York and LA, which are the media centers. Let's make sure that everyone tells us we can't do it. So it becomes controversial and then let's do it. And how do we keep adding to that story? Well, the chocolate, teddy bear, lollipop definitely adds to the story.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:04] It's still adding to my visions at night.
Shep Gordon: [01:26:08] So I think it's, you know, it's just a way of thought. You know, it's like what would I like to see in the newspaper when I wake up? Or what would I like to see on CNN and what would I like Teddy's fantasy? And once you, you say, what would be the perfect thing for him? Oh, him in a room with just women. Well, let's do it. Let's not wait for it to happen. Let's just do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:27] Don't wait for history to happen.
Shep Gordon: [01:26:28] Don't wait for history to happen. Right now we're doing a campaign with Alice and to get him elected president.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:33] I think that he could actually, it could happen.
Shep Gordon: [01:26:37] All the wild party. That's could be pretty funny.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:41] I think there's a chance. You're always pushing yourself to grow. I mean, you're not stopping. You mentioned they thought it was a stretch when you decided to work with Groucho Marx and Raquel Welch, but stretching is how you grow. How are you doing that now? I mean, you're still cruising.
Shep Gordon: [01:26:55] Yeah. I still do the same. I mean, I'm trying to add a little more conscience to the culinary world. I think that I gave the commencement speech at the CIA this year, and I feel sort of partly responsible for this phenomenon, which I'm sorry, on every institute. They don't let me enter the other one except with handcuffs and I feel partly responsible for having created this movement of 150 to 200-dollar meals. I'm proud of it. And I was addressing, you know, this beautiful audience of a couple of hundred culinary institute graduates. 10 years ago, if they graduated, they would go into a $30,000 a year job. They would have a ceiling of maybe 70,000. Now they're going to step into a probably 100 to 125 thousand dollar starting salary and having an unlimited ceiling. What I told them was it, you know, I'm really happy for them. It's really great, but if you think. We all put the effort in that we put in to make that possible for them to just feed $150 dinners, they're headed for a crash. They got to look out when they leave the place of business, look to the left and look to the right and you're going to see homeless, hungry people, and if you think your job isn't to feed them and only the guys who can pay 150, you're in the wrong profession. I think that's important for the profession. It's going to really maintain itself as an art form to bring a conscious, compassionate integration into it. I do that, I'm doing a dinner September 12th in New York. It's going to establish a Roger Vergé Scholarship at the Culinary Institute which I'm really proud of with 12 great chefs.
[01:28:34] I think about what I want. I went to the Culinary Institute and they had a bus of other chefs and they didn't have a bus of Mr. Vergé there. So I said, I want his place in there. How do we do this? And so we're doing this dinner and Michael Douglas hosting and Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Michael White, Dean Fearing all these great chefs coming in, it's going to become reality. So it's the same thing. When I go back to the CIA, there will be a bus that will be Vergé. You know, it's creating history, but in a different way. That's what I enjoy doing. It's my challenge or my nightmare. Because I take punches on those though, my guts, and now I don't live in the office really, so I don't have a staff to help.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:15] Right now. You're retired everyone else.
Shep Gordon: [01:29:19] Yes, everyone retired. Yeah, but it's what I do, so, you know.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:22] Yeah. I love that story. You're like, I'm retiring. So the whole company goes down without you, but then you just decided to do everyone's job.
Shep Gordon: [01:29:29] Yeah exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:31] You're doing it backwards, you're doing everything backwards.
Shep Gordon: [01:29:35] I think anyone who does it say they still don't look in a mirror and say, "What the fuck is it all about? What are you doing?" I think is sort of lying because I don't think as humans we ever -- none of us are going to ever figure out why we're here in my opinion. We can have theories, we can have beliefs. But how did this happen? Like who did this. And what's the plan? Anyone who thinks they figured it out. I don't know if you can figure it out, but if you find something that's comfortable that fits in your wheelhouse, you're a lucky person.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:30:05] What do you think is the next celebrity chef type of star? Where do you see a hole in an industry?
Shep Gordon: [01:30:11] I think it's the growers of cannabis. You know, what I try to look for is cultural waves. I wasn't a genius with the chefs. It was so obvious that you could be on the 50-yard line at a football game, you could be in the front row of a Broadway theater if you had enough money, and you couldn't get into Le Cirque. You couldn't get into Charlie Trotter's. It was so obvious that demand was there. Demand is what drives celebrity. Cannabis is the revolution. And it's exactly like the chef's work. It's funny, when I started with the chefs, Chef Boyardee was the famous cook. In the pot world, it's Bob Marley or Snoop Dogg. Not the actual grower, who is the real star. It was Chef Boyardee against Emeril. Snoop Dogg against the grower. I think that has a real possibility to develop. They'll become media stars out of it. They'll become heroes out of it. The economics are gigantic, so they'll be able to fuel the fire just like the chefs did by hiring PR people, doing multiple, you know, the economics are so gigantic.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:20] And talk about the parents are already hating you. That's already built-in.
Shep Gordon: [01:31:23] It's perfect. You got it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:26] Thank you so much. Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you think, man, I got to tell him this.
Shep Gordon: [01:31:30] Everybody go vote, please.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:32] Why are you so passionate about getting out the vote?
Shep Gordon: [01:31:35] think it's a really dangerous time in our history. I think no matter what happens at the end of the election, our country is going to be different. And I think the most important thing is for people to realize that they have a voice. They can affect this, and if they're just sitting on the sidelines and letting everything happen to them, they're allowing themselves to be victims. There's a difference between a victim and a loser? You can lose and come back and win. A victim, you're just a victim. There's no reason at this point to be a victim, whether you're for one side or the other. I would like to think that there are more people who believe in what I believe in. So by getting out the vote, it helps me. But even if it doesn't, I think, you know, this is a serious time. We all seem so disconnected from cause and effect in our lives when it gets bigger than our own little apartment. And we really can do something. I mean, as a child of the ‘60s I saw what we did with the war. I saw burning the draft cards did. I saw what, you know, protesting did. You really can have some effect. I think our generation, it's so big that it's hard to imagine you can affect it. I just think I love America. I end my book saying that I've always wanted my kids to focus on this simple fact. You win or lose in life 99 percent of the time, just when you drop out of the womb. If you drop out of the womb in America. You have a chance to eat, be healthy, have love in your life, security. Do what you want to do. You drop out in some of the countries in Africa, you drop out in Syria today, you drop out in these places. You have no chance. I mean, maybe one out of 10 million will come through. So, you're so lucky just to have dropped out here. You cannot understand how lucky this gift is to fight hard to keep it. And I think we're at risk of losing. I just fear that that won't apply in a couple of generations if the country goes away, you can see it going.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:33:41] Yeah, it is scary. And so you've seen a lot of different things, different ways, different cultural shifts. So there's some hindsight here as well.
Shep Gordon: [01:33:49] Yeah, this was really different. Anyway, I think it's important everybody get out and vote and make their presence felt.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:33:55] Thank you Shep.
[01:33:59] I love Shep. He's been a great friend since we recorded this. I just really adore the man. He is as a legendary, as you might expect. Great big thank you to him. Links to all his stuff, including that Netflix documentary will be in the show notes as well. Also in the show notes, there are worksheets for each episode, including this one, so you can review what you've learned here from Shep Gordon. We also have transcripts now for every episode, and those can be found in the show notes as well.
[01:34:23] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Now, don't do it later. Got to dig the well before you get thirsty. Once you need relationships, it's too late to just start making them. You know that person that calls, "Hey old buddy, haven't talked to you in five years. Want to buy some shampoo?" No. Procrastination leads to stagnation when it comes to your personal and business relationships. Don't wait, do it now. They take a few minutes a day. It's, I wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago. It is not fluff. It is crucial, and we're giving it away for free at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:35:01] And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company. In fact, why not reach out to Shep and tell him you enjoyed this episode of the show? Show guests, love hearing from you, and you never know what might shake out of that. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out or follow us on social. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.
[01:35:23] This show has created in association with PodcastOne. This episode was produced by Jen Harbinger, Jason DeFillippo, and the engineer is Jase Sanderson. Show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola. I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions and those of our guests are their own. And yeah, I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer. I'm sure as heck not any kind of doctor or any kind of therapist. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting, that should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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