Shep Gordon is the most celebrated celebrity manager of all-time. Throughout his career, he created the celebrity chef concept and managed: Alice Cooper, Luther Vandross, Wolfgang Puck, Rick James, Raquel Welch, Sylvester Stallone, etc.
On today’s wide-ranging interview we are interviewing the most celebrated celebrity manager of all-time. Throughout his career, today’s guest created the celebrity chef concept and managed: Alice Cooper, Luther Vandross, Wolfgang Puck, Rick James, Raquel Welch, Sylvester Stallone, etc.
Documentary: Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
Book: They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food and Rock’n’Roll
On today’s show, we are interviewing the most celebrated the celebrity manager of all time throughout his career. Today’s guests created the celebrity chef concept and managed Alice Cooper Luther Vandross, Wolfgang Puck, Rick James, Raquel Welch, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, and countless other celebrity names that you know you don’t today. It’s wide ranging interview. We have a cameo appearance from the great one. Wayne Gretzky shut discusses how he created the celebrity chef genre. Why you have to work for free to create opportunities with the food network, celebrity management in any other venture. Why he had Emeril lagasse invented Emeril spices. Why fame will not fill up the whole someone has in their soul how he became the most celebrated and celebrity manager of all time. Why he believes that art is not quantifiable. Why being afraid of making mistakes is simply not acceptable. Why managing people is difficult because there is no handbook. What it’s like working with some of the biggest names in the music and entertainment industry. How famous tough. And it most times hard to handle, especially if you’re young and why he believed that you should be compassionate and help your neighbors. And now that need further ado, it’s the Shep Gordon interview. Let’s do it.
Thrive nation on today’s show, we are interviewing Shep Gordon while he is on a golf course in beautiful Hawaii. I don’t know. So occasionally during today’s show to provide a clarity as to what he’s saying. If the audio signal cuts out intermittently, I will be inserting some audio narration from myself. So you cannot, uh, better understand what ship Justin, Sarah Shep Gordon, welcome onto the thrive time show. How are you sir?
A little hot from valley, a beautiful day here and very excited to be at your show.
Chef, uh, you now live in Hawaii. You now cab can count. Former clients. Is, is Raquel Welch, Kenny Loggins and blondie. And Rick James. And Alice Cooper, but I’d love to, to start off at the very, very bottom. What, what prompted you to, to what from the very beginning, what prompted you to move from New York to la?
I moved out for a job and it was in the late 60 every hippie and I was a hippie at American, wanted to be in California. There was a very famous song where you’re a flower in your hair. It comes to San Francisco, where a flower in your hair. I had to fire and I ended up in La.
How did you go from your first job to landing your first client?
Oh, my first job lasted a day. It was a lease between those juvenile,
that’s the most Katrina’s juvenile hall.
I would have very long hair and in those days they didn’t really like that in California, um, they probably would’ve liked it more if they knew that I was a pharmaceutical dealer in their jail.
Kim Gordon was a pharmaceutical drug dealer working in a juvenile hall.
They sort of gave me a heavy hit to redesign the first day, which I did. And I drove into Los Angeles proper and checked into a motel and who is our lucky break right into Janis Joplin. And she introduced her to Jimi Hendrix. It, what do you do for a living? And I said, well of sell pharmaceuticals it legally. And he said, are you Jewish? And I said, hey, you should be a manager.
Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix explains to them that he is a drug dealer. And Jimi Hendrix asks him if he’s Jewish. He says, yes. And Jimmy says, you should be a manager. This is how it happened.
He introduced me to Alex
and that Alice would be Alice Cooper packed to the interview.
We’re at this point, um, selling drugs illegally. Uh, you’re at a hotel and just random circumstance. You met these people, you meet Janis Joplin, you beat Jimmy Hendrix. So if I’m getting this right, Jimmy Hendricks says you should become a manager. And you say, okay, am I, am I getting something wrong here?
He was also my best customer in the pharmaceutical. I wasn’t going to argue with him.
Okay. Okay. So did you know what a manager was? Did you, did you know what that
So you, what was your marketing strategy when working with Alice Cooper? I mean, I, my understanding is you guys still have a handshake deal today. You don’t have a contract. I mean, how did that relationship start and, and how, what was your marketing strategy?
Try and get enough money to buy a hunch. And um, we realized pretty early on that his business was, was at least at that point, very obscure and I’m not really something that radio was going to play. So that wasn’t a path for us. And um, while we saw was that people really started to hate him, people would leave the, these people with the fruity stuff at him. And um, that’s an emotion and that’s your reaction. And every kid goes through a appeared or rebellion. So we said, let’s look on to that. We know how to make parents angry. Let’s see if that gets kids happy. And that’s what, what happened? We got lucky.
Did you have the game plan to get banned from Europe to get Alice Cooper band in Europe? Was that part of the same
by, by the time we got to Europe after a couple of year, maybe a year, two years of doing what we do. And we started to realize that that really was our power and our power was getting word out to the parents around the world that um, just monster and he just says that their kids might possibly go see who stood for everything. They hate it. Uh, and that was sort of our drawer. You know, he tell the kid you can’t do something. That’s the one thing they want to do. So by when we realize and the best thing you could possibly do is get bad because getting back to the front page of the paper is it catchy and it gets it all in the right way. So we became pretty good at getting bad.
I’ve heard you say marketing doesn’t work safe doesn’t work in marketing, but you can’t sell something that doesn’t work. If Alice didn’t have the talent, we would have gone up and we would have come down. Can you talk to me about why safe marketing doesn’t work?
Maybe it works for some people. It never worked for me. I’m getting over and never, um, or what my job was. You know, maybe if you’re selling underwear and you just did the best I was selling personalities and uh, something really abstract but there, so you can’t really quantify, you know, you can’t, you tell like a paper towel. You can say this paper towel holds more water than x when you’re selling art, whether it’s a movie or an artist or music or you can’t really quantify it. So it’s very abstract. And um, in those kinds of circumstances, safe doesn’t work because it doesn’t get you above the noise and it doesn’t really decide anything different than what everyone’s going to see. So for me, yeah, that was, and, and part of that is working with artists that allow you to make mistakes because if you’re not being safe, definitely got to make mistakes.
I think there’s somebody out there. I know that I am infinitely curious about the day to day operations of a, of a manager when you’re working with huge personalities. Are you the one then booking the travel arrangements and booking the arenas for Alice Cooper? Are you the one booking the interviews? Are you the one ordering all the food? Take it about all the logistics of all of the equipment. How far does your relationship go? What do you do? What do you not do? I know, I know you’re willing to do anything, but what do you do with a typical client?
There’s different needs. There’s no handbook. So basically what you want to be as a manager, so they’re responsible to make sure everything works. Um, so you try the travel agents for travel, the agent for employment he can to get a record company to put out records. You get a business manager to protect the money. You get a press agent to get, you get a word out back and Haiti we you that you get a lighting designer to do the show and each particular relationship between an artist. Some of those things are, of course, some are Valis I help him right to chose with Luther. He wouldn’t let me share this, you know, until it was broken his for a couple of weeks. So that’s about as far as swing as you can possibly get. Yeah. And I, I’ve had it, both of them.
When you say Luther, you mean Luther
a bad drought? Luther Vandross
yeah. Yeah. I just wanna make sure the listeners know your career is, it spans so much time and space and everybody respects you. And if I can’t, I just want to go through a name dropping buffet and I’d like for you to think of the person and share with me kind of maybe a highlight of working with them or maybe something that people wouldn’t know because you have so many stories. I mean, your interviews are so good. Um, Rick James, what was it like?
I love very quick Reiki into my office. I had a boat, he came pretty early, broke into my office, uh, bypass the receptionist identified tests. I can talk like that. Paraphrasing him. I know. Said, I’m from Buffalo, I know everything about you and you’re going to manage me. And then he went to, he talked about where I lived in buffalo to kind of car I had literally can do. He knew everything about me. Wow. And um, it was great. So I looked at, he was very, very talented. Loosen Mary Jane Girls would were, you know what his inventions Mary Jane Girls. Yeah.
What were they, can you explain what the Mary Jane Girls, Mary Jane girls were for the listeners out there who are not?
Well, the Mary Jane Girls were on Motown records and had a couple of them, one records, but it was something that he created. So he wasn’t just the master of his own career and he produced other people’s music, came off as ideas for groups and found out he was pretty multidimensional guy. Very smart.
I love music. I think Luther Vandross just unbelievable. Super talent appeared to be a really nice guy. You know, I met the guy, but I got interviews with him with that, with Oprah. I’ve seen him over the years is live from radio city music hall album was just awesome. Just in a random circumstance. I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma at one point downtown Tulsa and a guy was looking for a ride. I picked the guy up and I found that he was a background singer for Luther Vandross at the time. So I kinda got a chance to hear a little bit of a, some Luther stories from the background singer who was trying to catch a ride there. Talk to me about Luther. What was his personality like? What was his, what was he like?
He was a pure artists. Music is performances on stage. He really directed, it shows, it shows. He was the consummate artists. He led a fairly solitary life, didn’t have a lot of friends. I’m always with challenged by his weight. That was it. Common thread. It was lane, so I would put him more in the, not tortured artist, but not ecstatic artists. He was always worried about something but not nuts. That kind of wasn’t the kind of guy went out on a Friday night partying.
You, you have a documentary made about you is a fascinating film. Did Mike Myers reach out to you to make the film? Superman shorter.
What did it feel like to know? Because you’re, you’re a guy who I think you’re a very self aware person. I think you’re so self deprecating that I, and so approachable. I think you know, all your clients have nothing but great things to say about you. What did it feel like when you realized, Oh, I’m old enough, they want to make a documentary about me but I’m still alive. I mean, what was going through your mind at that point?
Four or five years? And I’m really being in my brain. I really feel that, you know, there’s no real upside, the same. It’s like a dangerous thing that if you can avoid, avoid it unless she needed to make a living. Um, so, um, I never really wanted to flirt with it. And then I had a, uh, I was in the hospital, the emergency surgery and um, I had very slight cancer survival and Mike called me up in the hospital. He was my first call and he said, and it was like, okay, you ready to do this if you get through this, they checked. Cause now I have a great story to tell. I almost, I almost got an ending and I was, I was so morphine and out that I said yes, he goes, so he took over and then a couple of weeks later I called him up and I said to, I said yes. And he said, Yep. I said, can I take that back? You’d already started the project. So, um, I in retrospect I’m very happy. I said yes.
Well done. The movie’s called Superman from, I’ll put a link to on the show notes, the legend of Shep Gordon Supermensch. Um, it’s, it’s very well done film and I think it parts, it was uncomfortable for me. Now I was raised and I am a Judeo Christian and I’m a big fan of your work. So I’m looking at what you, you know, you, you have, you have, you lived pretty hard there for a while. A Nice, you’d be kind of in a metta kind of a time of life out there in Hawaii. Can you, if you don’t want to talk about, it’s okay, but can you talk about just the lowest, most intense partying of lifestyle part of your career and then contrast that to how you live now?
I never was on self reflection and it’s really hard to look at yourself, come up with judgements, but I never really was, um, self destructive partier. Okay. I never tried. I never, I never got to the point of trying to hurt myself over, at least I never felt that way. Um, but I hadn’t, uh, my lifestyle was completely the opposite because I had a nightclub in La. It was open till two in the morning. Um, and so I, most days I would see the sun come up, get four or five hours sleep and get to the office about 11 boy, sort of a workaholic. And, um, as life started to move on and started to find some passions, um, cooking was a passion. Um, so I started to find some things that filled up my time that, um, we’re more rewarding to me. And then when I got to Hawaii, I started to live with the son, go to sleep early, wake up early, and I just feel better. So I don’t, I know there was no real low point in the partying from, it was just sort of a natural evolution. Yeah. And I realized that if I stayed in the groove I was in, I was headed for trouble. Did she can’t stay up all night and you can’t do drugs. I was doing, he can’t drink as much. You can’t. All those things are just, you know, it, all you have to do is look around and you see, you can’t do it forever unless you want to.
Can you share, a lot of listeners want to know? I know, I do. I, I know I didn’t expect you should have to do a lot of research on me previous to doing this podcast up. I’m a father of five and uh, my wife and I, we started our first business together called DJ connection.com. And before I sold it, it was America’s largest wedding entertainment company. So we did 4,000 weddings a year. So I would listen. I’d play Rick James, I play ball blonde. I would play Luther Vandross. So it all kind of lead back to him. You know what I mean? So it’s like I always kind of knew of you, but didn’t know who you were. So this is a real, I mean, pinch myself moment here. Um, a lot of the great artists die young, you know, what is the deal?
And it was tough. Tough. It’s tough. The ones who had driven towards looking for some type of outside source to tell them they’re great. Um, there’s something that, there’s some whole inside of him that drives him to take the kind of abuse you have to take to get famous. Um, you know, oh, there’s no such thing as overnight success. It’s, everybody’s been beat up for years. Um, and then I think once you get there, it doesn’t fill up that hole. You know, you could have 100,000 people according. If you look in the mirror and take your out, the rotten, miserable person, it, they can all applaud you still writing historical person to you. And that’s when the drugs and stuff started to come in and not to get happy but to fill up the hole. And um, a lot of people overdo it or just don’t have the desire to go on anymore. So it’s not uncommon in the world of fame. I think it’s whether it’s stockbrokers, musicians, um, film stars, athletes, you know, you see these people really hurting themselves and wanting to get really famous.
Michael Douglas alone have really, really good things to say about you. And I am excessive compulsive. I have a problem. I love Sylvester Stallone. Love his movies. I’ve seen rocky for so many times that no matter how many times I bought the VHS or the DVD, I still owe him more money. I mean, that got, I just, I love Sylvester Stallone.
What, what was your,
what is your relationship with Sylvester Stallone?
I don’t see him much anymore. When I was living in La and we were both bachelors, um, a lot of time together. Um, our, our relationship started when I got a phone call in my office and the girl said on the phone, and this was right at the height of the rocky and everything. Um, you know, I said, come on, you’re kidding. Said no, no. So that’s the slow to pick up the phone. It was Sylvester Stallone and um, he had bought the rights to my life story and he was planning to make a movie playing me. Really? Yeah. Lunch study me. It was a book called billion dollar babies by Bob Greene. Hmm. Um, and he had bought the rights to it. He never made a movie, but that was how we met and we, we found that we had a lot of stuff in common. I was a, he looks food. Um, we both had to be transferred to beautiful women, um, and uh, it all sort of work. So we spent a lot of time together and we were both in the film. Where else would we go to con together? So
we had a great relationship. Ask you on this podcast, we’re half million people are listing to, to name your favorite artists you worked with, but could you maybe think back on some of the artists are talent you worked with her ego that was a special relationship that you guys had or are you, are you have, is it, can you, can you reflect back on that and say, you know, here’s a couple of people that debt, I really,
I would say Alison. Teddy. Okay. Those are the two.
What makes that relationship with Alice? So special?
We’ve been together like we’re a family, never had a fight. We’ve never raised our voices at each other. Um, just been a beautiful relationship and it’s sort of worked. I’m sure working helps the relationship.
Nope. Teddy. Teddy Pendergrass is legendary. RNB vocalist. Why did you hit it off so well with him?
I always loved his music. Look what he did. Um, and we just hit it off. We had again to say kind of thing. We had a love for life. We both were partiers. We both had plenty of women in the world. Great. Yes there are. That’s very funny. That’s a Wayne Gretzky walking by hearing me talking about women. You just walked by. It started laughing.
waiting your next door neighbor, is that how you use the golf course? The golf course. Okay, awesome. Okay.
Shep Gordon is currently talking to Wayne Gretzky, best hockey player in the history of professional hockey while on a golf course on the beautiful island of Hawaii, while also participating with us on the thrive time show podcast.
Okay. So now you, you at some point in your career, you, you shifted into the phase where you decided to focus on culinary people. You know, you, you liked food and mentioned that and you started working with Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck and you’ve sort of, I guess none that sort of, you definitely are known as the guy who created the celebrity chef genre. How did that happen? Walk us through that
and I’m traveling with him. I got to meet most great chefs in the world and realized that they weren’t really getting paid, um, that, um, that, um, they weren’t getting really a lot of respect of aren’t getting a, they didn’t have, none of them could afford to send their kids to a private school. And, um, I sort of felt like I had the skill set to help them and uh, they trusted me and off we went and we got lucky. We got the food network on the air, which really is what launched at all.
How did it all happened? What was your role in, in, in launching the food network?
I had, uh, an acquaintance, they re Schoenfeld who explained it to the inn and he was looking at it, started cable channel that food. And I represented most of the celebrity chef. So I told him that I could get him free, a pretty talent for a couple of years if he did the cooking channel and gave my guys jobs. And um, we, we traded one commercial rather than Angelou payment. We got one commercial he show and um, that and that, that launched Emeril spices. That was what we invented. Emeral spices to put in that commercial. So it worked out well.
Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck. What’s your relationship like with Wolfgang?
Very good. He has a restaurant here in the street from me. He comes once a year and I’m actually a couple of years ago made him Thanksgiving dinner, which I was very proud of it.
Wow. So you can cook food too.
Oh yeah, I’m pretty good.
Now, Sylvester Stallone has described you as saying that you’re a protector. You keep the wolf from the door. What do you do for your clients that would make Sylvester Stallone say such high praise about you?
I have a good stomach for trouble away from it.
What kind of trouble did I run into that you keep?
You know, it’s always different stuff and you know, you’re at a restaurant around the corner or someone tried to do a deal with them that he did past. You never know what it is, but you know, I tend to err on the side of protecting them rather than self interest. It’s really tough. You know, when you’re, when you’re inside the bubble is someone like us, the alone, everybody is kind of getting out and then willing to drive you with pride.
Right? Right. Three final questions for you. We have about a half million folks who listen to are, many of them are entrepreneurs. So I’d like to ask you this. How do you get paid? I’m not asking for the specific details of the specific artists, but how do you get paid when you help a guy like us to loan or you help a guy like wolf.
Got It. But with normal client, I take a percentage of their revenues.
So 20% of the revenues.
Okay. And that’s how you do it. And it’s just pretty much, matter of fact, you’re going to go in there, you’re going to make it happen or get to revenue. And um, do you have a certain, you are, you come across as a very thoughtful person. Uh, one of the most self deprecating, wisest people that I’ve interviewed. Um, are there certain books that you’ve read that Tim brought you to the knowledge that you’re at now? Or the wisdom, do you have a certain book or two you’d recommend for our listeners?
Yeah, I would say maybe one of the most significant bill Moyers series with Joseph Campbell White. It’s available. I know on Amazon.
And I want to ask you about, my final question for you is you are resilient guy. You’ve been through a lot of adversity. What was the biggest adversity that you have been through with, with your career and how did you get through it?
I have in my life, I’m a cancer survivor. Um, I’ve had a couple of bad medical things, but in my career I never really looked at it like that and I didn’t, never really looked at as a career. I wake up in the morning, I did what I did, you know, I’ve had, I’ve had artists that I’d managed that I couldn’t really help them. That was disappointing for me. Someone like King Sunny a day, um, who was a great Nigerian artists. Um, and that always made me feel bad because they only have one life. I am, I can move from one to the other. So if you’re not successful with someone, he rarely hurting their life. Um, but on an overall basis, not really. Splitting up with my partner was far. That was back in the 70s we’ve gotten to the point where we just felt like we couldn’t do it together. So that was it. That was difficult for me because then it was on my own
rather than having a partner. Our listeners are very action oriented. Is there a certain action step you’d like our listeners to do? Are you devise like, hey, you know, if he had a little, if you could give everybody who’s sitting down with everybody, you got a half million people sitting in front of you and some kind of stadium or arena, what, what’s the advice you’d give all of our, all of our listeners,
I would say be compassionate. I think particularly we’re living in a world where there’s so much hunger, which doesn’t need to be you. So you could community, it’s, it’s compassionate and it’ll provide safety. No, with a break in your house if they’re not hungry. So that would be, that’s sort of my mission in the last few years is trying to feed people.
Do you have a specific website or a specific movement or a cause or a specific group that you, you’d like to direct our listeners to to help us join with you?
Yeah, I suppose I support the food banks around the country, local food bags or local your neighbors. You know, I think we’re living in a day and age, probably more than half of the people who get screwed from the food bank have jobs. Um, raising children, you know, so wherever we can help there.
Shep Gordon, I thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule for being on the show and, and, uh, I just want to say on behalf of all of our listeners, thank you so much for the work you’ve done and for investing your time on today’s show.
thrive nation. If you’re out there today and you’re going, well, I learned, I learned a lot on today’s show, but what can I do as a result of what I just learned? I’m going to give you one action step that everybody should take and that most people, not not you, a not, I’m sure not our listeners, but other people would easily Miss Shep Gordon said that Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang puck and these celebrity chefs all provided content for free for a couple of years. For a couple of years. He said that, I know it’s just, I’m not sure if you caught that, but he said he also worked and represented them for free for a couple of years. Right? Because he had a friend who had helped to launch CNN who was looking to build a food network and he said, hey, all supply you free talent for a couple of years in, in, in, in exchange for you helping build their celebrity.
Did you, did you catch that part? Vaguely. Yeah. That’s powerful. Right? Because how many people, I mean, think about this. Wolfgang puck was already making a lot of money. Oh, for sure. Emeril Lagasse was already making a lot of money, but they said we’re going to provide free content for a couple of years to build the relationship and throughout his entire career he represented some of the biggest artists on a pro bono basis to start to build that relationship and then he began charging them. So I would just ask you this. Thrive nation, if you’re on, if you’re on the outside looking in right now, you’re knocking on the door of that mentorship that you’re looking for. Who in your life right now, who is the mentor in your life? Who is somebody you want to spend a little more time with, who has the potential to help you to create those connections that you need?
Who is that person that write that person’s name down or write that business is businesses name down? Write that job, that job that you want down. Write it down and think about, am I willing to work for free for a couple of years? Because that is how Steven Spielberg got started. That is how a Andrew Carnegie got started. That would be how a puff daddy got started. As an intern. I could just go on and on listing examples of this, but this is how you get started. This is how John d Rockefeller got started, but so many people are out there looking for their dream job or their dream opportunity and you’ve never been on TV. You’d ever been on a TV show before? You have, these guys were great. A celebrity chefs, right? They were great chefs, but they had never been on a TV show before and so they had to earn their way.
They had to get better over time. And you might have that opportunity right in front of you, but are you willing to work for free? I know that I deejayed Boeing airlift that Boeing a company that makes all the airplanes. I Dj their first Christmas party that I ever Dj for them. What’s for a dollar? I’m Dj for some of the biggest companies in America for a dollar. I remember deejaying it. K, Geez, it’s a Kevin Garnett Psas store back in the day at the mall of America. I have the picture of it right there on my fireplace and I DJ that thing for free. I’ve done so many big events for free because it opens opportunities and it builds relationships. And when you have a bunch of relationships, you’re going to discover, you’re going to find a relation shift. You’re gonna find that once you have a network, it’s going to improve your net worth.
But there’s not a whole lot of successful people right now begging you to bring your lack of experience to their workplace. So if you want to build an opportunity, I would just encourage you to write down today, who are you willing to go to work for, for free in exchange for learning what you need to learn and getting the experience and the connections that you need. Write that name down and commit to it today. Write it down. What clients are you willing to serve for free to build that reputation, to gain those testimonials? That right there is unbelievable message that somebody needed to hear today. And if you learned something today, if you had some fun today, I would encourage you to share today’s podcast with at least one person. And what I’ve found is that people that share the podcast within Foa, people tell me, hey clay, if I ever share the podcast within like two minutes of completing it, it happens. But if I ever say, I’m going to do it tomorrow, it doesn’t happen. So think about right now, who could you send a text to? Who could you share this with on Facebook or Twitter or Spotify or iTunes? Who could you share today’s podcast with and share it with them in the next 60 seconds? And now that he further I do three, two, one, go.