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March 15, 2019

The Wisdom of Shep Gordon [Episode 14]

The Wisdom of Shep Gordon [Episode 14]

“I went to him and I said, ‘who are the two hottest horror directors in America?’ And he said, “John Carpenter and Wes Craven … They hate the fucking studios because they never give them final cut.” So I said ‘Okay, here's what I'll do, I’

Shep Gordon is a legend in multiple industries. Manager extraordinaire to such acts as Alice Cooper, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Gipsy Kings, Rick James and many others. Shep also was the sole inventor of the celebrity chef, paving the way for names like Emeril Lagasse and Anthony Bourdaine. What many people don’t know, is that Shep was also a major horror producer back in the day, and produced a number of classic titles from Wes Craven and John Carpenter including: They Live, Village of the Damned, The People Under the Stairs, Prince of Darkness and Shocker.

Above all things, Shep is an extraordinary human being and has a lot to teach the world, particularly those who work in entertainment. Shep first got on my radar with the fantastic documentary from Mike Myers about him called Supermensch. Supermensch is a movie that I rewatch at least 3 times a year - the lessons in it are absolutely golden, and Shep's life story not only uncovers the keys to having a prolific life, but shows you how to do a lot of good along the way.

It’s a really fantastic movie, and a downright fascinating and hysterical watch. I also highly recommend Shep’s autobiography, They Call me Supermensch, which is also loaded with some of the most incredibly actionable  insight I’ve ever heard on the topics of success, business, entertainment, and life in general. Clearly, I’m a profound fan of Shep, and was very humbled that he took the time to speak to me and answer my questions. I was super nervous during this interview, mostly because Shep really means a great deal to me so this was super exciting.

Soo, I’m at a loss for where to even begin recapping the major lessons from this conversation but here are three key takeaways from my conversation with Shep Gordon:

  • Don’t wait for history to be made, make it yourself. When managing Alice Cooper, Shep realized early that the only way to break through the noise of the music industry, is to stop waiting around for audiences and record labels to take notice of your act, and instead force them to with a spectacle they cant ignore. Shep became renowned at crafting large & elaborate PR stunts, most notably having a truck with a naked image of Alice Cooper with a python over his genitals, break down in the middle of Picadilly circus. This stunt sold out stadiums and gave Alice a huge presence in England. The learning here is to stop waiting for the powers that be to take notice, and force them to by creating history yourself.
  • Study Joseph Campbell. Shep regularly re-watches the Bill Moyer conversational documentary series with Joseph Campbell (which is on Netflix right now). Multiple people, including George Lucas, cite the work of Joseph Campbell as pricelessly inspirational and insightful. In fact, George Lucas used his writings on the hero’s journey and mono-myth archetypes as the foundation for Star Wars. Joseph Campbell teaches students to follow their bliss, and chart their own path towards heroism. Ultimately, Campbell's work is a source of empowerment that comes from centuries of wisdom. These works are a guiding force in Shep’s life and therefore something very worth checking out.  
  • Create Win Wins. It’s no surprise that the entertainment business is shark infested; loaded with bullies, fast-talkers and schemers who in many cases, are motivated entirely by their own self interest. Across both music and movies, two notoriously cut-throat industries, Shep was the big exception. He was a perpetually nice guy and always did compassionate business and was still extremely successful. That being said, in order to operate in any of these businesses, you do need to have the capacity to be extremely tough and assertive or else you’ll be completely eaten alive. Shep, was able to be both a nice guy, and a tough motherfucker, and the key to doing that was ensuring that there was always a win win and that no real blood was ever drawn in any confrontation. In every deal, there is usually a loser and a winner; someone who gets a bargain and someone who gets hung out to dry, at least a little. Shep goes to great lengths to make sure that, even in difficult and complex business dealings, there are always only winners and both sides are having their needs being met tremendously. This is big, and it’s very unique to Shep, and it’s one of the reasons why everyone in the industry completely and totally adores him.

God, there are SO MANY MORE things to learn from Shep, so go see Supermensch, go read Shep’s autobiography, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Nick Taylor Horror show on Apple Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and everywhere you listen. Thanks again for listening to the Nick Taylor Horror Show.