Shep Gordon


Shep Gordon joins the Art of Charm podcast. Shep discusses life lessons from his book, They Call Me Supermensch. If you haven’t seen the documentary, Supermensch, you’re missing out. It’s full of fantastic stories and it’s incredibly entertaining.

Shep is known as the manager of Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, and many more. He’s the godfather of the celebrity chef movement, and has worked with several world class chefs like Roger Vergé and Emeril Lagasse. The full podcast is almost 2 hours long, so this transcription is only bits and pieces of the conversation. Listen to it in its entirety here.

A “yes” takes time 8:43

One of the things I’ve always told my clients is I can get you a “no” very fast. A “yes”, I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take.

So when I sort of set my targets on meeting someone, I’m able to sort of find the path usually to get into it.


Why it’s important to be a groupie 13:03

Be a fan of other humans. So many people, the world is 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, and maybe have some of what you’re attracted to bleed off into you, that’s a beautiful thing.


Serve other people 39:52

For me, one of the hardest things to get through my brain and one of the most rewarding things to get through my brain was the people that I was attracted to, Roger Vergé and his holiness [the Dalai Lama], their happiness came from serving others. That was there real joy.

The words are the words. That’s the hardest concept to get through your brain.

The most selfish thing that 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 to live my life by that.


How he made the paparazzi happy 41:50

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 the star, and the interest of the paparazzi, were the same.

No matter what star you are, you have a PR person who is looking to spin good stuff about you. You have a movie coming out, a record come out, your new restaurant opens.

There is no celebrity who is important enough for the paparazzi to care about, that doesn’t make their livelihood off press.

So the two of them meet at exactly the same place. The problem was nobody was talking to them to say, be of mutual interest to each other.

Luckily, I live on a small island. There are very few paparazzi. I know all of them.

I said, if I tell you someone is 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 and keep the other half. Everybody is happy.

And that’s what we do. You get control, the picture that you want. It helps your career. The food bank gets money, feeds a lot of homeless people. Paparazzi guy doesn’t have to sneak around bushes.

I’ve invited them [paparazzi] to dinner. I’ve invited them to Tom Arnold’s wedding.

You can’t be a public figure, and lie to yourself that you don’t want attention.


Handshakes > contracts 50:29

Contracts make lawsuits. Handshakes make friends.


No shortcuts and the key to luck 1:12:14

The only way to get what you want is to wake up earlier, go to sleep later, and do more work in between.

There is no shortcut.

The people that I’ve seen that have shortcuts in their lives, the damage of those shortcuts is almost insurmountable.

Being born to 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. They are fool’s gold stuff. And if you don’t work for them, that’s what you actually think life is about.

And not about the work and the journey to get to it.

It’s just so hard to overcome.

Where when you get up and work for 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.

It’s getting up earlier, working harder, that’s all part of it. Whether it’s working at a relationship or working at business or working for something that you want.

That’s the key to success, that to me, is the key to luck.


Ability to fail 1:14:01

In a business of service and particularly a high profile business, the ability to fail is more important than the ability to win.

Nothing gets done alone. Almost everything is in relationships.

The most important thing for my relationships with my artists 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 do what everyone else did.


What’s the next celebrity job?

I think it’s the grower’s of cannabis.

What I try to look for is waves? Cultural waves.

I wasn’t a genius with the chefs. It was so obvious. 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 [growers] will become media stars out of it, 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.


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