Earlier this month the annual Pollstar Live event took place in LA; if you’re not familiar with it, this is the largest gathering of concert industry professionals in the world. It’s a chance for colleagues to come together and exchange best practices, get current on the latest goings-on and network with each other. I’ve been co-producing the annual Awards Show that caps it off for over 15 years. The Keynote at Pollstar Live is typically one of the highlights of the whole event and this year was no exception. It was Shep Gordon (aka “SuperMensch”) and his longest client, Alice Cooper, coming together to share stories about their 48 years of working together.
For over an hour, those of us lucky to be in the room were regaled while Shep and Alice reminisced on their history together, how Alice’s persona and career were developed, and shared several fun stories about some of their most famous exploits in detail — many of which started out to be pretty crazy publicity stunts. There’s an article that came out soon after the event here which does a decent job summarizing many of the stories they told so in the interest of keeping this relatively brief I won’t rehash them again in detail — but I do encourage you to check that article out as the stories were really pretty entertaining.
One I got a kick out of was that when they first got together, Alice & Shep realized they both got a big kick out of vaudevillian humor and a theatrical approach to Alice’s stage act. They both loved a relatively obscure film from the early ‘40s called “Hellzapoppin’” which featured wacky slapstick type routines that informed a lot of what the two would use as a frame of reference.
Shep also shared one of many things that has bonded he and Alice throughout nearly five decades now — and that’s that Alice always gave Shep room to fail whenever Shep would come up with the next creative publicity stunt or harebrained scheme; most worked but some didn’t, and they remained together through thick and thin over time regardless. The other thing I found especially insightful and impressive is that they’ve never had a written contract between them in all this time (!). Shep has had an incredible roster of celebrity clients as a manager, and it turns out he doesn’t use contracts with any of them. That’s unprecedented in this business, and it speaks to the tremendous trust, respect and loyalty Shep has earned with his clients over time (including, and perhaps especially with Alice). Alice was quick to share that he doesn’t recommend working without a contract as a best practice in general, but that it has worked for him with Shep from day one.
The respect, love and friendship the two men have built with each other over nearly 50 years was evident throughout the conversation. It’s apparent they have fun together, and trust each other completely. One final poignant comment that Shep made is that they don’t exist without each other — they’re so bonded after all this time; which is more than what most marriages could claim. All in all, it was a really sentimental and heartwarming conversation to witness!
If you want to learn more about Shep’s storied career, read his current book entitled “They Call Me SuperMensch” which is really entertaining — as is the film by the same name; great stuff!