Sylvester Stallone wanted to make a version of “Citizen Kane” about rags-to-riches rock impresario Shep Gordon called “Citizen Insane,” but never got around to it. Mike Myers, however, did and has made a documentary about the flamboyant Gordon, a man who dated Sharon Stone, discovered Alice Cooper, hung out with Mick Jagger and partied at the house Napoleon built for Josephine.
For someone who says, “There’s nothing about fame that’s healthy… it has no intrinsic value,” Shep Gordon sure has made a lot of people very famous.
He discovered Alice Cooper when he and his band were starving on Sunset Boulevard, and set them on a path that lead to superstardom. He broke Anne Murray south of the border—“She’s so straight-laced she’s not even Middle America,” he says, “she’s Canadian.”—gave Groucho Marx a late career boost and vaulted Teddy Pendergrass and many others onto the charts.
He’s a character who offers up three bits of advice for anyone thinking of getting in the game. “Always get the money. Never forget the money. Always remember to never forget the money.”
From his 1970s heyday “Supermensch” teaches us that the infant on the cover of Billion Dollar Babies was named Lola, that Charlie Chaplin was her godfather and that Shep wasn’t immune to the lures of rock and roll excess. While he was raking it in with Cooper he had a house with a model train that transported people from the pool to the main house where vials of cocaine were hidden in the kitchen drawers.
That changed when he met chef Roger Vergé, the father of nouvelle cuisine. Unlike his music industry friends, Vergé was well adjusted, respected and happy. It changed Shep’s life, he morphed from a guy content to eat spaghetti and ketchup into a foodie who even married a raw food chef. It also opened up a new avenue of work for him, and with the dawn of the Food Network he helped redefine the term celebrity chef.
Despite all the success, he’s never had a very profitable love life. “Supermensch” examines this as well, in an unvarnished look at his life outside the spotlight. It’s these moments and Gordon’s insights on his relationship with the Dali Lama (that’s right, Shep knows everybody) that lift the film from a hero-worshipping portrait of 1970s excesses to a moving glimpse into the life of a man who seems to be able to make everyone except himself truly happy.
“Super Duper Alice Cooper” is an authorized biography of one of the biggest rock stars of the 1970s.
Perhaps it’s a bit too authorized.
Fans will love seeing the concert footage, rare archival tape and the inventively presented visuals—old photos spring to life—and hearing the story as told by Alice and Cooper regulars like Denis Dunaway and manager Shep Gordon, but there’s little here that hasn’t been reported elsewhere.
Most interesting is the film’s attention in Cooper’s early years in Phoenix, playing in bands like Beatles’ wannabes The Earwigs and then The Spiders. It’s the most engaging part of the film and filmmakers Sam Dunn and Reginald Harkema wisely take their time detailing how Vincent Furnier, a preacher’s son from Arizona, morphed into a chicken killing rock star who found fame under the name of an seventeenth century witch.
Once Cooper and band hit the big time, however, the details get a little sketchier. Their second album, “Easy Action,” is not even mentioned. Ditto “Killer,” a 1971 platinum album. The doc—or “doc opera” as the filmmakers are pitching it—does have some good warts-and-all information on the years Cooper lost to drugs and alcohol, and an interesting take on how Alice came left the original band to strike out on his own.
It’s here the doc falters. Instead of an insider’s look at what happens when a band falls apart we are given a version that feels a bit too managed. Perhaps time has healed some old wounds but original members Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway, who were stripped of their rock star status as soon as Alice split, don’t dish any dirt. Instead they provide what feels like an authorized version of events. Some grit here would have given “Super Duper Alice Cooper” more of an edge.
As it is, however, the movie is a fan friendly pastiche of images, sounds and info on one of the most outrageous rock ‘n’ roll acts ever.
Alice Cooper’s theatrical brand of rock ’n’ roll has been horrifying audiences for five decades.
Onstage, the kohl-eyed singer of School’s Out and No More Mister Nice Guy is the stuff of nightmares.
His grotesque Grand-Guignol reputation was cemented when he was accused of biting the head off a chicken and drinking its blood during the Toronto Rock ’n’ Roll Revival concert in September 1969.
A new movie, Super Duper Alice Cooper, details how Vincent Furnier, a preacher’s son from Arizona, morphed into a baby-doll-butchering rock star who found fame under the name of a 17th century witch.
It also unveils the truth about the “poultry incident.”
According to the film, it was during the climax of Cooper’s wild set that a chicken somehow made its way onstage and Alice — thinking the bird could fly, threw it into the air — expecting it to soar into the sky.
Instead it dropped like a stone into the audience who promptly tore it apart. The next day newspapers reported a sensational version of the story, one that painted Cooper as a chicken-killing degenerate, giving the band their best publicity to date and Alice an idea.
“That was the moment I realized the audience really needed a villain,” says Cooper.
“They wanted so much for Alice to be the guy who killed that chicken. Nobody else in rock ’n’ roll would have done that except this really creepy guy up there. It clicked in my head that I needed to make this Alice character a definitive Moriarty. When that happened, I saw what the audience wanted.
“I knew I could develop this guy into something that is really going to be fun to play.”
For the next 15 years he played Alice to the hilt, on stage and off. It wasn’t until a stint in rehab made him reassess his priorities and understand that Alice the character didn’t need to exist anywhere except on stage. “If that grey area would have cleared up and I could have put Alice in his proper place,” he says, “it would have been a lot easier.
“But like anything else, when you’re a creative character, you always take the hard road. I didn’t realize that Alice was not the problem. It was Dr. Frankenstein that was the problem, not the monster. Alice never drank on stage.
“Alice never did drugs on stage. It was the creator of the monster that had the big problem.”
These days, at age 66, Cooper is still going strong. He remains a wild man on stage with a new tour and album in the works. “I still love the fact that people expect a show,” he says, “and they get more than there were expecting every time.”