Shep Gordon – The King Maker on His Best PR Stunts, Hugest Failures, and Practical Philosophies (#184)

Shep Gordon

“My philosophy was that you didn’t have to wait for history; you could create history.” – Shep Gordon

Shep Gordon (@SupermenschShep) has been named one of the “100 most influential people” by Rolling Stone magazine. He is the man behind some of the biggest names you’ve ever heard.

If you like the storytelling and lessons of Cal Fussman, you’re going to love this one.

Shep has worked with, and befriended, some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, from Alice Cooper to Bette Davis, Raquel Welch to Groucho Marx, Blondie to Jimi Hendrix, Sylvester Stallone to Salvador Dali, Luther Vandross to Teddy Pendergrass. He is also credited with inventing the “celebrity chef” phenomenon, which revolutionized the food industry and turned the culinary arts into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. He has worked with Nobu Matsuhisa, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Roger Vergé (and many others, including his holiness, the Dalai Lama.)

In this episode, we discuss how he made clients famous, and some of his biggest PR stunts (and flops).

Anthony Bourdain, who is a huge fan of Shep’s, released a memoir detailing Shep’s life and adventures, titled They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to The Amazing Worlds Of Film, Food, and Rock ‘N’ Roll.

I’ve been reading it, and it’s fantastic. Imagine it like Animal House meets Harvard MBA.

If you only have 5 minutes, listen to Shep’s thoughts on the dangers of fame, and who is most vulnerable.


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#184: Shep Gordon - The King Maker on His Best PR Stunts, Hugest Failures, and Practical Philosophies

Want to hear another episode with a brilliant storyteller? — Listen to this episode with Cal Fussman. In it, we discuss Cal’s interviews with the most influential people in history, how he made himself a guinea pig (Cal boxed against world champion Julio Cesar Chavez), and his best life lessons (stream below or right-click here to download):

145: The Interview Master: Cal Fussman and the Power of Listening

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Shep Gordon:

Twitter | Instagram

Show Notes

  • How did Shep Gordon end up in Hawaii? [06:14]
  • How Shep Gordon went from being a probation officer to a manager in the music industry. [07:51]
  • Shep recalls some of his favorite stunts and what it sometimes takes to capture an audience. [10:44]
  • When you’re the face of rebellion like Alice Cooper, there’s no such thing as bad press if it gets parents to hate everything about you. [21:10]
  • Shep on the role of a good manager in the entertainment industry. [23:02]
  • Shep on how he beat the competition to manage Teddy Pendergrass. [25:56]
  • Selling Teddy Pendergrass as The Black Elvis. [30:33]
  • Rookie management mistake: putting greed before service. [33:47]
  • How Shep has maintained his life-long orientation toward service. [36:25]
  • Why did it take nearly a decade for Shep to agree to let Mike Meyers make a documentary about him? [39:07]
  • How initial embarrassment over attention from the documentary gave way to an opportunity to connect with and inspire others. [43:16]
  • Roy Choi and Anthony Bourdain talk Shep into writing a book. [45:12]
  • What you should take away from Shep’s book. [46:04]
  • How did Shep prepare girl-next-door Anne Murray for stardom with the help of some Hollywood Vampires? [47:48]
  • On meeting Emeril Lagasse and helping create the celebrity chef phenomenon. [51:08]
  • Shep’s practice for appreciating life’s miracles. [54:06]
  • What separates those who get consumed by fame and those who are able to thrive with it? [56:08]
  • Books Shep has gifted most often to others. [1:03:52]
  • What would Shep’s billboard say? [1:05:54]
  • Inspirational quotes. [1:06:41]
  • Best or most worthwhile investment of money, time, or energy. [1:07:20]
  • Shep’s advice to new parents. [1:10:03]
  • Shep’s most significant life lessons. [1:12:02]
  • On the rhythms of nature. [1:18:12]
  • Should you try Tibetan yak butter tea? [1:18:47]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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29 Replies to “Shep Gordon – The King Maker on His Best PR Stunts, Hugest Failures, and Practical Philosophies (#184)”

  1. “His joy came through always putting the comfort of other people before his.” (Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon). Such a quality guy, and a quality interview. Thanks for this! 🙌

  2. didn’t even think about happiness like that. I always thought it was a state that leaks through your day. Great breath of fresh air.

    Thanks Tim

  3. I just became aware of Shep Gordon last week on Emeril Lagasse’s new Amazon show.

    Episode 4 – Emeril travels to South Korea where he meets up with chef Danny Bowien and his own manager and mentor, Shep Gordon, who is credited with launching the celebrity chef movement. The three embark on a pilgrimage to a chef with no restaurant and no customers who cooks only vegan cuisine. Her name is Jeong Kwan and she is a Zen Buddhist nun who happens to be one of the best chefs in the world.


  4. Didn’t want this one to end. The guests lately (Shep, Seth, Cal…) have been teaching me about the art of giving not as something to do on a special occasion, but as a way of life. I’m being moved into something, don’t know what yet.

  5. Great episode! All the chef talk made me think of a guest I would love to hear on the podcast @danglickberg. Food/wine/beer expert as former owner of Fairway Market, which was serving over 14 million customers per year when he left to start his own company. Now actively pursuing venture capital opportunities in the food business, food consulting and media. Has made several TV/radio appearances, most notably as judge and investor in ‘Food Fortunes’ on Food Network. A huge dog lover whose puppy Henley is never far.

  6. I enjoyed this. Sounds like he’s lived an amazing life. That said, how spoiled is that babyboomer generation? Listen to Shep explain how he got into the business. Sounds like my grandfather telling me how he, “hitched hiked to California after high school, enrolled in UCLA for pennies on the dollar, then dropped out after a failed semester to start a successful property business and apparel company in San Fran.” Shep’s story is even crazier–right place, right time, right race? Different times in deed….

    Tim, thanks for not getting political with him. He tired but you subtly and politely avoided the topic and you should be appreciated for it.

    I’m sorry but this election is no different than all the other lesser-of-two-evils elections that continuously take place around the world so no reason even to discuss it….

    Great job!

  7. Hey Tim – loved this, thank you. It made me want you to also get potent combinations of your past guests to talk to each other for freeform podcasts and see what unexpected stuff comes from it – Seth Godin, Shep Gordon and Questlove could end up being an intriguing recipe, for example. I imagine they’d kind of end up interviewing each other, which would be an awesome listen.

  8. Hey Tim – loved this, thank you. It made me want you to also get potent combinations of your past guests to talk to each other for freeform podcasts and see what unexpected stuff comes from it – Seth Godin, Shep Gordon and Questlove could end up being an intriguing recipe, for example. I imagine they’d kind of end up interviewing each other, which would be an awesome listen.

  9. And favorite quote from the episode, “…until next time, pay attention, experiment often, be nice, and pay attention to the miracles.”

  10. I would love to se you interview presidential candidate, ironman triathlete, mountaineer, and self made millionaire Gary Johnson. I think he fits exactly into your show/ lifestyle message and you could get a really incredible interview out of him.

  11. Some things Shep shared hit home with me in a really unexpected, really personal way. Totally took me by surprise. Not to get all deep, but some things he said made me realize something I need to change about my life where I had a total blind spot before hearing this. And it feels really weird sharing this on your website, but I was so moved, I felt I had to. Thank you!

  12. Thanks again Tim, great stuff with Shep. Here’s the Joseph Campbell quote Shep eluded to about “going into a quiet room” every day and having daily practices that make him happy:

    “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.” –Joseph Campbell, from ‘Power of Myth’

    Also – have you noticed that maybe half of your guests have mentioned Joseph Campbell? Not just the writers either. Have you thought of doing anything that digs deeper into his work on myths, hero’s journey, the human quest through life, wildness & nature, etc?

    I’ve recently gone on a vision quest and have been studying Campbell’s stuff quite a bit, would love to write something for your blog.

  13. I must admit I didn’t know anything Shep Gordon until I listed to an Art of Charm podcast recently with him as a guest. Now I’m trying to catch up, that’s how I found this one also. It’s amazing how many different experiences he had. Thanks for this great interview 🙂

  14. Tim, store your sperm…at least a “Minimum Effective Dose.” Something in your DNA must be protected. Your work is killer-good, and I’m amazed at how prolific you are. Rage on!

  15. Used to be I could download podcast directly to my Android phone. Last month or so, that hasn’t worked. So now it’s a pain and inconvenient for me to listen. Not sure if anyone else has the same issue.

  16. Please consider bringing Traver Boehm onto your podcast. [Moderator: link removed]

    Also: I am a HUGE fan of your podcast! I literally mention you and your podcast often in my 5-minute journal (which I have thanks to you:)). Thank you!

  17. Hi Tim and fellow readers, lately I’ve been thinking of something and I believe that this is the place where the anwers might be.

    How do you know that you actually know or know how to do certain things workwise? I’m thinking of strategic work. (And/or how important is it to know that you do know what you’re doing?)

    Please excuse any wordings that might be wrong, English is my second language, feel free to let me know if I can clarify in any way.

    Hej and thanks in advance for any input you might have!

  18. Shep is an amazing living legend and one of my favorites. Been hoping for this interview since I first heard about Shep. So happy to hear it. Loved the documentary and it was great to read about the life in Shep’s own words. Thank you both!

  19. My favourite episode yet! Shep is the man! I literally bought Supermench after hearing this podcast. Thank you thank you thank you!!

    What an amazing life, service to others is the answer.


  20. In the episode, Shep mentioned a book on cooking rice that was basically all about the intention of cooking rice with one paragraph at the end on actually cooking rice. Has anyone been able to find it?

  21. Great episode Tim! Your sharing of your challenges, and how you get through them is inspiring. Awesome quote from Arnold too. Keep up the good work! (I was worried I would not find another good podcast to listen too : )