Published March 10, 2021
Hollywood manager, producer and UB alumnus Shep Gordon, BA ’68, returned to campus recently to connect with students and offer advice to those interested in a career in Hollywood.
The virtual talk, “In Conversation with Supermensch Shep Gordon: Hollywood Talent Management,” was part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Spring 2021 Alumni Lecture Series. It was presented by the International Artistic & Cultural Exchange (IACE) in the Department of Theatre and Dance, co-directed by Vincent O’Neill and Maria S. Horne.
During the lecture on March 3, Gordon offered his expertise to students in the BFA theatre performance and design tech programs, outlining how to find the right agent, and what career management and self-promotion look like for someone making a career in Hollywood. He also addressed how individuals can manage themselves and navigate various passions across a complex industry.
Co-moderated by senior BFA student Campbell McDade Clay and Tyler Bauer, EdM ’16 and BA ’14, associate director of advancement for student life, the conversation addressed the realities of a Hollywood career: the need to be comfortable with rejection while showing resilience in the industry.
“I realized really early by being an observer that rejection was the road to success in the entertainment world,” Gordon said. “You may not realize it, but it’s much less painful if you see rejection as getting you closer to success.”
Gordon is known as Hollywood’s well-loved manager and producer who helped launch the careers of Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Blondie, Pink Floyd, Anne Murray and others.
Originally from Long Island, Gordon’s ability to keep his clients in the headlines and in front of sold-out crowds made him one of the world’s most sought-after managers. Among his many accomplishments, he created the first independent film company in the U.S. and invented the craze of the celebrity chef, which sparked the fame of chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. His interest in the culinary field also led him to serve as the Dalai Lama’s 14th personal cook.
“Something I became very aware of, as my relationship with his holiness progressed, is that it is so temporary — this life we have — it’s so fleeting,” he said, reflecting on his friendship with the Dalai Lama. “You have to do what you think is going to work and what is going to make you happy. Do you really want to say, oh, that was too risky? No, I don’t think so. That only prevents you. You can only do good work if you’re happy. You can fake it for a while, you can have unbelievable talent that covers it up for a while, but good work comes out of being happy. Happy in your skin. Comfortable in your skin.”
Gordon remains connected to UB, and talked about his experiences while offering advice to students about embracing their time in college. “Yesterday I spent three-and-a-half hours on a phone call that I’ve done every week since the pandemic started. It’s with 38 of my fraternity brothers from UB and it’s the best three hours of the week for all of us,” he told students. “You are in a moment in your life that’s unbelievable … Try to remember how important these friendships are and will be for the rest of your lives.”
Gordon last visited campus in 2014 for a screening of “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” the documentary that brought his unique life story to the big screen. He, along with other UB alumni, also paid tribute to fellow UB alumnus Gustin L. Reichbach, BA ’67, as part of that visit.