How Shep Gordon turned clients like Alice Cooper into stars

You guys are about to meet one of my heroes.

I’ve watched his documentary 30 times because I love his creativity so much.

Shep Gordon is an American talent manager, Hollywood film agent, and producer.

In this interview we’ll talk about he turned clients like Alice Cooper and Luther Vandross into stars.

Shep Gordon is an American talent manager, Hollywood film agent, and producer.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Aloha, straight from Hawaii, you guys are about to meet my–well, one of my heroes. See, a few years ago, I heard that Johnny Depp got drunk at an award show and I went online to see the video of it. And you know what? He seemed a little off to me, for sure, but ultimately I didn’t really care about it.

What I did care about, though, was as soon as his mic was cut off and it was cut off, they went off to a trailer for this thing called “Supermensch,” a documentary about a guy I’d never heard of before, Shep Gordon. And all these celebrities started talking about how much he helped them, how he made them famous, people like chef Emeril Lagasse, the rock star Alice Cooper, the Dalai Lama were all on camera.

So I went out and I got the documentary, and this guy is so freaking creative. I just kept watching it. Thirty times I watched this documentary. I’m not someone who watches things over and over again, but “Supermensch” was just like this thing that I would always keep on in the background because I loved the creativity. I loved the way it was put together.

And I got his book too when he came out with a book. It’s called “They Call Me Supermensch.” I use the audio book to fire me up, to give me ideas. I did this run, 21 miles. I set out to do 4, I ended up 21 miles because I just kept wanting to listen to the audio book. I really recommend it. It’s called “They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food and Rock and Roll.”

And I’m so honored to have him here as my guest thanks to two sponsors. The first is Toptal. The second is Acuity Scheduling. I’ll tell you more about them later. But first, Shep, the legend, thanks for being here.

Shep: Aloha. Great to be here. What a beautiful introduction. Thank you.

Andrew: Be honest with me. Did you have a hand in getting Johnny Depp drunk or whatever he was at that–

Shep: I really don’t think he was drunk. Johnny is not a public speaker. He’s very, very uncomfortable in public speaking, very uncomfortable. That’s why you never see him do it. When I went up, he was shaking. He was literally shaking.

Andrew: I see. So it was just that he wasn’t–

Shep: I don’t think he was drunk at all. I didn’t ask him. I couldn’t smell it, but I think he was really just nervous.

Andrew: You did look a little horrified in the audience, but you have to forgive me for thinking that you did because I saw the documentary. I saw things like how you got Alice Cooper naked on stage except for something and then you–can you tell that story? I think it will give people a sense of the way people operated back then.

Shep: This is 1968 or ’69. We were young guys with no real boundaries. Rock and roll was the thing to do. Alice was a band. I was a pharmaceutical salesman looking for a more legitimate path.

Andrew: Pharmaceutical salesman means. . .

Shep: Selling drugs without a license.

Andrew: I see. Okay. Jimi Hendrix was one of your clients of the pharmaceuticals, okay. Yes.

Shep: What we talked about, Alice and I, was that maybe a faster path to stardom and money, because that was our goal, stardom really wasn’t important. We wanted to buy lunch. None of us had any money. We saw that this common thread in people like Elvis Presley, as a young child, Alice and I were very affected seeing Elvis Presley on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and they wouldn’t show his hips. That’s when we all went to him because our parents said, “He’s disgusting.” The Beatles, they were disgusting. They had long hair. The Rolling Stones urinated on gas stations.

The thing they all had in common was parents heard about them and told their kids not to go see them. So we said, “Okay, how do we get parents to tell their kids not go see us?” Maybe that’s an easier path. Let’s get arrested for indecent exposure. We’ll get the police to arrest us. The parents will read it in the newspaper and go, “Oh my god, a guy named Alice Cooper naked on Sunset Strip. This is disgusting.”

So we spent maybe our last $30 on clear plastic, which we made into suits, a fatal error, and there was a club on Sunset called The Experience. A fellow name Marshall Brevetz owned it. He let us get up for 15 minutes before Buddy Miles, who was headlining that night.

In those days it was phone booths. Usually they were by the bathroom at a restaurant or a club. So I went to the phone booth where I couldn’t see the stage, put the band on naked in clear plastic suits, maybe five people in the room and called the police and said, “Oh my god, this is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen. Five guys with long hair down to their legs, I think they may even be gay and they’re naked and I have my children here and you can’t do this.”

You hear the sirens coming about 60 seconds later because L.A. was a police state at the time. There were police everywhere on Sunset Strip. You didn’t have to wait for them. But by the time they came, the heat of their bodies had fogged up the plastic. So the police came in, looked around and left. But we had our path. We knew that was our journey, and we looked at each other and said, “I think it’s time to get out of L.A. We can’t even get arrested.”

Andrew: With all the police everywhere, you still couldn’t get arrested. So that didn’t do it?

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: What did do it for you, then?

Shep: The thing that really got it was we went on the road. We ended up in Detroit. We had an ovation in Detroit at a festival maybe three months later. From my college connections I ended up being hired, because they thought I was an L.A. rock and roll genius because I was managing a band, to do a festival that John Lennon was going to be on in Canada. I said I would do it if Alice could go on before John Lennon. He ended up going on between The Doors and John Lennon.

He threw chicken off stage that night and the chicken got ripped apart. The headline the next day was, “Alice Cooper Tears the Head Off a Chicken and Drinks Its Blood.” That went viral at a time when there was no viral, but it went viral. That’s what made him. That was the defining moment of the career.

Andrew: You know what? For a long time, Shep, if you wanted to be a musician, it seems like the path was to have everyone’s parents hate you. Today that doesn’t seem true anymore. Today, whether it’s a musician or an entrepreneur, it’s almost like you need to have the parents admire you. Do you agree?

Shep: No. I don’t agree at all. I think grandparents may be different than parents. I can tell you as a parent, my–just a personal story . . .

Andrew: Please.

Shep: I was walking out of my bedroom, 1:00 in the morning 20 years ago, maybe 15 years ago and I heard coming out of the bedroom really offensive loud music, words that I would never allow in my house for my kids to ever say. I open the door and I said, “What is this shit you’re listening to?”

And as I said it, I knew it was the next thing. It was rap. It was, “Hey, motherfuckers . . .” So I don’t know if I completely agree with you. I think now those people like my kids are now parents who have kids. They’re playing hip-hop, so the kids are going to Adele. That circle continues.

Andrew: I see. Adele is kind of too weak for the parents who grew up on hip-hop, and that’s why the kids are going to them.

Shep: It’s a generation. It just keeps going. It’s that way in every part of culture. It’s that way. In the culinary world, I had a discussion with someone yesterday with someone who was having a birthday. She said, “I’ll go into the restaurant, but it’s so noisy.” We got into this cultural discussion. I said I watched the same metamorphosis in the culinary arts.

When I was a customer, like I was a customer of music, the things that were important to me were that I could get a reservation so I knew I wouldn’t have to wait, that I could get a quiet table for my party, that I could hear the other people talking at my table, those are the things important to diners of my age who were foodies. Now, the hot restaurants, you can’t get a reservation because they don’t take them. These communal tables, you have to sit with other people and they’re always too noisy.

Andrew: I see. You’re saying it’s always about pissing off the people that came before. If we want to create something new today, we should not ignore that. How do we piss off the people who are there now?

Shep: I wouldn’t say it’s 100%, but I would say that’s one cultural revolution that always needs a face. In terms of being someone who brands things or is looking for creative new ways to touch an audience, those waves are really significant.

Andrew: You obviously made or you helped make Alice Cooper into a superstar. You said in your book, “I wanted to see if my operating principles still worked, if they worked outside of Alice Cooper. So I went and took on Anne Murray.” That made me think–first of all, I like her music a lot.

Shep: She’s a great artist.

Andrew: So good. That’s the interesting thing about your book. I went and found some of the music on Spotify to listen to that you referred to. What I was wondering what were your operating principles? What was it that you were looking to test?

Shep: I didn’t really know. I think out of the box was a big part of it. I just did what I thought of and that was very unusual. I worked with Alice because Alice was sort of a freak icon. But did it work in a mainstream way? Could those kinds of things really work? My passion is not music. But I felt like I was developing a craft that I was good at. So I wanted to try and see if my principles worked.

Andrew: Here’s one of the principles you did mention. You said guilt by association is big.

Shep: Yeah. Especially in those days it was big. It was very different. There were very few media outlets. So if you got a photograph that went what I would call went viral, that meant you got Newsweek or Time or Rolling Stone or an AP column. There was AP and UPI. If you got an AP photo, you would get to 2,500 newspapers, 3,500 newspapers. That was the easiest way for me to get my message across.

For Alice, I would do sick things, naked billboards I could get photos of. For Anne, it was how do I take someone who is a gifted artist but has no real personality to her audience other than her gifted music. My thought was if I could put the icons of music, the Mount Rushmore around her endorsing her, it would give people a look inside and see why these people were doing it. I thought if they heard her voice, that was my job.

Andrew: So one of the people was John Lennon, who hadn’t been visible at the time. You said look, I went to The Hollywood Vampires, this group that Alice Cooper put together with John Lennon, the lyricist that worked with Elton John and others, and you said–sorry?

Shep: That night was Harry Nielsen and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees and The Monkees were gigantic at that time, like gigantic.

Andrew: But here’s the thing that I wonder. You said, “I will do anything for you guys if you let me get a photo taken with you.” John Lennon doesn’t need anything from you. He’s already hanging out with your guy, leave him alone. I’m wondering what did you do? What is the magic you have that gets John Lennon to do this thing he doesn’t want to do for free to help you out, basically to help you build your career and someone else’s career? What is that magic that allows you to persuade people? In that case, let’s talk about that specific example.

Shep: I wouldn’t say it’s magic. I think the way in which you deal with people sometimes comes back to you. I was very good to all these guys. I was sort of the designated driver. They’d get screwed drunk. I would drive them home. I would do anything I could do to facilitate ease in their lives.

Andrew: So you had done that for them before.

Shep: Oh yeah.

Andrew: What’s an example of something you’ve done for one of them?

Shep: I drove all of them–Harry was a great friend. I spent a lot of time with Harry. Micky I’m still close with, Alice of course. I was really honest. Gas money doesn’t come cheap. This could help me get gas money. You want me to keep driving you?

Andrew: I see. Here’s the thing. I never understood how Larry King could have all these celebrity friends. Then I heard him on Howard Stern one time, and he talked about how he is so good at drawing people out and he told great stories.

I realized if he has nothing but that, the ability to express interest in someone in a Dale Carnegie-like way and a way to tell stories in a fun way, I get why people would keep him around. I’m wondering with you, what is your magic? I still don’t know you that well. I only know you through these two products. What is your magic that allows you to have relationships with all these different people who could speak with anyone?

Shep: I think maybe I enjoy and have been trained in service. I really enjoy service. I think people feel it. That translates into making their lives better. I think I consciously think about it if I touch someone like Johnny Appleseed, except I’m planting happiness. I really think about life like that. What can I do to make this person’s life a little better, make this moment a little better? I think if you deal with humans, particularly artists in a way that they’re just humans, you get a lot back. And I’m careful with who I choose to give my service too.

Andrew: I see. You weren’t just driving any random person who wanted to come from the Whisky a Go Go. You were giving–I see.

Shep: People who I knew would give it back and appreciated it and were thankful or in big need.

Andrew: You mentioned Groucho Marx. You helped him get his finances in order in the book. The thing I’m wondering is there are a lot of people who do that, who are of service to others and no one takes them seriously because they’re like the pets that want to help you out. You’re not like that. There’s an edge to you too. I’m wondering why–what do we do if we want to take that lesson from you, be of service to others, pick the right people? How do we do it in a way that keeps us from looking like we’re sycophants or slavishly following them?

Shep: Yeah. That’s a very difficult question. I think that the body of work you develop in many ways to other people who are professional in what they do sort of defines who you are. The level of respect comes along with it. So I think that I’m still a groupie to a big extent. Part of what makes me a groupie is understand how difficult it is to get to that place where someone wants to be your groupie and to keep your smile on your face. So I’m definitely a groupie. I work really hard to get to the people who I want to meet and I try and make their lives a little better when I do so they understand it’s not just give and take.

Andrew: I see.

Shep: I think it’s a body of work for a lot of professionals, especially in the entertainment world. We’re all very cautious. The fool’s gold aspect of the entertainment business and I guess the tech business today is so strong that it attracts so many people and it’s really the body of work. I have a reputation in the industry for winning. Artists love to be next to people who win because every artist thinks that their success, their last success was the last one they’re ever going to have. It’s part of what drives the creativity in an artist, this constant fear that the well is empty.

Andrew: Yeah. I get that. I kind of feel like it’s the same for an entrepreneur in the sense that I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 20, actually pretty much my whole life, and there’s always a fear that I’m going to end up in a box outside, which is why I work hard. I pass people here in the Mission in San Francisco who live in tents outside and I think, “That can be me next year. I better work harder.”

Shep: I probably calculate the interest on my money every day in my Jacuzzi.

Andrew: Literally?

Shep: It’s so Jewish.

Andrew: Wow. How much interest have you made last year? Are you liquid? Do you have real cash, or are we going to find out you worked this hard and there was nothing at the end?

Shep: I don’t have what one might think I have, but I have enough to be comfortable. I never was an accumulator. That never was my thing. When I look back at my career, the only things I would really change was how I dealt with the economics of my career.
Andrew: Meaning?

Shep: I would have–I always felt very independent. I never took any money for anything after I stopped working on it with one or two exceptions. The rule in the business was the opposite. So if I manage Luther Vandross, for example, every other manager in the world would collect on the albums they worked on in perpetuity for as long as Luther did. When I would leave it was, “Thank you, give the money to your kids.”

Andrew: I see.

Shep: I don’t know if it was arrogance or what I needed for myself, but that’s the only thing I probably would have changed. It’s not like I sit and think about it.

Andrew: Emeril Lagasse’s spices, did you own a piece of that?

Shep: I still do.

Andrew: You still do, 50% of the business?

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: I think I read that in–there was a book about him and the Food Channel. I thought, “Whoa, Shep Gordon, that’s what he did? I thought he just helped him get big.”

Shep: No. I did all my business pro bono with all the chefs.

Andrew: You did?

Shep: Yes, with the exception of when I got to Food Network on the air, what I did in lieu of payment for the chefs, I got them one commercial spot in the show. So, Emeril had one 60-second spot. I went to Emeril and said, “I’ll finance and run some product to put on there. We’ll go partners on it. I don’t know if it will work, not work, we’ll see what we do.”

It was spices. I funded it and we stayed partners. It was actually a great moment with Emeril when the agency I had put him with got an offer from a very big spice company, B&G Spices, to buy out the company and continue to pay a royalty but make a huge sum to Emeril overall for all of his products. I only had a handshake with Emeril. I never did contracts with my artists.

So he sent me an email from his agent, who I had gotten him saying, “I got you this big offer. You don’t have anything in writing with Shep so you really don’t have to pay him anything. If you want, I’ll take care of it. I’ll take the meeting with him.” Emeril sent me the email and he said, “Next time you’re in New York, we’re going to meet in the office. I want to read this email in front of him.” And he did and he said, “Now we’re going to have paper.” We put it into paper 50/50.

Andrew: Wow. Because you have said, “I got them all the contracts to lock them and protect them. I never did it for myself.”

Shep: Right.

Andrew: All right. There’s something that you do that’s been sticking in my head ever since I heard you do it. But let me just do a quick sponsorship break and tell people about Toptal. You’d love this thing. Toptal is a company that gets like Google-level developers in a network and when companies need to hire great developers, they go to Toptal and Toptal brings them in part-time, full-time, etc.

It turns out, Shep, there are a lot of agencies here in San Francisco that will build your iPhone app, your mobile app, whatever. I said to a friend of mine, “How are they doing all this? How did they hire all these developers to do everything?” He said, “A lot of them are shadow agencies.”

What they do is they do go to Toptal–like they do maybe iOS iPhone apps and then when you say, “I need an Android app,” they say, “Oh yeah, we’ve got a developer.” What they do is go to Toptal and say, “I need a developer who will pretend to be on my team and I can hire him out to do Android while our guys do iOS.” It’s a whole big thing. A lot of companies depend on them because they’re that good.

If you guys are listening to me and you want a great developer, Google-level, Facebook-level developer at a great price and you can actually start off with them tomorrow, in some cases, I want you to go check out Toptal.com/Mixergy. When you do, you’re going to discover that not only is this company one of I think the unicorns in that they’re over a $1 billion valuation, investment by Andreessen Horowitz, they’re created by a longtime Mixergy fan.

So he’s giving you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours and that’s in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. Go check them out. Top as in top of the mountain, tal as in talent, Toptal.com/Mixergy. I didn’t have anything in writing with them either. I just kind of knew the guy.

Shep: More better, much more better.

Andrew: Frankly, if you do have something in writing, what are you going do? I’m going to sue him? He’s going to sue me? It’s not worth it. We’ll lose all our money anyway. Here’s what you say. In the book, you say that you say thank you every morning and you actually seem to say it twice in the book.

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: You never say thank you. So, in my head, whenever I’m grateful to someone, like Jason Gaignard introduced me to you, in my head, I keep saying, “Jason Gaignard, thank you,” with your voice in my head. Do you really start out still to this day saying thank you in the mirror?

Shep: I do.

Andrew: You do?

Shep: It’s not the first second and it’s not in the mirror. It’s usually as I hit the sand on my walk. I live on a beach and I usually get out there right after sunrise and make a little meditation and say thank you and thank you, thank you.

Andrew: Why say that and what’s the benefit of it? Let’s talk to the 20-year old you who would want to understand why he might want to say, “Thank you, thank you.” That guy who was hustling.

Shep: Interesting you would say that. It’s actually a different moment since the election. But my thank you is really I am so lucky. I think first of all, where you drop out of the womb is unbelievable that I dropped out in America in this time. That’s unbelievable. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’m healthy. I have some love in my life. These days, I’m on this most beautiful beach. I have clean air and clean water and all the food I can eat. That’s rare. For the human species on this planet, that is rare. I can read through that list every morning and go on forever.

Andrew: What list? Oh, the list of things. Here’s the thing. If anyone else said this to me, I’d say woo-woo guy, I’ve got to pay attention for a moment and then move on. Because it’s you, Shep, because you’ve built so much, I feel like there’s more than woo-woo to it. I feel like there’s something else and I have to admit, I don’t understand what it is but I feel close to understanding that there’s some benefit to it beyond just showing appreciation. What am I missing here that you’re tapping into?

Shep: I think in every spiritual journey, repetition–I went to Bali for the first time and it’s the most amazing–excuse me, to Thailand for the first time–but it’s the most amazing place. It’s a Buddhist country. The vibe in the air is different. What they really attribute it to, a lot is ritual. They all have little temples in their house or in their yard. They all pick a flower every day and put it in their temple. It makes them think about the things that are important and not important. That’s what the, “Thank you, thank you,” for me does. It’s a ritual that helps me really focus on how lucky I am and makes me happy.

Happy is sort of the end goal of my journey. I don’t know what all the rest of this stuff is. It’s stuff I do. If I can be happy, if I can wake up happy, go to sleep happy and not hurt anybody, that’s a nice thing. Having these rituals in my life helped me. There were times when I lived in L.A. when I’d wake up in the morning and say, “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” I don’t want to be in that place.

Andrew: I used to do that too. I kind of felt like maybe that anger is what fired me and now being happy keeps me from having that kind of energy. Is there any truth to what am I saying or am I just connecting two things that aren’t really related?

Shep: I think it’s possible. I think everything is choices. It definitely is possible, but I know my choice is happy.

Andrew: I see.

Shep: But these are conscious choices. You can consciously choose to wake up saying, “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” and usually your day will follow that path or you can choose to wake up and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Andrew: You mentioned Bali. Bali does something similar to. Everyone has their offering in front of their stores. I actually felt so bad, I thought, “What if I step on it?” They make these beautiful little square offerings full of flowers and food and money. Sometimes people step on it accidentally and they’re not moved by it, they’re not there to be upset you just stepped on it, but it does mean something to them. Even the driver who’s driving you around will put an offering on his dashboard.

Shep: It’s their ritual way of remembering to be thankful and how lucky they are and there’s something bigger than them.

Andrew: You mention visualizing in the book. How do you visualize and how has that helped you?

Shep: I can tell you the externals of the process. I don’t really know the internals. The externals–for me when I have so much of my work is what I call non-directional. It’s sitting and thinking for hours on something and then it sort of happens sometimes, most of the time. I used to tell all my clients if you want a no, I can get that for you really fast. If you want a yes, it’s a stomach thing. I can’t tell you when it’s going to happen. So, for me, it’s a quiet space. Water works really well for me, Jacuzzi I spend a lot of time in. Cannabis, marijuana really–

Andrew: Smoking?

Shep: Yeah, smoking really gets me to a place where I’m not as grounded. Then I sort of space travel. My focus is on creating history when I do that. It’s how do I help my brand create history, do the right thing, send the right message? It’s just accumulation of stuff and somehow I’ve been very lucky. It comes out. I can’t give you a clear path to it. But it’s definitely by getting away from the realities of the world and getting into a zone where I can time travel.

Andrew: When you say time travel, what do you mean by that?

Shep: I mean I can–here’s an example. My job, I managed an artist named Teddy Pendergrass. There were a lot of great soul singers, R&B soul singers. How do I separate his brand in an honest way, make a gigantic statement and get the masses rather than obscure artists? Artists, art appeals to a small audience. Cultural revolutions, cultural waves appeal to gigantic audiences. So, a Jean-Luc Ponty may be the greatest violin player in the world. That’s tiny. But you get to a U2 playing to political rebellion and it’s. . .

Anyway, how do I define Teddy to his audience without being cheap with them being able to think they discovered it, all the things you want for your brand? It took me–that one came really fast. He made me wait outside his dressing room for a couple hours at my first show with him, got me really angry.

I kept thinking about when I got to see him finally, I said, “Teddy, this is crazy what you’re doing. I’m really pissed. You sat on a stool tonight. Every lady in that audience wanted to make love to you and you sat on a stool. Just retire. Get out of here or give it up.” One thing led to another and I said, “We should do a show just for women, let them all be naked.” As I said it, I went back and I sent maybe two or three days of joints and thinking and came up with this concept of doing concerts for women only, which everyone told me I couldn’t do.

But I saw it. I took that thought and I kept time traveling. Okay. It’s Radio City Music Hall. They’re dressed to the T’s. I said, “Let me give them chocolate teddy bear lollipops to lick on.” I saw that moment, that story, Teddy plays for women only. I knew if I could get that story out, that defined exactly who he was and it would get every other woman to want to look in and go, “Why are all these women . . .?” That’s one example of what I call time traveling.

Andrew: Okay. I’m picking up on a few things here. First of all, guilt by association, time traveling is this visualization exercise. Weed is part of the process. The other one was a cultural wave. You and I talked about that before we started. You’re looking for a cultural wave. What does it mean? Can you give me an example that you helped someone ride?

Shep: I would say the culinary movement was a cultural wave. When I was growing up, restaurants were generic and they weren’t in demand. My parents went to a Chinese retirement on Friday night. It wasn’t part of my life. I didn’t grow up, get my driver’s license and drive to a restaurant. I went to Nathan’s or I had a hot dog or maybe we went to a fast food stand, but the concept that an evening of entertainment would be the restaurant didn’t exist, wasn’t part of the world.

As I moved into the early 70s, mid-70s, there started to be this phenomenon of owner restaurants, not with their names normally, but there was a personality, a little touch. So, there was like Spago in L.A. For me as a business guy, if I got really successful, I could maybe get a table at Spago. But I had to maybe win an Academy Award, do something. I couldn’t just call up and get in. I could buy tickets on the 50-yard line of a football game. I could get to the first row of a Broadway play.

But Spago I couldn’t just–same thing in New York, Le Cirque, in Chicago, there’s a place, Charlie Trotter’s. These were inaccessible to the public, which meant there was gigantic demand. Demand is what creates brands. So, I saw the demand. This was a cultural revolution. People are now–when I would say to someone, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to Spago tonight.” No one when I was growing up said, “I’m going to a restaurant.” It was like, “I’m going to see Led Zeppelin.”

Andrew: You don’t even remember the name of the Chinese restaurant your parents went to, to include in the story.

Shep: Yeah. But getting into Spago was a badge of honor for these people.

Andrew: I see.

Shep: To me that was a cultural revolution. You could see it coming. But there was no face. There was no real face to it. That’s what I tried to do with Emeril and the other guys was give it a face. In the case of the chefs, it was very complicated and very simple. In the case of musicians, highways existed to their audience.

So, if you think of Michael Jackson, in the 1700s, he would be a wandering minstrel. The advent of stereos, radio, MTV made Michael Jackson what Michael Jackson is–availability of someone to touch him anywhere in their universe. The chefs didn’t–so, I could take a music act like an Alice or a Teddy and move into those highways, radio just to touch people. I just had to get airplay. TV existed. I just had to get the clip on.

Andrew: But for the chefs it didn’t exist.

Shep: It didn’t exist. There were no highways. They were wandering minstrels. They cooked for 120 people in their location. That was it. That was what I felt part of my job was, my first step, get the food network on the air, a highway to media. Get pots and pans in the stores. Get spices in the stores, a highway for people to touch them outside of their restaurants. Get them to start doing multiple restaurants so in different cities you could get–that’s a cultural revolution manifested.

Andrew: By the way, I just wrote down highway to customers. Am I being a little anal by trying to come up with the bullet points from your life instead of allowing the bigger lessons to wash over me?

Shep: No idea.

Andrew: Okay. Cultural waves–I want to ask about that because it feels to me like when we were growing up, there was this big man theory of history, that the founders of Time Magazine were big on that. They were going to find a human being to say, “This is the reason the world moved the way it did,” we’ll tell that human being’s story and help you understand the world as it is today.

I feel like that still sticks with us, this idea that if we want someone, we can go and make it big. What the cultural wave theory says is you can’t, like if you were a 1950s chef, you were not going to become an Emeril Lagasse. People weren’t ready for it no matter how determined you were. Is that possible?

Shep: Yeah. I think you became Julia Child, who had huge notoriety, but no way to monetize it, but gigantic acclaim. When the cultural wave comes, then you get both.

Andrew: That you need that cultural wave, so we have to pay attention to it.

Shep: Only for the giant homeruns. Everyone doesn’t have to hit a homerun. That doesn’t have to be the goal in life always to get that gigantic–everybody doesn’t have to be Elvis. But I think to partake in that gigantic–remember I had a lecture in school. Art always go to a small audience, whether it’s a Warhol painting or whatever, they’re always smaller audiences. They’re not millions and millions. So you have to appeal to more than just the artistic and the cultural wave plus the artistic point.

Andrew: Okay. I want to ask you about something–I do my own research for these interviews. I didn’t just read your book and I want to come back and ask you about some of the research I tried to do that didn’t work out. But first, let me tell you and everyone else about Acuity Scheduling. Shep, I wonder if you ever feel insecure–do you feel insecure still, to this day?

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: Not at all?

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: Good. I guess good because–

Shep: I wouldn’t say insecure but I have self-worth issues.

Andrew: You do? How does that manifest itself? I’ll come back to Acuity in a moment.

Shep: In every action of every day.

Andrew: Really? Do you have an example of something that’s happened over the last few days?

Shep: It’s a subtle filter. It’s not a dramatic filter, but it’s a subtle filter. It’s like not listening to my book.

Andrew: We talked about that before we started. Why don’t you listen to your book?

Shep: It’s some kind of self-worth something. I have no idea what.

Andrew: Maybe it’s not good enough. Here’s the thing. I love that you read your book. I wonder if like–sometimes I hear pages turn in your book, which I don’t usually hear. Maybe I’m listening more carefully than other times. Would that drive you crazy, that little bit of imperfection in yourself when you’re looking for perfection? It would?

Shep: Yeah. It wouldn’t drive me crazy but I know that the first four or five chapters I wasn’t on target as much as I would like to be. I started to get the rhythm after. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for me to listen.

Andrew: It’s so good partially because of the frailties, partially the fact that when you say idea, you always pronounce it “idear,” that is why it’s good. I don’t need a perfect voiceover artist for that.

Here’s what I was saying about Acuity Scheduling. I started doing these interviews, Shep and I asked people do interviews with me and it wasn’t working. I couldn’t get people to say yes often enough and I said, “It’s me. They don’t value me. I come from the bootstrap part of the internet world in New York in a basement in Queens is where I started. They are very much Silicon Valley. They don’t value me.” I got in my head about it. Then I realized actually it’s not me. What if it’s not?

What happened was I was making it too tough for people to say yes. If I really would have stopped and noticed, I’d realize some people were reaching back out to me and saying, “Andrew, I’m interested. When do we do it?” Then I’d come back to them and say, “When are you free?” And then they’d tell me when they were free. And it was back and forth until I’d lose touch with them and I’d think it’s me.

That’s when a mentor of mine, a guy named Bob Hyler said, “I did some research, Andrew, try this.” He introduced me to Acuity Scheduling. I tell Acuity Scheduling when I’m available, which frankly for you, Shep, is any minute. You can call me up at 2:00 in the morning, I’ll be available to record this interview. But in general, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are when I record between a specific block of times. I need a few minutes before and after the interview.

I tell it all to Acuity. Acuity then gives me a calendar that I could then give to every one of my guests. In fact, I embed it on my site. So now, when I want someone to do an interview, I say, “Here’s my availability.” They book a time. Boom. Suddenly it’s not just that my interviews flow well, it’s like I’m liked, which I want to be liked.

So I’m saying this you guys in my audience not because you’re doing interviews. Chances are you’re not doing interviews. But you want to get your customers on the phone because you want to understand what they bought from you or potential customers to understand what they’re looking for from companies like yours or maybe like one of my past guests, you want everyone who’s filling out a form for a week to at least reach out and connect with you on phones so you can understand why they’re interested in their business and what you can create to sell to them.

Whatever it is, if you’re trying to get more people on the phone or more meetings, I really urge you to check out Acuity Scheduling. It’s a great tool. There are more features than I’m going to get into here because I don’t want to bore Shep with it. So, instead I’m going to tell you guys it’s also created by a longtime Mixergy fan who’s giving us a lot of free time to use his software. If you want it, use this special URL. It’s just for Mixergy people. It’s AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy.

I’m a little intimidated to read ads with you here, Shep, but then I have to realize you’re an art and commerce guy. If anything, I should be intimidated that I’m not killing it with the ads.

Shep: I think it’s so great that companies are supporting you.

Andrew: I do too.

Shep: Yeah. I think that’s great.

Andrew: You mentioned a name Joey in the book and how you guys split up.

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: I said, “Joey?” I immediately go to Siri and I say, “Remind me in two hours to go look up who Joey is.” Joey is Joe Greenberg. I found him online. He will not return my chat messages on Facebook. Our mutual friends, basically he doesn’t want to talk to me, which I get. I’m curious. How does this cofounder factor into your story? Is this a little uncomfortable?

Shep: I wouldn’t say–it’s uncomfortable in the bigger picture and it’s uncomfortable in the littlest of pictures, but in the middle it’s okay.

Andrew: What do you mean? What’s the big picture and little?

Shep: The big picture is that we went through life together for many years. We ended up taking different paths. Mine has been very successful and high profile and his has been good but not as successful. I think at times it’s painful for him. I feel bad about that. On a small level, when I did the documentary and I watched the documentary, I never asked for creative oversight from Mike. It was his movie. I let it be his movie.

But when I saw the movie, I felt really bad that Joey had been left out of the movie because he was a very significant part of my success. I went to Mike and I said, “I have one problem with the movie,” and I told him what it was and he said, “I can’t go back and fix it.” I said, “Can I get a card as soon as the movie ends where I thank him and let me give him his due?” So, I did that.

The movie really upset him. We went through a very difficult period of time, which was not resolved. Then the book came out and he read about the book coming out and got even more upset. It became heated between us. Then he read the book. After he read the book, he sent a beautiful letter. I think that’s probably not coming on the show.

Andrew: To not make it–by the way, I just asked him for background research.

Shep: I think it’s very painful for him. But life can be that way.

Andrew: How did you guys connect?

Shep: We met at the bust station. I got a regent scholarship, lived in Oceanside. You can go to a New York State University school free. The furthest place was Buffalo, New York. I wanted to get as far as I could get from my home. So, I chose Buffalo. I went up on a midnight bus to Buffalo from the Greyhound station in Manhattan. I got there and I didn’t even want to sit with my parents. It was that rebellious period of like, “Walk across the street from me.”

Andrew: Yeah.

Shep: There was a guy sitting in the corner. I went over to talk to him. His parents, he was the same. It was Joey. We got on the bus together to go up to Buffalo and became best friends and went through the wars together.

Andrew: The pharmaceutical industry that you were in, pharmaceutical sales, you guys did it together. Can you remember a creative addition that he made that helped Alice Cooper establish himself?

Shep: Yeah. He was the guiding force for a lot of the beginning.

Andrew: What’s one example of what he did for Alice Cooper, Anne Murray?

Shep: We felt that we had to get Alice in The Fillmore. The Fillmore at that time was the place. We couldn’t get gigs anywhere. If you played The Fillmore–

Andrew: In LA, right?

Shep: No, in San Francisco.

Andrew: San Francisco.

Shep: Bill Graham’s Fillmore, if you played there, you could say, “Alice played at The Fillmore,” and clubs around the country would book you. So Joey hitchhiked up to San Francisco. I think took some acid and sat in Bill Graham’s office for three days. When he finally got to meet him, we’re like, “Serious, either you book the act or I am going to murder you.” And Joey, you could believe it from. He thought it was a female folk singer. So, he booked them on with Ike and Tina Turner. I didn’t go to the show. Joey went up with him. But Alice wore–we had a coat made up of all dead rats, which he wore that night.

Andrew: Literal dead rats?

Shep: Dead rats.

Andrew: Real dead rats? Okay.

Shep: Real dead rats. When we saw the Lady Gaga meat dress, we got hysterical. She’s a student of Alice’s. Real dead rats–we were doing anything we could to piss off parents. Our goal was to piss off parents. We didn’t care about anything else. So, Bill through him off the stage. I remember the line, “Either they fucking act or they fucking play music but they’re not doing both on my stage.” So he was very significant. He was a real driving force.

Andrew: The reason you guys split up was what?

Shep: That’s tough to talk about. If he chose to that would be his decision.

Andrew: Would you be okay with him if he wanted to do an interview here and talk about it?

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: You would?

Shep: I love him. He’s my brother.

Andrew: To this day? When was the last time you saw him for a meal?

Shep: Right when the movie came out. I wanted to see him before he saw it.

Andrew: I see. I will say this. I don’t know him well. But he’s got people who really love him. I think a lot of people were protecting him from me and I had to really be clear to say, “You can watch my body of work. I’m not skewered anyone. I’m just trying to understand the story. I’m looking for depth here.”

Shep: He’s a great guy.

Andrew: I saw they cared.

Shep: He’s a great guy and a great father. His kid is a fairly successful comedian.

Andrew: We mentioned cultural waves–how are you feeling, by the way? I’m looking at your eyes and I can see when there’s happiness and I can see when I’m a little confused by how you’re feeling? Has Buddhism helped you with this stuff?

Shep: I’m not a Buddhist.

Andrew: You’re not?

Shep: No.

Andrew: Has your experience with Buddhism helped you?

Shep: Yeah, very much so.

Andrew: How?

Shep: Just beautiful, compassionate service, joy, all the things that I sort of believe in come true in the Buddhist world.

Andrew: Do you still consider yourself Jewish?

Shep: Yeah, very much so.

Andrew: You do? Do you believe in God?

Shep: Yeah.

Andrew: You do?

Shep: I don’t know if the God is Jewish or not Jewish. I believe that somebody created this. This is not random.

Andrew: But the Jewish version of God not necessarily.

Shep: That I don’t know.

Andrew: Do you do Kiddush?

Shep: I do the High Holy Days. I do go to Temple once in a while. Actually, my high school buddy from the book, Dennis Greenstein was just here. I just got a package. He sent me Shabbat candles.

Andrew: I see.

Shep: He said, “[Inaudible 00:49:04] Shabbat,” and I said no and he sent me the candles.

Andrew: I see. Will you do the fast once a year?

Shep: I try to do the fast once a year. I go to Temple. I think of myself as a cultural Jew. I cook a lot of Jewish food. Tonight I’m making brisket. I have some friends coming in from Buffalo. So, I’m making brisket and latkes.

Andrew: You know the thing that got me in the book? You thought the Dalai Lama was vegetarian. I thought the Dalai Lama was vegetarian too. I just kind of assumed. It turns out he eats meat.

Shep: I think he’s back to vegetarian.

Andrew: I wonder how he’s–my wife is a lifelong vegetarian. I wonder how–I’ve adopted it, so I’m not looking down on meat or lack of meat. I wonder how he squares that with reincarnation.

Shep: What he says is very–is it better to kill a thousand blades of grass or one cow?

Andrew: Interesting. Okay. That says a lot. I admire people who can say a lot in a statement like that.

Shep: He sees the miracle in everything. There’s no difference to him between a piece of lettuce and a piece of meat in terms of the miracle of life. He sees the spirit in all that. He started to eat meat because of his health, his doctor.

Andrew: I see.

Shep: He said he needed to start eating meat again. That’s why he did. He loves meat.

Andrew: I get it. I miss it. Cultural waves, you notice some right now, huh?

Shep: I’d say cannabis is a big cultural wave right now. The presidential election slowed it down, took some of the steam out, but I think follow the money always applies, especially with this gang of characters that look like they’re in power. I hope for the people who need it that that’s true. But I think the only faces of the cannabis industry are exactly like the faces of the culinary industry before the advent of–in those days Aunt Jemima had nothing to do with the food, Chef Boyardee, generic.

In the cannabis world now, it’s people like Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, who were great artists and great to see them endorse it, but they don’t make the product. They don’t grow the buds. They’re not the core. They’re taking advantage of the wave.

Andrew: They’re like Michael Jackson with Pepsi as opposed to Emeril Lagasse with his spices.

Shep: Correct.

Andrew: I see. So does Snoop Dogg, then, does–that’s interesting. You can’t capitalize on it by being associated with it. It has to be you creating it or participating in it.

Shep: No. I think Snoop will definitely–he will make a lot of money on it, for sure. Willie Nelson, they all make a lot of money. But for me, what I do, it’s an opportunity to create some real faces. Chef Boyardee never could get to where Emeril could get to. He wasn’t real. Snoop Dogg can do great, but he’s Snoop Dogg. I think there are faces–I’ve met growers who are ex-Navy SEALs who are politically involved.

Andrew: I see. So, you’re working with them?

Shep: No. I’m not. I’m sort of meeting with some of them because they come on Facebook and ask for advice. There’s a wonderful guy I met who trained the fighter pilots in the Air Force, the Tom Cruise pilots. I can’t think of the name of them right now. Served two terms overseas, got wounded, came back. He now has licenses in Las Vegas for cannabis. He’s very politically active. He has a lot of friends who it’s really helped with PDD, a lot of veterans. He looks like the perfect republican face.

Andrew: Interesting.

Shep: He’s a wounded veteran.

Andrew: So what’s his path now? If we wanted to get him to rock stardom, what would we do?

Shep: His path is media, getting your story out, which I think is fairly simple to do. It was easier before the election, but I think everybody in the media is playing around with the cannabis world. Nobody’s really got humans to deal with. This is a perfect human. This would be a perfect Sanjay Gupta interview. This would be a perfect “Morning Joe” interview. This is an all-American wounded veteran talking about not recreational but the medicinal good that it does.

Getting books out by him–the same thing, touching his audience in many ways, getting books, maybe getting his brand out because he does have a brand in Vegas, getting his speaking at different events, getting him at SXSW as the face of cannabis, jumping ahead and saying if I go to SXSW, which is the perfect spot, how do I get them to present them to their audience as the face of cannabis? So I would try to get an event that’s called, actually, “The Face of Cannabis.”

Andrew: I see. It would need to be some kind of event, a party or something to highlight him.

Shep: That’s one idea. That’s one thought.

Andrew: The reason I’m highlighting that as opposed to what I might initially think of, which is how do we get him to speak and call Hugh over at SXSW and say that he should be speaking. You’re saying it’s got to be more than just a speech. It’s got to be an event.

Shep: Give them a reason to do it or way to–maybe come in with a sponsor. It’s maybe the paraphernalia so you’re giving out stuff to draw people. Maybe it’s a musical act tied with him. He’s a wounded veteran. You can get a lot of support. Try and build an event.

Andrew: The event needs to stand up for what he is, which is the face. I see. So, in the beginning of Mixergy, I did an event at SXSW. I got to speak, but also did an event, invited grew people to speak, but it was a Mixergy event as opposed to an event that communicated what my message was and that’s the challenge. How do you communicate the message? Do you also have to irritate people or do something to shock them to get their attention?

Shep: It depends what you’re trying to get to, but in this case I don’t think so. I don’t know the organizer of the SXSW, but I’m sure many of them smoke cannabis. Many of them are very sensitive to the issue. We all love our veterans.

Andrew: But it can’t be like a smoke off where you get together for a Face of Cannabis event and we’re all smoking to put it in your face. That’s distasteful.

Shep: It’s really distasteful for that. I think the power is in the medical message.

Andrew: Okay.

Shep: And the purity of it, the selflessness of it.

Andrew: Speaking of selflessness, I’m wondering why you did this interview. You don’t need to sell more books. I understand if when you were back in book promotion mode you did it. You’d say, “I’m reaching out to an audience of business people who are likely to buy the book. They should by the book.” Why are you doing this? I’m grateful but why?

Shep: I have no idea.

Andrew: You don’t know?

Shep: I guess because it’s presented. I wake up in the morning. I think I say it in most of my stuff. I wake up in the morning, I do what I do and I go to sleep at night. It’s all goal-oriented. But Jason has been really good to me.

Andrew: Jason Gaignard, so good to me too. He lives that do for others attitude, the guy who founded Mastermind Talks. How has he been good to you?

Shep: He contacted me when he saw I was doing the book and he asked if he could help me. Did I have any desire he said he could help me with? I said I would love to be on The New York Times bestseller list for my ego.

Andrew: Okay.

Shep: He said, “I can help you with that.” I trusted him and he did. We made the bestseller list. It’s been a great relationship. He was here. He came with his family, a couple weeks they spent here.

Andrew: To your place in Hawaii? Wow.

Shep: That was my thank you gift to him, thank you for the help. When he was here he said he had a friend who did podcasts and he wanted to do me and I said, “Absolutely, whatever you want.”

Andrew: Wow. I’m so glad. I don’t know how–here’s the weird thing about it. He did this for me. It means so much.

Shep: It’s a coupon.

Andrew: Maybe that’s a good way to do it. I was going to say I feel so guilty. He did so much for me on this. He really went out of his way, kept following up. I feel guilty. But you’re right, just think of it as a coupon. He’s got a coupon with me.

Shep: Absolutely.

Andrew: If he ever needs anything, he can come in.

Shep: We’re the only ones who can do it, humans. Nobody else–

Andrew: Do you ever feel like–the other thing about this coupon is he can come out of nowhere and ask me for something and what if I can’t do it? What if I don’t follow through for some reason?

Shep: You’ll figure out how to do it.

Andrew: That’s it? That’s the attitude? All right. For Jason, I would do it even if he didn’t have a coupon with me, such a good guy.

Shep: Great guy.

Andrew: All right.

Shep: You asked me earlier about Buddhism and he has all those qualities that I am attracted to in Buddhism without being a Buddhist.

Andrew: Including the shaved head. Does he still buzz his head?

Shep: Including the shaved head, yeah. But he’s compassionate. He’s of service. He’s selfless, all the good stuff. And he’s joyful.

Andrew: Yeah. He really is. Well, thank you so much for doing this interview. It means so much. This is the one interview my wife has just been talking about, “So, did you get to do it yet? Has it happened? I’ve been looking forward to it.” There’s no reason for me to so to people that they should go get the book, not for you, for my sake. Frankly, if you get the book or the audio book, you’re going to love it so much that you’re going to think higher of me for it. And the documentary, if you like documentaries is fantastic. I thought Mike Meyers did such a good job with it.

Shep: Amazing job.

Andrew: The only thing I wish he’d done is–tell me if you agree with this–he said that when he was hurt, you rescued him like a little bird whose wing was broken and you helped him. You got so personal in that video, in that documentary. I wish he would have gotten personal about what crushed him to let him have a little bit of that heart. It felt like he was holding himself back in a place that it was safe to be open, agree?

Shep: A little bit. Comedians are very guarded. It’s an occupational risk.

Andrew: I get it, I guess.

Shep: I think because they expose themselves so hard in their actual craft. But I know his dad had passed away. It was a rough time for him. So I was really glad that I could help.

Andrew: I was too. There’s not really much for you. You’re not going to get more clients from it. I imagine you got a lot more Facebook contact than maybe you wanted in your life. But I tend to think Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are out there calling billionaires saying, “Please, give your money back. Commit to give your money back.” That’s nice. It’s really helpful. I don’t want to minimize it. But I really would like more people who have done great things in their lives to come back and say, “Here’s how I did it.”

I grew up with a Persian dad who would at the dinner table talk about what he learned from his grandparents, what he learned from his parents. There was this experience. We’re kind of missing out on it. Just like the old chefs used to make good food and as you said, you did this gesture, at the end of the night it goes away. I feel like we do these great things and at the end of our lives, it just goes away.

But I’ll tell you 100 years from now, 2,000 years from now somebody’s going to read your book and get something out of it, even it’s just like through a chip in their heads in the way we don’t anticipate. I’m glad that you did it and I appreciate that its’ out there.

Shep: Thank you.

Andrew: Thank you for doing this interview. Thank you all for being a part of it. Remember the two sponsors, the company that will help you hire your next great developer, Toptal.com/Mixergy and the company that will keep you from feeling like a loser that nobody loves and actually get you sales calls and support calls, go to AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy. Supermensch, thank you so much for doing this.

Shep: Mahalo.

Andrew: Mahalo–oh yes, the shirt, what does it say? “Don’t blame me. I voted for Alice” with a picture of Alice Cooper right in the center of the t-shirt. I love it. I love that you took the time to get undressed on camera with me to put that t-shirt on, that little bit of detail mattered a lot. Thank you so much. Bye, Shep.

Shep: Thank you. Aloha.

Andrew: Aloha.


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