Alumni Profiles

Shep Gordon

Chef, film producer and agent to the stars dishes up a creative career mix

Shep Gordon

Gordon close-up
UB degree: BA ’68, sociology; Favorite teacher: philosophy professor Fred Clifton; Interests: golf, cooking; Where you can find him: “I can usually be found at the stove or on the golf course when I am not in my home office ‘dialing for dollars.’” (Photo by Randy Jay Braun)

Don’t even try to top Shep Gordon’s “how I got my start” story. Quitting—after one day—his job as a probation officer in L.A., Gordon, BA ’68, checked into a Hollywood motel where Janis Joplin punched him out and Jimi Hendrix tipped him off that Alice Cooper needed a manager.

Gordon jumped on the opportunity—flukey though it was—to manage Alice, evolving the gig into an enviable career as talent manager, film producer and agent for celebrity chefs.

Once he started working with Alice (for whom he has been manager for 42 years now), Gordon’s client roster increased quickly. His work with artists such as Ann Murray, Blondie, the late Luther Vandross and other music and film stars ultimately led him to film production. Prompted by his success producing movies such as The Duellists and Kiss of the Spider Woman, Gordon created the U.S.’s first independent film production company, Alive Films, which oversaw movies by directors such as Wes Craven and John Carpenter.

The most recent phase of Gordon’s career began when he met “the godfather of nouvelle cuisine,” Roger Vergé, during the 1977 Cannes Film Festival. Already a restaurateur, Gordon became Vergé’s “grasshopper,” gaining a “true appreciation of the culinary arts.” In return, Vergé asked Gordon to make his profession respectable. Thus was born Gordon’s Alive Culinary Resources, an agency that represented renowned chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Alice Waters (and from which Gordon is now semiretired).

Gordon’s culinary avocation also brought about his most recent visit to UB, when he accompanied His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to his September 2006 university speaking engagement, an event Gordon helped arrange. He had developed a friendship with the esteemed leader of Tibetan Buddhism after hearing him speak in L.A. and offering his services as a chef. Over the past 10 years, Gordon has served on the board of the Tibet Fund and traveled with the Dalai Lama to various engagements.

“I was very proud to be a UB alum when His Holiness came to campus,” Gordon says. “We felt this was the finest program that any university has done.” Gordon, who makes his home in Kihei, Hawaii, chaired the organizing committee that brought the Dalai Lama to Maui for a two-day visit in April. “It was a great trip and I modeled it after the UB trip—students involved, cultural leaders … great stuff.”

Gordon has additional ties with UB through other activities: He has taken part in a Visiting Scholar Seminar Series, Hollywood 101; led a homecoming weekend program, Hollywood Comes to UB; and chaired the Media Studies Advisory Board. His affection for UB is evident: “The theater school is incredible,” he enthuses. “I love the feeling on campus.”

Story by Grace A. Lazzara