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The Insider

Hollywood talent legend revisits his UB salad days

Gordon speaks to undergraduates at UB last fall.

Gordon speaks to undergraduates at UB last fall. Photo: Douglas Levere

“The best years of my life were at UB, where I learned the value of forming friendships.”
Shep Gordon (BA ’68)

By Lauren Newkirk Maynard

Shep Gordon (BA ’68) was a bit of a goof-off in college. It was the ’60s, after all, and Gordon was on a new adventure, far from his not-so-happy childhood home on Long Island.

Gordon wasn’t a straight-A kind of guy at UB, but he did excel socially, joining the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and pulling some legendary practical jokes (see UB Yesterday). He also formed tight relationships with a diverse crew of classmates, now fellow alumni, including Daniel Alterman (BA ’66) and Gus Reichbach (BA ’67).

What’s remarkable about Gordon is how he has maintained those friendships throughout his wildly successful career as talent manager to the stars. According to Mike Myers’ 2013 documentary “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” Gordon moved to LA a year after graduating to become a probation officer for juvenile defenders. He lasted one day in that job, but a serendipitous choice of motel led to friendships with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, and then to a gig as manager of a then-unknown Alice Cooper.

Gordon did well by Cooper, and in the 1970s and ’80s, he helped build the careers of countless other music and film stars, including Anne Murray, Raquel Welch, Blondie, Rick James and Teddy Pendergrass. His entertainment company, Alive Enterprises, also went on to produce movies and pioneer the “celebrity chef” genre, launching the culinary empires of Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and others.

Gordon is still close to Cooper and many other stars who survived those heady days of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The Distinguished Alumnus Award winner isn’t shy about crediting UB as the place where it all began. “The best years of my life were at UB, where I learned the value of forming friendships,” he told a crowd of students during a visit to campus last October, following the documentary’s theater run.

The loner from Long Island discovered that, while you couldn’t choose your childhood, “you could choose your friends. And college—this is the last time in your life to make real ones.”