Ingram “Burt” Shavitz

Ingram Berg Shavitz, better known as just Burt, has one of the more famous beards in America. It adorns all of the products of a billion-dollar company, Burt’s Bees, which he co-founded some thirty years ago and is now the “#1 natural brand” in America.

Burt is a fascinating character. I just watched a lovely documentary about him, Burt’s Buzz (on Netflix now!) and can therefore tell you  a few things about him.

Ingram "Burt" Shavitz, who clearly objects to the name "shavitz".

Ingram “Burt” Shavitz, who clearly objects to the name “shavitz”.

He has a marvelous long beard, which has been a trademark of his for decades. Today it’s an actual trademark as part of Burt’s Bees product packaging as well, which is more than you can say for most people’s facial hair (ZZ Top being a possible exception).

But Mr. Shavitz wasn’t always a mountain man. He was born in Long Island, New York, and for a while in the 60’s and 70’s was a very successful photographer in the city, first for a Jewish weekly paper, then for Time magazine. He took a lot of great pictures, and snapped shots of big important folk™ including Malcolm X and JFK. All sorts of people with letters as their name, really.

He eventually tired of life in the concrete jungle and like many reasonable people would, decided to move to rural Maine to live in a small cottage with no running water or electricity. He then became a beekeeper when someone offered him some bees.  You all know how it is, someone offers you bees, you can’t just turn that down.

Some bees, earlier.

Some bees, earlier.

Burt began making some honey and selling it to local natural food stores, the modest beginning of the now huge company that bears his name. He then met the well-named Roxanne Quincy when he picked her up as a hitch-hiker. They hitched up together in Burt’s shack and she started making all kinds of things from Burt’s leftover beeswax. This enterprise eventually made them both rich, though you couldn’t tell from looking at Burt.

He’s the homebody sort, for whom a good day is when no one comes by. He used to not be listed on the phonebook, having his two dogs in there instead. Of course, today the only people in the phonebook are the ones who signed up twenty years ago and forgot to cancel.

Burt  still lives in a small house with no electricity, and doesn’t seem to miss it. He threw out his last TV in the 60’s ‘because it needed a lot of repair work’. Imagine that, he probably has no idea who killed JR or anything.

Who would ever want to kill this guy anyway?  He's adorable with that hat and all that...cash.

Who would ever want to kill this guy anyway? He’s adorable.

Goes to show you, find what makes you happy and do that. Life will take care of the rest.

Also, when someone offers you bees, take ’em.

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About Arto

Co-founder of the Funny Names Blog, Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and holder of a funny name himself with too many vowels for any sensible person. Currently residing in San Diego, California, scouring through obscure documents on a hunt for more funny names. www.funnynamesblog.wordpress.com
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29 Responses to Ingram “Burt” Shavitz

  1. wdydfae says:

    “. . . Arto’s latest is the bee’s knees of funny name posts . . .”

    “. . . we had a right to expect a beard of bees from Arto, but all we got was a down-to-earth Luddite with a billion dollar empire . . . What gives?”

    “. . . Arto’s fearless investigative reporting uncovers the hidden world of the honey barons, those J.R. Ewings of the North who reign ruthlessly over their kingdoms of liquid gold . . .”

    “. . . you’ll never feel the same way about honey again, even when you spoon great dripping gobs of it on top of your open faced peanut butter sandwich . . . mmmm . . . honeeeey . . . peanut butterrrrrrr . . .”

  2. He must have given up his vacuum cleaner at the same time. Which leaves us to ponder, Burt, brooms and bees?

    Wdydfae, would you please pass the peanut butter?

  3. kerbey says:

    So it’s not even crazy Burt’s handiwork? It’s Roxanne who had the ingenious idea? I see that she was smart enough to buy Shavitz’s stake in the company, then sell it to Clorox, then spend her money saving trees. Relationships that start with the word hitchhiking can’t end well.

    And Burt is a looney tune sans TV? Well, it’s a free country. He gets the credit but doesn’t do anything to make or market the product? To be honest, I’ve tried the pricey Burt’s Bees products several times, and never enjoyed them. I go back to Dr Pepper Lip Smackers at 1/4 the price and nice and glossy smooth!

    And those three very Jewish sounding names are at odds with the nickname Burt, which will forever be Reynolds for me and who is a legit Burton. Does Shavitz use their honey?

    • Arto says:

      From the documentary it seemed clear than Roxanne was the more ambitious of the two. Burt certainly worked his bu(r)tt off to get the company started but never was very ambitious (mostly wanting a dog and a cabin and no one to bother him too much). She was certainly smart in convincing Burt to give up his stake and then selling for a gazillion.

      I don’t think I’ve ever used the product either but I see it around. It seems popular. And Burt is apparently a big celebrity in Taiwan for whatever reason. So that’s cool.

  4. wdydfae says:

    What I really want to know is how someone can keep a beard and still call themselves Shave-itz.

    • Dave says:

      Questions of the ages…. the sad thing is I’ll probably remember his name better than I remember the names of some of these important intestinal transporters I have to remember….

  5. ksbeth says:

    fantastic story. and i thought ibs was only a disease )

  6. Dave says:

    To watch Burt’s Buzz or study for finals… that is the question…

  7. markbialczak says:

    I too was born on Long Island and my last name starts with B and people my whole life have told me to mind my own beeswax and I have had a beard since Burt was a photographer. Alas, I am not rich and famous and do not pick up hitchhikers, Arto, though your buzzworthy piece on sir Shavitzz has me reevaluating all that is me.

  8. Liz says:

    this is the perfect post for you, Arto, what with the beard and all. (or was it mustaches? I forget.) Had no idea this was how it went with Burt. We use the lip wax as lips get plenty chapped here in the cold white north. He reminds me of Grizzly Adams. Seems like a nice enough chap, but what do you suppose he does all day in the middle of nowhere without a phone or wi-fi or even a library to expand your book collection?

    I’ve always thought beekeeping could be fun. Or fascinating anyway. It’s on my Maybe list.

    You’ve once again uncovered uncommonly good facts about an interesting person with an interesting name.

    I will have amb’s share of peanut butter, please. With honey, yes.

    • Arto says:

      Beards, mustaches, we can appreciate all of it around here. It’s all wonderful.

      I have no idea what he does. Tends to bees? Plays with dogs? Reads books? I don’t know, but it sounds nice and idyllic so I’m going to say it’s all good.

      Thanks for popping ’round, Liz!

  9. Pingback: Poor Business Advice, No-Good Latin, and Low Quality Moonwalking in FNITN 107 | The Blog of Funny Names

  10. Latesha says:

    the tree may slip on your house along with the cuts that are wrong
    can exacerbate the situation and cause some very costly destruction.

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