The septuagenarian creator of grooming behemoth Burt’s Bees is the subject of filmmaker Jody Shapiro’s new documentary, Burt’s Buzz, which peeks behind the iconic packaging and into the life of a New England curmudgeon who started his empire selling honey on the side of the road.
Through extensive interviews with Shavitz and his family, friends and colleagues, the film paints a fun, fascinating picture of a truly unique character who seemingly happened upon great success. And while Shavitz’s story is certainly compelling, something else special about the film are the odd tidbits it reveals about its subject—like how his dogs were listed in the phone book even when he wasn’t.
For everyone who thought they knew the man whose namesake lip balm has become a seasonal mainstay, here are the five most unexpected things Burt’s Buzz taught us about Burt Shavitz.
He Wasn’t Born in the Woods
Despite his propensity for nature and simple living, Shavitz was born in Manhattan and raised in the tony Long Island town of Great Neck. It wasn’t until after a young Shavitz, who worked for a time as a news photographer, attended the first ever Earth Day celebration that he started living off the land and decided to raise his now-famous bees.
His Life Was Changed by a Hitchhiker
When Shavitz stopped one day by the side of the road to pick up Roxanne Quimby, his future was altered to a huge extent. The two went on to run Burt’s Bees together—Quimby expanded the product line and helped guide the growing company—and eventually Quimby would buy-out Shavitz before selling the company in 2007 to Clorox for more than $900 million.
“Ingram’s Bees” Doesn’t Have the Same Ring
There’s at least one thing about Shavitz’s carefully cultivated persona that’s easy to poke a hole in: Burt’s not even his real name! As Shavitz reveals in the film, his given name is Ingram Berg Shavitz, however after christening himself Burt some time after high school, he never looked back.
For Burt, Less Is More
Sure, your bathroom counter might be packed with his products, but for Shavitz there’s no reason to go overboard. Not only does he live in a modest home on a chunk of Maine land, but the business legend doesn’t have an alarm clock or a television and speaks of avoiding the “luxury” of a $2,000 water heater repair.
He’s Huge in Taiwan
When the film opens, Shavitz is arriving in Taiwan to promote his brand. To say that it’s mayhem would not be an exaggeration. While Shavitz counts 500 fans and an employee says it was more like 200, what’s clear is that the Taiwanese—who showed up decked out in bee costumes and carrying signs and flowers—can’t get enough Burt’s Bees.