Pivot Questions For Ivy (It’s not what you think)

Editor’s Note:  The featured image is James Lipton with Bradley Cooper, who is decidedly Ivy in Wedding Crashers and rowed for Georgetown.  Which I know is not an Ivy school.  But I still think West Point should be added to the Ivy League.


Coming in September!


I did not know that James Lipton worked for a year in France as a pimp.   It was legal and regulated, important distinctions.

Those questions he asked at the end of Inside The Actor’s Studio though, I loved those.  Compiled, they are called the Pivot Questionnaire,  used by a French host named Bernard Pivot.   It is perhaps the case that Lipton picked up the Pivot questions whilst pimping.

The Ivy-Style Podcast is coming right along, and in structuring the show it occurred that it might be interesting to have my own Pivot Questionnaire for the guests.  Here’s my list and my own answers, if you want to fill out your own in the comments that would be (1) really interesting and (2) help me decide if these questions work.  Also if you have any other ones that you think would be interesting to sub for one here, by all means say so.


What is your favorite Ivy word?

Degage.  That’s a little bit self-serving, because a reader used it to describe my own interpretation of Ivy.  The reason it resonates is because it is meant, in this case, to reflect an accurate representation of the classical elements of Ivy Style, but to have the freedom to mess around with them just a little, to suit one’s own personal taste.   And yeah, there are arguments about whether or not there are accents over it, etc.  For Ivy-Style, there are not.


What is your least favorite Ivy word?

Elite.  It’s actually one of my least favorite words, period.  Everyone is elite at something, in something.  Thus, there is no such thing.  It is like being uniquely common.


What turns you on creatively, spiritually, emotionally about Ivy?

Three things.  First, the values.  The pursuit of excellence, the value of thought, work ethic, classic aesthetics.  Second, the look.  For my money, Ivy is the most universally applicable style.  It simply works anywhere.  In the present, more than ever, ironically.  You could be inaugurated as President in the same suit you wore to work, the same shirt you wore with that suit you can untuck and use as a cover at the beach.  Third, the classicism of it.  I don’t think there is much debate this morning as I write this that a rudder is called for in much that goes on.  I am not saying what that rudder should be, in fact I don’t think there IS one rudder that should be.  But I like the idea that my outward presentation matches for the most part my inclinations.


What turns you off?

First off, this is the best job I have ever had.  I LOVE this job.  I love the people, I love the advertisers, I love the challenge.  I’ve looked around a lot on the internet (as has everybody) and there are not too many other spots where one’s grammar and spelling gets scrutinized simultaneously with their collar.   That said, the thing that turns me off is having to filter comments with algorithms (we don’t do it manually, ever).   I tried for the first ten months not to.  It’s the internet, I’m the face of something, I get it blah blah blah.  Still, there are people who think that negativity turns up the volume on whatever they are trying to really say, and that it somehow moves their pawn two spaces.  Everybody makes mistakes (I took a fat photo with G. Bruce Boyer for chrissakes), everybody has parts of their lives that they are less proud of than others.  There’s no purchase in highlighting that.  And for the love of everything holy, you look so stupid doing it dressed in Ivy.  It is like car keys in the hand of a third grader.  You simply aren’t ready.


What is your favorite curse word?

One commenter thought when I first started that it would elevate the site not to write curse words, and I learned they were right.  So I have to abbreviate.  It’s the MF word, but used as a verb.  As in “I MF’d that post so bad it hurt my feelings.”


What Ivy sound or noise do you love?

I’m getting into jazz.  Mr. Boyer suggested some great artists in his articles here, and I have been working through them.  It is hard, though, because in his words they are “best enjoyed in the dark drinking something red” and I am going through a Pinot Grigio phase right now.


What Ivy sound or noise do you hate?



What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

So, after I got sick, I decided I was going to actually do the two things I really wanted to do most.  Write about and create an Ivy brand, and play out my music.  I am doing them, and it only brings to the forefront the idea that you should really do what you love.  The money does come, and what a difference in quality of life.


What profession would you not like to do?



If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“John, you’re late.”

  • JB



25 Comments on "Pivot Questions For Ivy (It’s not what you think)"

  1. Well done, JB.

    My question suggestion would be “What is the most authentic ivy accent?”

    Many would argue that since ivy originated in New England, a proper Boston Brahmin accent is the most authentic, but I beg to differ.

    My own (subjective) personal opinion is that the Pennsylvania accent is the most authentic (and coolest!) ivy accent. Jimmy Stewart (Princeton) and James Rebhorn (Columbia) are the ne plus ultra of Ivy League accents.

    James Rebhorn was underrated in his role as Herbert Greenleaf in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. His character was dressed like a model from a 1957 Brooks Brothers catalog.

    John, I am so passionate about Brooks Brothers’ style that I could write an entire article about Herbert Greenleaf’s charcoal grey trilby worn in the movie.

    • John Burton | August 10, 2022 at 3:20 pm |

      ooo that is a good one. Thanks!

      • “Could you ever conceive, Tom, of goING…to…I-t-a-l-y? I’d pay you, a thousand dollars, to persuade…my…SON…to…come…H-O-M-E…”

    • Roger Miles | August 11, 2022 at 2:06 am |

      An accent is either an accident of birth, or an affectation, as in vocal fry, Upspeak, or the Trans-Atlantic accent affected by film stars in the 1930s. I would think that America’s Ivy League universities have no shortage of American accents representative of regions outside of our eastern states. Although my son and daughter-in-law are both graduates of Harvard Law School, neither sound like the wealthy fellow from Gilligan’s Island. I happen to think that my California accent sounds just fine. Speak to me with civility, respect, and kindness. That’s all that I ask.

      • @Roger Miles:

        Outside of the Ivy Style comment section, there is no civility, respect, and kindness, but at least there is Thurston Howell III and Gilligan’s Island re-runs.

  2. Richard Joseph Thomas Aquinas Clark | August 10, 2022 at 9:01 am |

    Love the questionnaire! But one point of order.

    There is a “Catholic Ivy League” comprised of Notre Dame, Georgetown and Boston College—aka The Big Three—and Fordham, Villanova, and Holy Cross. —The Little Three. And while there is and can only be one true Ivy League, the Catholic Ivy League colleges are all damn fine schools that share many of the values and traditions of the Elite Eight.

    Because so many of the men and women who attend the Catholic Ivies came up through parochial grade schools and private Catholic prep schools with dress codes—blazers, button-downs, and ties for the boys and blue or uniform plaid skirts or jumpers and white blouses for the girls—Catholic Ivy Leaguers share many of the sartorial values associated with Ivy Style.

    As for me, I attended parochial elementary schools, a private Catholic boys high school staffed by the Holly Cross Brothers and John Carroll University, the Jesuit college in Cleveland.

    Now back to the Pivot Questionnaire!

    • John Burton | August 10, 2022 at 3:21 pm |

      I have always been jealous of the ease that people who went to Catholic and private schools show when dressed.

  3. Old Bostonian | August 10, 2022 at 12:02 pm |

    Greetings, JB:
    Merriam-Webster (for US usage) and Oxford (for UK usage) both include the accents in dégagé. If we leave them out, it’s not a matter of preference, it’s a spelling error. Style is a matter of details, and I urge you to reconsider your decision. Please.

    • John Burton | August 10, 2022 at 3:23 pm |

      You know what? You are right. How do you make those accents in “internet’?

      • I can’t even find the accent in MS Word, latest version, and I need it. Seriously, can anyone tell me how to find that, please.

        • whiskeydent | August 11, 2022 at 1:06 pm |

          To get the accent marks, you only have to hold down the keys for shift, control, command, and option while doing a double summersault. Piece of cake.

  4. I have to agree with Old Bostonian. The accents are required if we are using a word from the French.

  5. The best way to insert special characters is to type in a p[roper WP document like “Word” and then copy paste onto the app you are using.

    • John Burton | August 10, 2022 at 7:28 pm |

      Sir, I have a lot to learn. When people submit articles in Word it takes me HOURS to get them formatted here, on a WordPress site. Are there other options? I write in Google Docs, then when I am done revising I subscribe to a site that cleans up Google Docs mostly for HTML. But even that isn’t perfect.

  6. Like! Looking forward to the podcast.

  7. Old Bostonian | August 10, 2022 at 11:40 pm |

    I would suggest you just copy paste the letter é or the entire word dégagé when needed:

    é é é é é é

  8. Dear all, please don’t lose your respective accents be they North, South, East or West.

  9. Q. Describe what for you would be a lovely evening.

    A. It’s all about balance and ambience. It is mid to late autumn so I’m wearing a comfortable Shetland tweed blazer, yes, with a madder necktie. My lovely lady and I are at one of our favorite restaurants. The sun is setting. We have a candlelit table for two, near the windows overlooking the sea-shore and city lights. The interior is mahogany and glass and brick. The chairs are club chairs on casters. We are enjoying fresh, local, sea-food appetizers and drinks. Everyone is at ease.
    Michel Legrand. Autumn Leaves. September in the Rain. Autumn in New York.

    • And then, after dessert,, the owner stops by my table and says, “Thank you sir, for wearing a coat and tie. It’s on the house tonight. Would you mind if we take some photos for our website? We’re trying to Ivy the place up a little bit.” I go with the flow and leave a generous tip.

      • “As far as the industry goes, I’m dégagé however, under any & all circumstances, she better have my money!”

  10. Great questions, looking forward to the pod

  11. John Brewer | August 12, 2022 at 2:21 pm |

    Best examples of Ivy Accents – George Plimpton and William F. Buckley Jr.
    Southern Ivy- SMU, Rice, Tulane and Vanderbilt.
    Interesting question for the podcast: Who is someone you think as IVY/preppy but not recognized widely as such> (Hint: Steve Martin)

  12. Pivot Questionnaire

    Great questions and great answers, all! Late to the party, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this whole thread. I miss that show, though I was seldom able to watch it, seeing as how I was a young actor/musician without a budget for cable (or a television) back when it was a premium TV fixture. I was amazed at Mr. Lipton’s age when he passed — he gave me the impression of being a good bit younger. Must have been his natural youthful vigor. And maybe some Just For Men™ to cover the greys.

    The thing that most turns me on creatively/spiritually/emotionally about Ivy is the fact that it’s the ideal creative limitation: Operate conservatively within its parameters and you’re guaranteed to look good. Color brightly outside its lines and your boldness is often rewarded in the same way. A single Ivy-ish piece immediately elevates literally any outfit. It is therefore a superb framework for dress. Additionally, the Ivy-ish sensibility of “buy-less-buy-better” only works because Ivy is a timeless style, which long predates the “hashtag-menswear” trends of 10-15 years ago, in which the so-called “better” that people were encouraged to buy “less” of often included incredibly trendy things that now look quite dated. (Skinny selvedge jeans and colorful Goodyear-welted soles, I’m looking at you.)

    The thing that most turns me off about anything Ivy is its association with the clueless, confident, and sadly consequential privilege of certain people who like to fancy themselves members of a ruling class. I have to bring my thoughts to James Baldwin, Paul Newman, or Miles Davis to get the image of certain ogres who just so happen to have dressed Ivy out of my head. The ongoing reclamation of Ivy as a style for everyone warms my heart.

    A profession other than my own that I would like to (probably in another life) attempt would be operating a small menswear outfit à la John Simons, being a film actor, and/or restoring air-cooled Volkswagens. Maybe all three.

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