His latest gig co-hosting Fox News’ top-rated morning show, America’s Newsroom, might take him around the globe, but Bill Hemmer finds solace in his own backyard. We quizzed the charming quarterback-next-door about his love affair with Sag Harbor, his chain-sawing skills, and reporting on tragedy. Don’t worry, we were fair and balanced!
We looked up “all-American” on Wikipedia the other day and found your headshot. Are you as wholesome as you look?
[laughs] You can categorize me however you’d like, but I like to think that I am who I am and that it’s not a put-on or anything phony.
What do you like most about Hamptons?
It’s good for a lot of different things. If you want to rest, go out to dinner, hang out with friends, hit the social life—you can do all of that, though my preference is to hang out in my yard. If that makes me All-American, so be it!
Why Sag Harbor?
It’s the best town out here, if you ask me. It’s one of the few places where you arrive and just relax. I was doing a lot of traveling and I was looking for a place where I could go to get away from the concrete and the steel of the city, without having to go to an airport. The chance to get away from the hustle and bustle and recharge is very important. If I don’t get out here, I feel like I haven’t had a real break.
You’re a sailor, too?
Yep. In a way, I think sailing is like the anti-Hamptons activity. It’s a little more of a throwback. The perception of the Hamptons from a lot of people who haven’t spent much time here is that it’s this big, adult-party playland. You can find that if you want, but I can stay in my backyard and be perfectly content.
Are you a big gardener? We hear you’re handy with a chain saw.
I like to walk around my backyard and see what I can do to make it better. The thing about owning a home is that you can always make it better. You feel a sense of progress, and I really enjoy that.
What are your local haunts?
Enjoying Sag Town Coffee, which is brand new. I like The American Hotel, which is good year-round. Not all places are good year-round. I like The Corner Bar, just because it’s casual and you can catch a football game in the Fall. I think Sen is great for sushi. Tutto Il Giorno is another great place around the corner.
Do you take Summer Fridays?
I try! I strategize in the winter how I can save my vacation time to spend more time out here. On Sunday if you’re going back into the teeth of that traffic, you’ve blown everything you’ve done the past 48 hours. I don’t have the money for a helicopter, unfortunately.
You cover some pretty heavy stories. Do you find it stressful?
We manage in different ways. In my job I sometimes need to go out to cover a story like the Newtown shootings, which is tough as a human being. Not just for the reporter, but for the cameraman, the photographer, the producer. They all lived that similar experience. You need to find an outlet to get away from that, so you can adjust and be normal again, which is why I love it here. The Boston Marathon bombing was another example. I try to take a moment during those experiences to think about doing yard work in Sag Harbor. That’s my outlet.
Has covering all those stories changed you?
The world changed on September 11, and I think we’re still in that cycle. Going back to the coverage at the time in lower Manhattan and all throughout Afghanistan after that and everywhere in between—whether it was Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East—we would be working day and night in difficult situations. The Haiti earthquake changed me in a way that I did not expect. Human beings being trapped alive under rubble who were saved only by amputation. They were given life, and were let out, but in order to get out of that alive…I mean, when you absorb all of that at the end of the day, or maybe you absorb it when you fly back and get out of it, it has an impact. It always changes you in some way.
Do you think you’ll write about those experiences eventually?
I’d like to, but I don’t know if anyone would read it. I don’t know if anyone would much care. Maybe there will be a time for that. If I think that people could benefit from what I’ve experienced and I can share that with them, I would be fully supportive of that.
Do you get recognized when you’re in town?
I do. If they’re fans of the show or fans of Fox, they’ll want to engage in conversation. It’s much more casual, much more so than you would find in the city. There are a lot of Fox News fans out here, which we like.
What do people usually say when they see you?
Sometimes they comment on the show that day. They may ask me about a story that was in the news, but you’d be surprised how many people have theories about why the news is what it is. I’m always impressed by the knowledge I find in everyday folks who just want to say hello and express an opinion about what’s going on. Viewers feel like they have a relationship with you, and that’s something that needs to be respected.
Do you have to buy your own suits for the show?
I’m very fortunate that my good friend Roger Ailes, who is also my boss, allows us to spend a certain amount of money as a clothing allowance. We get to buy suits, shirts, and ties picked by our wardrobe team. It’s a great system because they’re good people, and they know what works for television. As a guy who doesn’t necessarily enjoy shopping, it just makes it super convenient.
What brands do you wear?
It’s all custom-made. You want the fit to be right. Here’s why: when TV went to HD a few years ago, you really have to be particular. The viewers are going to notice everything that isn’t right.
How much time do you spend getting ready in the morning?
I’m quick. My makeup artist is done in 2.5 minutes. Record time. The less time I have to spend in that chair, the happier I am.
Do you have a girlfriend?
She’s around here somewhere. I think she’s shopping. [“She” is Ford model Dara Tomanovich—ed.]
What are your plans for the rest of the summer?
You’re looking at it.