Tim Gunn On His FBI Agent Father

My father was J. Edgar Hoover's speechwriter. ... I was not the son he wanted to have.

Danielle Sacks

Interview by

Spring 2008, New York City
Digital recorder

Read "Project Rehab" @ FastCompany.com


Film by Nick Michael | 1504 Pictures


read more

David Gerlach: We’re happy to have more from fashion deacon Tim Gunn. This time on his FBI agent father. Yes, Tim Gunn’s father was J. Edgar Hoover’s right-hand man. This conversation with the “Project Runway” host comes to us from Danielle Sacks, a senior writer for Fast Company magazine. This is Blank on Blank.

Danielle Sacks: Did I read somewhere that your father was …

Tim Gunn: An FBI agent. Yeah. For 26 years.

Danielle Sacks: Wow. What was that like?

Tim Gunn: Well, he worked side-by-side with Hoover.

[Sound clip of J. Edgar Hoover speech: There is no doubt as to where a real communist’s loyalty rests. Their allegiance is to Russia, not the United States.]

Tim Gunn: He was Hoover’s speechwriter. He was Hoover’s ghostwriter. He did most of Hoover’s books. He traveled with Hoover everywhere. He was only a, what do they call them, I can’t remember now… a field agent for two years. His station was in Newark. So who wouldn’t want to escape that?

Danielle Sacks: My mom was from Newark.

Tim Gunn: Sorry, only in the nicest way.

Danielle Sacks: No, no, no. It was actually kind of nice back in the day. She tells me, at least.

Tim Gunn: And at the time of his appointment to the bureau, he was the youngest agent in their history.

[Music: “Dragnet” Theme Song]

Tim Gunn: So he was very quiet about it, because a lot of it was strictly confidential. He couldn’t talk about it.

Danielle Sacks: But did that impact you in indirect, interesting ways?

Tim Gunn: It certainly impacted me because he was my father and he was a major part of my life. But I will say, not wanting to turn this into a soap opera, but it was not the best of relationships by any means. I was not the son he wanted to have. He was a big sports guy and I wasn’t. He was one of those guy guys. I was about as far from that is you are going to get. Some of my most painful childhood memories were things like going to his FBI colleagues’ houses and having a father-son touch football game. You know, I’m there like, ‘Ahhhhh.’ I wanted to run and hide in the car. So we had a complicated relationship. But I will say this about him: He was always, always, always there for me in a crisis. Whatever it may be. Always. And for that I will always cherish him. And he was good in a crisis.

[Song: Horace Silver - “Song for my Father”]

David Gerlach: That was Tim Gunn on his FBI agent father and this is Blank on Blank. Thanks again to Danielle Sacks, senior writer for Fast Company magazine, for adding her interview to the archive. To read her profile on Tim Gunn and more, check out DanielleSacks.com. Now to hear Tim Gunn talk about his stylish vocabulary plus a slew of other interviews you can find nowhere else, head over to BlankonBlank.org. I’m David Gerlach. Keep listening.