Fox 5 anchor Brian Bolter, channeling the news and a new wine bar business

When he's not in the newsroom, Fox 5 anchor Brian Bolter is chasing an unlikely side venture: A wine bar.
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 21, 2010; 10:41 PM

The newscast unwinds like pairs figure skating - ramrod postures, noisy costuming, dramatic head tilts, a choreography of banter - except the anchors toss around segments about baby-maiming strollers instead of each other. Boxy cameras glide and pirouette around the set of Fox 5 as Brian Bolter hits various marks on the slick studio floor.

"Keep it right here," Bolter says into a camera, sending manicured smolder into living rooms across the District, Maryland and Virginia. "Fox 5 News is just getting started."

The red on-air light switches off. The steely anchor mask scrunches into a fleeting grimace. Bolter scuffs his heel across the floor, as if chipping a soccer ball. The cameras shift, following his lead, as he ascends to the desk. His co-anchor, Laura Evans, perches next to him and mists her tresses with chemicals. He holds up a cracked mirror, which splits his face in two, and musses his hair a bit. Bolter monologues to Evans, clearly enthused about something, tripping over words that are barely audible over the wail of the commercial break.

"It's the sparkling wine that ended the Cold War . . . to this day it's served at state dinners . . . slow-ripening grape . . . it's a Bordeaux-style vintage . . . flavors are more pronounced . . ."

When the red light pops back on, he's back in anchor mode: chin centered over a gold Windsor knot, brow furrowed in stern alertness, surfing the prompter like the California dude he is, his voice swooping up and down the words as they crest and break through sentences about the Chandra Levy trial and a 300-pound chimpanzee on the loose in Kansas City, Mo.

Invisible on your home television is the tiny flourish at his wrists: silver cuff links in the shape of corkscrews, a talisman untelevised.

The anchor is the avatar of his demographic, the reflected face of the audience that follows him. He's the storyteller, the guy who must gracefully toggle between grisly homicides and end-zone dances, a familiar mug who is nonetheless a mystery.

Bolter turned 40 earlier this year and embodies his restless market, both on-air and off. At Fox 5, he flies solo for the 6 and 11 p.m. NewsEdge shows, which are deskless blitzes built around his youthful, news-junkie appetite for Internet memes, pop music and viral stories that don't necessarily fit Fox 5's more traditional 10 p.m. news hour.

And in historic Annapolis, he has quietly started a side venture: a wine bar on Main Street, six blocks from his house.

For two years now, he's spent his daytime hours developing the business with his wife, Lisa, who will manage the wine bar when it opens in May. They've sunk their savings into this gamble, an investment in their adopted home town but also a Plan B of sorts, just in case, because you never know.

"I'm doubling down on news, putting my faith in Fox 5 and being the main anchor for the long haul, and the wine bar is a way to double down in the community and make sure we don't have to leave," says Bolter, who's been at the station for 11 years. "Television is so tumultuous; it's extraordinarily competitive, and the Internet is ravaging our business. Even people who have jobs at the highest levels in TV feel a little bit of insecurity. . . . This all goes to that new 'slash-careers' phenomenon."

News anchor/wine-bar owner. Survival of the fittest. A race to adapt in the newsroom, a hedge to thrive outside it. Keep it right here . . .

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