Tommy was born Thomas Carl Woelfel in Thomasville, Georgia. In Thomas County. But he wasn’t named after his geographical location. He was named Tommy after his older brother’s favorite storybook character. His dad, Stanley, managed a cattle ranch, Winstead Plantation. He then moved to Kingsville, Texas, where his dad took over the family farm and ranch. Tommy was active in his Lutheran Church youth organization, 4-H, FFA and student government. He was president of both his freshman and junior classes. He was Student Body President his senior year. He showed Santa Gertrudis cattle across the southern U.S. attending national shows in Nashville, Shreveport, Jackson, and Tulsa.
Tommy worked for his dad on the farm after school and during summers. He would drive his tractor up and down the long rows of his dad’s fields while listening to 8-tracks of Barry Manilow, KISS, Alabama, Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson. All the while, he dreamed of going to Hollywood. And being a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. But he was raised to be practical. So he attended Texas A&M University where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics (’87) and his Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics with an emphasis in Marketing and Advertising (’88). Graduate school offered him the ability to emulate the character and story of one of his favorite movies, Nick, played by Rob Lowe, in Oxford Blues. He didn’t quite make it to Oxford, but did attend Manchester University for a semester and was on the rowing team. He competed in two races, one in Manchester where his crew of 8 won a medal, and another in Liverpool.
After graduation, he finally moved to Los Angeles where he used his degrees for 3 years working at Sunkist Growers, Inc. Then he made the jump to the entertainment industry, working as an assistant to the executive producer of the television show, the highly acclaimed but lowly rated Homefront. But what he really wanted to do was act. So when Homefront was canceled, he became a waiter, and a freelance production assistant working on commercials and music videos. One of the highlights of his production assistant career was working with photographer and director, Matthew Rolston, on Mary J. Blige’s music video, “I’m Goin’ Down”. Which was filmed at A&M Studios, where “We Are The World” was recorded. Formerly the Charlie Chaplin Studios, it was built on a lemon and orange grove that Chaplin had purchased.
While waiting tables and free lancing, Tommy relied on his LA family. Especially, his uncle and step aunt, Newell and Rosemary Alexander, and his ex-cousin-in-law, Del Shores. Newell and Rosemary took Tommy under their wings and provided him with many opportunities in the entertainment industry. From helping with their Wells Fargo Radio Theatre dramas at the Gene Autry Museum for NPR, to being the Stage Manager of Leslie Jordan’s first one-man show, Hysterical Blindness & Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far. Tommy’s practical side took over once again as he took a 9-to-5 job in marketing for an online education company, OnlineLearning.net (though Tommy hadn’t even owned a computer before that point). The day job prevented him from auditioning for Del’s play, Southern Baptist Sissies, but Del believed in him enough to cast him as an understudy for the role of Andrew. When the play was revived for a second run, Tommy was fortunate enough to be cast in one of the four lead roles, Andrew, where he had to kill himself every night for six months. This role proved to be one of the two highlights of Tommy’s acting career. He was even nominated for a Robby Award. The other highlight came as a result of his work in Del’s play as he was cast as the “Coat Check Guy” in the “Cowboys and Iranians” episode of NBC’s Will & Grace, where he was cast alongside his Southern Baptist Sissies co-star, Leslie Jordan.
Nowadays, Tommy is acting more as a spinning instructor, husband and dad. Tommy has been teaching indoor cycling for 22 years. He has taught at many gyms in LA, starting at Todd Tramp’s Bodysculpting LA and still currently at Crunch Fitness. Del has consistently supported Tommy as a student and enthusiast for most of those 22 years! Tommy has been lucky enough to find his true love, Rich Vaughn, and to have been married to him for 12 years and together for 18 years. Rich is a family law attorney whose firm, International Fertility Law Group, specializes in surrogacy, which is the process by which Tommy and Rich became dads. They have amazing twin 12-year old sons, Aiden and Austin. Rich and Tommy are active in causes that they feel are important to families like theirs. The Family Equality Council, The Human Rights Campaign, and The Los Angeles LGBT Center. Tommy inherited much of his desire to participate in charity from his mom, Sylvia, who started as a kindergarten teacher but then devoted her life to her family and charitable organizations throughout Tommy’s life. Del introduced Tommy to the Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, in which Tommy became so involved that he twice co-chaired their annual fundraising event, “A Cracked Xmas” which is now known as “TrevorLive.” So it is with great honor that I have been asked to become a founding member of the Board of Directors of The Del Shores Foundation. I am looking forward to focusing my time and energy into this great and worthy cause.