Alum spotlight: Tom Guthrie (BFA ’72)

tom posing with a whole lot of cheerleaders in uniform

Tom Guthrie (BFA, Drama Education, 1972)

When Tom was on the varsity basketball team at his Naruna, VA high school, little did he did know that one day he’d work for a Superbowl-winning football team.

group of adults and children smiling
Tom pictured with family

Tom also acted in school, which led him to VCU. He decided, “I’m going to study education, because if I don’t make it in acting, I can teach.” Turns out that didn’t happen either. Tom started cutting hair in his teens and continued to work part time while at VCU. “I didn’t become a teacher because the salary was awful. I made more money doing hair part-time than I could full time as a teacher.”

Tom with alum and newsletter editor Jerry Williams (BFA 71)! The two were first year roommates at VCU.

After graduation, he attended a hair product conference, where he met a rep from Fermodyl Labs. She offered him a job that led to him becoming a “platform artist,” doing demonstrations at trade shows all over the country. He later moved to Miami, where he worked for the company for five years.

When the company was sold, he started cutting at the Neiman Marcus Salon in Bal Harbor FL. Eventually, this led him to their stores in Huston, then to Beverly Hills and Newport Beach, CA. While there, he met Nancy and Buddy Ebsen (most famous as Jed Clampet on The Beverly Hillbillies). Nancy founded the Newport Harbor Actors Theatre, where Tom got a chance to get back on stage.

two men in suits on a set
Tom acting with Buddy Ebsen in The Magnificent Yankee, part of the Newport Harbor Actors Theater (NHAT) first season in 1980.

Tom also supervised the Neiman salons in San Francisco, Las Vegas and San Diego. It was during this time that he befriended Georgia Frontiere, who offered him a job with the NFL franchise she owned: the Los Angeles Rams.  He was with the team for 30 years, primarily as Director of Entertainment. “One year after I left Neimans, they closed all of their salons, so my decision was the right one.”

With the Rams, Tom really got to apply his theatre training. He was in charge of the cheerleaders, everything from running the auditions to hiring the choreographers and choosing the music. He also produced the half-time entertainment and anthem singers, including hiring Jennifer Holiday to open the Dome when the team moved to Saint Louis in 1995.

Tom wearing one of his Super Bowl rings

Tom credits his VCU speech teacher Rodney Bush with helping him lose his thick Southern accent. He fondly imitates Rodney’s phrase “modulated tones.” As for translating other VCU skills, “Managing 32 woman cheerleaders is about teamwork. It’s like a play, everybody’s got to play their part.”

Tom is retired now and he splits his time between Las Angeles and Scottsdale, AZ.

Tom with Hilary Clinton

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the March 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.