Like a true Midwesterner, Tom Sandoval is polite. He doesn’t rush the conversation, despite the fact that he’ll soon head to 12-some hours of filming for “Vanderpump Rules.” He nicely offers me additional information, making sure I have everything I need and leaving time for me to write down his answers before he moves on to the next statement. He seems genuine in his consideration for others, somewhat unexpected in a reality TV star. I let him know I don’t want to disrupt his day by keeping him too long, but he continues to talk about his love for his hometown of St. Louis.
We’re wearing very similar outfits — he the pink Arch Apparel City Circle tee and I the matching black cap — and he tells me how he wore the items on a trip overseas and was spotted by other St. Louisans. “It’s a really easy way to meet other people when you’re traveling from your hometown,” Sandoval explains.
Sandoval was laid back and accommodating during his cover shoot, too — another of many times he’s worn Arch Apparel. While a full staff buzzed around working, he continued to chat about his love for the city and how he was sad he couldn’t make it home for his father’s birthday. Classic rock played in the background, and it was revealed Sandoval, a jack of all trades, made an appearance in an early-2000s Bon Jovi music video. The conversation moved to karaoke: One of Sandoval’s favorite songs to sing is Guns N’ Roses’s “Paradise City.”
The point: He’s normal. If you didn’t know Sandoval as a bartender from the hit Bravo TV series, you wouldn’t think he was famous by the way he interacts with others. It clearly hasn’t gone to his head.
Sandoval is understandably busy, but when time allows, he tries to come home, aiming for three or four visits per year. He attends a Cardinals game or visits Ballpark Village, but he can also be frequently spotted at the Pepper Lounge or Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. He also reiterates his love for City Museum a few times. These are some of the places Sandoval says he’d take “Vanderpump Rules” cameras if an episode were ever to be filmed in St. Louis. “I’ve been trying to get them to stop in St. Louis,” he says, explaining it unfortunately is not happening in the foreseeable future. Should that day ever come, he’d also like to take the gang to his parent’s house at Lake of the Ozarks for true Missouri-style fun. From watching the show, one can assume the staff of SUR Restaurant and Lounge would t in well on an Ozarks booze cruise.
With his down-to-earth attitude, it seems Sandoval could blend into a local crowd with ease, but his personal style may remind you he’s something special, as his look intentionally stands out from the crowd. “When it comes to style, I’m never the one that says, ‘I can’t wear that.’ Instead, I figure out a way to pull it off,” he says. This means buying an item without a plan on how to rock it; the must-have product can come first, then the outfit. “When I go into the store, I usually pick the coolest, craziest and weirdest stuff off the rack,” he says, explaining coolest doesn’t necessarily mean loudest. “Sometimes, I look for an outward uniqueness, but sometimes I look for the subtle, or a different take on a classic item.”
A lengthy shooting schedule is not uncommon for Sandoval, who has been a staple on the reality show since its inception in 2013. Filming takes places April through September, with long days and unconventional schedules. “And that’s just principle filming,” he says, noting pick-up shots are then filmed September through February, followed by reunion episodes. “At that point, most of the cast members will go home … and then maybe do a little traveling. Obviously, I have things to do, but it’s really hard to do [them] when you’re constantly filming. Even going to the gym is really hard, but you get better at time management when you have to be.”
In addition to filming and daily real-life responsibilities, Sandoval has a plethora of new projects on the table, including Tom Tom, a bar he is opening in partnership with Lisa Vanderpump and Tom Schwartz, which he says is moving forward. He is also house-hunting and working on an upcoming “situational” cocktail book with girlfriend Ariana Madix. The saturated market may not need another recipe book, he says, but “ours is different in the fact that it is going to teach you how to make drinks when you’re in a certain situation, anywhere from a college dorm to coming home with six friends.” Recipes include ingredients one normally has floating around the house, such as candies and spices. Sandoval jokingly explains it as “cocktail MacGyver.”
Although Sandoval affectionately discusses his upcoming projects, the conversation keeps coming back to the River City. In true St. Louis fashion, he tells me what high school he attended: Hazelwood West. Sandoval can’t seem to say enough about his admiration for the city and those who call it home. “I’m from the Lou, and I’m proud,” he says. “I like where I’m from; I like the people. I’ve always gotten a lot of support and love from people from St. Louis. I think it’s really important to not forget where you come from.” Cheers to that. M