By now you’ve probably heard about the homeless man with the golden voice discovered on a freeway off-ramp by Columbus Dispatch journalist/web producer Doral Chenoweth. Chenoweth regularly covers homeless issues for the paper and, after filming and posting online a piece on vagrant Ted Williams, a viral media star was born.
Actually, reborn. After 20 years of drugs, crime and time spent in and out of jail, Williams’ image and voice have been literally everywhere – from the Today Show to Dr. Phil (where he candidly discussed his mistakes and regrets in life)– fueled initially by millions upon millions of hits on YouTube.
What sets this story apart? Start with Williams himself. The contrast, in appearance to voice, is shocking. When was the last time you saw someone holding a sign asking for work, with wild hair and tattered cloths who, when he spoke, sounded like a smoother, made for radio version of James Earl Jones? I’m guessing never. Further, in interview after interview Williams has consistently demonstrated great humility and thankfulness. His eyes and words convey true soul. As such, he is someone to root for.
It is also about the times we are living in. Ever hear the phrase: “If but for the grace of God, go I”? There are millions of Ted Williamses down on their luck with nowhere to live all across this country. We all are well aware of where a job loss or wrong turn in life can take us. Thus, the story and its images resonate deeply.
Including with corporate America. Quicken Loans has hired Williams as the P.A. announcer for the Cleveland Cavaliers. His voice will also be heard on a charitable giving-themed Kraft Foods ad during the Super Bowl and Oprah Winfrey is recruiting his god-given voice talents for her TV network.
Ted Williams’ story, when all is said and done, is a story about life. It’s about mistakes, charity, second chances, redemption and, in the end, taking responsibility for both the past and what is to come. It also underscores, once again, the power of the media to tell such a tale (and a traditional medium utilizing a newer platform to boot) – a good news story in the end – to the masses.