Homeless Man w/Golden Radio Voice In Columbus, OH (video)
by: kevin joy (the columbus dispatch)
The smooth baritone of Ted Williams became an Internet sensation yesterday when a Dispatch.com video compelled millions of viewers to take a closer look (and listen) at a homeless panhandler who sometimes works the Hudson Street ramp off northbound I-71.
Carrying a hand-scrawled cardboard sign touting his “God-given gift of voice,” an otherwise ragged Williams was recorded last month offering up his radiant pipes to an idle commuter for spare change.
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That voice delivered.
Eclipsing the initial awe over Williams’ “gift” were the scores of phone calls that followed – media inquiries and potential job offers that could ultimately provide the one-time radio announcer with a second chance.
“My boss said to me: ‘If you don’t get him hired, you’re fired,'” said Kevin McLoughlin, director of post-production films for the National Football League. He contacted The Dispatch last night in search of Williams.
“I can’t make any guarantees, but I’d love to get him some work.”
The 97-second clip – posted Monday on Dispatch.com and copied yesterday morning to YouTube by an anonymous user – was filmed on a whim by Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III.
As blog entries, Facebook posts and Twitter exclamations turned viral, so did the calls from news producers at ABC, CBS and CNN, as well as national talk shows.
“We run into these guys at the exit ramps and we pretty much ignore them,” said Chenoweth, who was en route with his wife to the grocery store when he first saw Williams. “This guy was using his talent.”
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That voice, however, remained elusive yesterday.
A sporadic resident of a camp behind an abandoned Hudson Street gas station, Williams had declined offers to relocate to a shelter, said Ken Andrews, a volunteer for Mount Carmel Outreach and a 15-year veteran of local homeless-assistance work.
“He’s a good guy,” Andrews said. “But we never knew he had ‘the voice.'”
Several visits to the site and the highway ramp yielded no sign of Williams. Yet he supposedly was found by the promotions staff at radio station WNCI (97.9 FM), which will host the virtual star as a guest at 7:15a.m. today on the Morning Zoo.
WNCI program director Tony Florentino said the station wasn’t housing Williams or providing a ride to the Downtown studio, which has since fielded queries from ESPN and MTV. “A friend” providing temporary housing didn’t give a phone number, he said.
“We’re on pins and needles,” Florentino said. “I think he really has no idea how big this is going to be.”
Finding an agent to navigate the undoubtedly complex – and predatory – landscape ahead is vital, said Shane Cormier, a Los Angeles agency owner whose clients have done voice-over work for Ford, Sprint and Western Union. He sent an e-mail to The Dispatch yesterday.
“We could make him a millionaire,” Cormier said.
WBNS-TV (Channel 10) wants Williams to provide narration for promotional spots during its first-ever “One Day to End Homelessness” telethon on Jan. 31, said Frank Willson, director of operations. (WBNS is owned by The Dispatch Printing Company, which also owns The Dispatch.)
And a $10,000 offer for voice-over work for the Ohio Credit Union League will be presented this morning on WNCI, where camera crews from NBC’s Today show and other national networks are expected to be on hand.
Although such work is contingent on a background check, league spokesman Patrick Harris said, “his voice would be a perfect fit for us.”
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That voice has little known history.
The native of Brooklyn, N.Y., became infatuated with radio at age 14 during a field trip that included a talk with a station announcer who looked nothing like his voice would suggest.
“He said to me: ‘Radio is defined (as) theater of mind,'” Williams says on the Dispatch video. “I can’t be an actor; I can’t be an on-air (television) personality.
“The voice became something of a development.”
Williams says he attended broadcasting school but doesn’t elaborate. He once worked filling in on overnight shifts in Columbus at WVKO (1580 AM), a former soul-music station now offering Catholic programming.
Problems with drugs, alcohol and “a few other things” derailed his ambitions long ago, he says, but he recently marked two years of sobriety.
“I’m trying hard to get it back,” Williams says.
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That voice could be his.
UPDATE – UPDATE – UPDATE (1/6/11)
Ted Williams gets interviewed on the today show!!!
UPDATE – UPDATE – UPDATE (7-24-13)
Where is he now? How’s he doing? Check out the interviews below: