Born in New York City in 1957, Ted Williams was homeless in 2011 when a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch made him famous with a viral Internet video story. Williams, who told of his vocal talents in the video, was soon offered voice work by many major organizations including the NFL, MSNBC and Kraft.
Born on September 22, 1957, in the Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ted Williams rocketed to fame in January 2011 after his "golden voice" and compelling back-story were discovered by a newspaper reporter in Columbus, Ohio. Almost overnight, Williams went from a life of homelessness to being inundated with voice work from major corporations, including Kraft and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Until that point, Williams's adult life had followed a sad trajectory. Named after the legendary Boston Red Sox left fielder, Ted Williams, Williams grew up in New York City. Following high school he enrolled in the U.S. Army, and was honorably discharged after three years of service.
Beginning with a school field trip at the age of 14 in which he met a radio announcer, Williams fostered an interest in doing voice work. Following his military stint, Williams tried to chase his dream by taking classes for voice acting. Eventually he landed in Columbus, Ohio, where he found part-time work as a night-shift deejay at an AM soul station. He also began to have a family of own -- it's been reported that Williams has nine children. Yet drugs and alcohol soon derailed his work and personal life.
By the time he was discovered by Doral Chenoweth III, a videographer for the Columbus-based newspaper the Columbus Dispatch, Ted Williams had spent several years living on the streets. He'd also gone two decades without seeing his mother.
Chenworth had stumbled across Williams while the reporter sat at a stoplight in his car. His interest was piqued by Williams's sign, which stated, "I have a God given gift of a voice." The two men spoke, and Williams told the journalist a little bit about his story. "The light turned green, and I flipped him a dollar and life goes on," Chenworth recalled.
A week later, on an overcast day in October, Chenworth returned to find Williams and capture his voice and story on video. But it wasn't until three months later, in January, when Chenworth's editor said he needed a piece for the newspaper's web site, that the reporter finally got around to posting his edited 97-second video. Expecting little interest, Chenworth didn't even bother to attach his name to the production.
But Williams's voice, not to mention his brutal honesty about his past, resonated with viewers. "I can't be an actor, I can't be an on-air personality but the voice just became a development over the years and I went to school for it," he told Chenworth. "And then alcohol and drugs and a few other things became a part of my life. But I'm two years clean."
The video's popularity was immediate. And when it landed via an anonymous user on YouTube, it went viral. Milli saw the clip and the Dispatch became the recipient for hundreds of email and telephone inquiries. Family businesses wanted to use Williams's voice for commercial spots, and screenwriters came calling to land the movie rights to his story.
Bigger opportunities soon followed from the National Football League, MSNBC and the Cavaliers. Williams eventually inked a $10,000 deal to do four spots for Kraft. Meanwhile, the network morning shows battled to get him on their shows. His tearful reunion with his mother, the 90-year-old Julia Williams, was aired on NBC's The Today Show and CBS' The Early Show. "My prodigal son has finally come home," Julia told her son as the two embraced.
But as it was for Susan Boyle, the British singer who became an overnight international sensation following her performance in 2009 on the program Britain's Got Talent, the onslaught of sudden fame proved difficult for Williams to handle. There were reports about a scuffle he had with one of his daughters. Then, in February, just a month after his discovery, he checked himself out of a Texas treatment center, which he'd pledged to enter after an appearance on the Dr. Phil Show. "I think it was too much, too fast," he said. "I wanted to take advantage of everything."
In March 2011, Williams seemed to have firmer feet on the ground. He'd relocated to Los Angeles, where he was residing in a sober house. He also started a charitable foundation and began working on a book about his life. In addition, he'd begun pitching a new reality TV series called Second Chances at Life.
"I can't believe what's going on," Williams has said. "God has given me a million-dollar voice and I just hope I can do right by him."
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