While the media swooped down on golden-voiced, homeless YouTube sensation Ted Williams and started a feeding frenzy that a seasoned professional would have had a hard time surviving, colleagues in the voice over community recognized a friend in need and attempted to throw him a lifeline. But that lifeline was soon cut.
"When I met with him, I told him privately that the 'miracle' is not that he is in Hollywood on national television. The miracle is that he is sober -- and that if he does not make that his No. 1 priority, he will lose everything he has gained," said voice over legend Beau Weaver, whose voice you've heard on prominent movie trailers, commercials, and animated series as well as on television shows like 'ET' and 'The Insider.'
"He agreed enthusiastically when I asked if I could take him away from the circus to get him to a recovery group meeting, and a reality check," Weaver explained. "I made arrangements with his handlers for several meetings, but they changed plans each time. I just could not get him away from the entourage."
Signs of trouble
Weaver met the soft-spoken, recovering addict in Los Angeles, when he visited the Don LaFontaine Voice Over Lab at the Screen Actors Guild headquarters in Hollywood, which Weaver helped create. "Don (the legendary voice over artist) was very supportive of the voice over community, and we wanted to keep that tradition alive after he died," said Weaver.
In that spirit, Weaver and a few of his colleagues reached out to Williams, back when the YouTube video had been seen by only about 300 people. (It's now been seen by nearly 7 million). Once Williams booked the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial, union rules required that he join the Screen Actors Guild, so Weaver and his friends got together and paid Williams' pricey dues.
Weaver was extremely concerned, however, as he watched the massive media feud that ensued as Williams sky-rocketed to fame in three short days. "They had him jumping through hoops like a trained seal," Weaver said. "This would be an emotional roller coaster for a media savvy guy with many years of sobriety. For Ted, this media feeding frenzy could kill him."
Clash of the media titans over Williams
NBC and CBS morning news shows dragged Williams back and forth across Manhattan. Finally CBS won, and sent Williams out to Hollywood where he would shoot 'The Insider,' 'ET,' and 'Dr. Phil,' which is also a CBS entity. Dr. Phil arranged a meeting with some of Williams' nine children, some of whom hadn't seen their dad in decades.
"A recovering addict needs to take that process slowly," said Weaver. "But so much of TV is about emotion and conflict -- they don't really care about the needs of the individual."
Weaver saw signs that William was suffering when they met at the voice over lab, and hence made the offer to arrange for Williams to attend a rehab meeting. But Williams' handlers just couldn't seem to find the time in the exhausting schedule they'd arranged.
Weaver was not surprised when things came to head in a hotel room in Hollywood on Tuesday night -- a fight with Williams' newly reunited daughter led to police intervention, accusations of current alcohol abuse, and even physical violence, reportedly perpetrated by the daughter.
Weaver said he was relieved when he read an announcement canceling upcoming appearances, along with a statement by Al Battle, Williams' new manager:
"After consulting with several psychologist and doctors we all agree that it is time to allow private healing to take place. Ted would like to express his sincere thanks for all the love and support he has received. We want to reassure everyone that Ted's emotional and physical health is our first priority. The Battle Plan Promotions Team is working hard to set up a solid network of support and assistance when he returns home. We are asking the local, national and international community to embrace and welcome Ted home to a safe, stress free, and supportive environment.
It's been reported that Dr. Phil is arranging residential rehabilitation for Williams for at least a month to 90 days. Weaver says he and his supportive colleagues in the voice over community will be there for Williams when he comes out.
"Ted is a sweet, good-hearted man. He is not a saint, but he deserves a shot at redemption like all of us," Weaver said. "I am continuing to expect a good outcome."
Whether or not the rest of the world will remember him is another matter. This is a man who shot to superstardom -- even getting offers from Oprah -- in a matter of days, who now seems to be coming back to earth sooner than expected. It makes you think twice about coveting a mercurial career rise to the top -- no matter how much support you may have.