The Homeless Man With The Golden Voice, A Year Later
One year ago, Ted "Golden Voice" Williams was living in a box and panhandling on a Columbus street corner. But he had a deep, soulful voice destined for greater things. And now he's found them. With a new, clean-cropped haircut, Williams (the accompanying photo shows him, at right, with his "sober living" coach) is living with his longtime girlfriend in a comfortable condominium in Dublin, Ohio, with regular voice-work and an upcoming autobiography.
Williams first entered the national spotlight when a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch filmed him impersonating a radio broadcaster. "And we'll be back for more, right after these words," he said, with a sonorous cadence to rival Tom Brokaw's, sending chills down the spines of over 18 million YouTube viewers.
Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y, the 54-year-old father of nine spent three years in the armed forces then attended school for voice acting. Williams worked overnight shifts at a radio station in Columbus before falling victim to alcohol and drug addiction. With a series of citations and arrests for drug abuse, criminal trespassing, solicitation, theft, drug possession, robbery and escape, and two stints in jail, Williams ended up on the streets with nothing but a handwritten sign and a powerful set of pipes.
A couple of days after his video went viral, Williams was interviewed on a slew of talk shows. Oprah announced that she would like to bring Williams into the OWN family. "It would be fantastic to hear him say, 'The Oprah Winfrey Network,' " she said. The Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team offered him a job doing full-time voice-over work, as well as a home. MSNBC hired him shortly after, as did Kraft Foods. He became such a meme that one reporter intrepidly searched the streets of Indianapolis for homeless people with secret talents in a bit that, some would say, lacked taste.
It's the kind of story that the American people love. A man, down on his luck, is skyrocketed to fame thanks to an inspiring gift, a pinch of humility and a viral video. But Williams' sudden swing in fortunes didn't have a simple Hollywood ending.
Having been purportedly sober since mid-2008, Williams succumbed to drinking after the media storm. The Cleveland Cavaliers retracted its earlier job offer, and Williams ended up briefly detained by the Los Angeles Police Department with his daughter, after a fierce yelling match. He ended up doing two stints in rehab -- one for drinking, organized by Dr. Phil (which he left prematurely), and one for emotional reasons.
But Williams is clean again, with a new job as the voice for the regional network New England Cable News. "What another blessing that God has bestowed upon me in the year 2011," Williams told The Boston Herald. "A year ago today, I was homeless and toothless and everything else-less."
Entertainment Tonight caught up with Williams recently for a tour of his new home. "I've got a fireplace!" he exclaims. "I can get butt-naked by the fireplace!"
Strolling through his walk-in closet, which doubles as a recording studio, Williams seems to be genuinely at a loss. "A year ago I was living inside of a box," he says. "Man what a difference a year makes."
Williams' memoirs, "A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation" is due out in May.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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