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What happened to… Ted Williams, the man with golden voice

"Ted Williams: A homeless man with a golden voice" -- 2011

On this episode of the Global News podcast What happened to…? Erica Vella finds out what happened to Ted Williams, the man with the golden voice.

In 2011, a 90-second video launched Ted Williams, a man who was experiencing homelessness, as an international celebrity.

In the video, Williams was standing at the side of a road in Columbus, Ohio; he was holding a sign that read in part, “I have a God-given gift of voice.”

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Doral Chenoweth, a photojournalist with The Columbus Dispatch — a daily newspaper based in Ohio – took the video.

“I had a mandate from my editors in this era to find a video a day. And so I tried my best to find something to do every day,” said Chenoweth.

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A few weeks earlier he had spoken to Williams while running errands and he said he was impressed with the sound of his voice.

“I needed a video to fulfill this video of the mandate that I had from my editors where they just wanted a lot of videos. And so I thought about that homeless guy,” he said.

Chenoweth said he found Williams and brought out a small flip camera and recorded his conversation.

“It comes out just beautiful and magical. He’s got that deep baritone voice that resonates and I gave him a buck or two and said, ‘hey, can you meet me across the street?’ And so I went over across the street and got a parking spot and he walked over,” Chenoweth said.

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“As a journalist, a lot of times you’re trying to make connections with people and, you know, you build goodwill and you build trust and you build rapport with people, especially homeless people or people who’ve been through a lot of trauma.

“In this case, I just kind of turned the camera on the guy and said, ‘tell me your name and what’s your situation?’ And he did.”

Chenoweth posted the video in January 2011 and it quickly began drawing international attention; media from all over the U.S. went on a search to find Williams, dubbed the man with the golden voice.

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“It blew my mind how much media attention there was on him and how people were interested in this throughout the world,” Chenoweth said.

“Somebody put it on YouTube and you could just sit there and watch the number of clicks go up by the hour, you know, this hour it’s got 18 million hits and then an hour later it’s got 19 million hits, 20 million hits. It just kept rising and rising and rising.”

Williams said he was overwhelmed by the response.

“I knew nothing about viral. I didn’t even have an internet phone. I thought that viral would have meant that a virus was installed or a virus,” he said.

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“I thought maybe it was a job possibility. I figured if he had a camera, he’s got a microphone, maybe he’ll take it home, look at it and see if I’m worthy of hiring. That was it … I find out that there was a viral video and … I’m an internet sensation.”

On this episode of Global News What happened to…? Erica Vella speaks with Ted Williams and Doral Chenoweth about the viral video that launched Williams into fame. Williams speaks about his battles with addiction; he explains what happened after the video went viral and where he is now.

Contact:

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

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