Perhaps you’ve heard of Ted Williams. Not the baseball legend Ted Williams, but the Ted Williams who is becoming something a legend in his own right. Williams, dubbed “the man with the golden voice,” became a viral video sensation when he was filmed by a driver who gave him money and had him show off his talents. Williams is a homeless former disc jockey who has struggled with drugs and alcohol. His smooth voice intrigued millions of YouTube watchers, and before we knew it, Williams was a 21st century Internet star. Of course, the unfortunate part of that title is that it can be taken away as fast as it is awarded.
Once the media latched onto the Ted Williams story, a tornado of buzz blew through Hollywood PR offices. In less than one week, Williams appeared on “Entertainment Tonight” as well as several other news shows and even landed a deal as the new voice of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. The Ohio man also was jetted to Los Angeles, where he met with Dr. Phil and had photo ops with the Los Angeles Lakers. Hollywood and Adland both rushed to turn Williams into a quickie rags-to-riches story. It seemed like the Internet, journalists and marketers had found not only the man with the golden voice but with the golden ticket, as well.
Yet like any good story, there was a twist. Just days into his rise to stardom, the Los Angeles Police Department questioned Williams while he was staying in a fancy Hollywood hotel. Reports say the man was in a drunken physical altercation with his daughter; both were detained by authorities. Suddenly, the happy ending for Williams was tainted with reality.
The thing about issues like homelessness is that they are complicated. Homelessness doesn’t get fixed with talk show appearances and gift bags. No amount of hits on YouTube can make people well again. Journalists and marketers acted irresponsibly when they ladened Williams with the “hero” label only to swipe it away when his issues took center stage.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for the man with golden voice, but we’re saddened by the reality that he won’t be the last viral video star plucked from obscurity, used for some headlines and quickly thrown away.