Homeless Man With a Golden Radio Voice: 'I'll Announce for Food'

PHOTO: Homeless Man With a Golden Radio Voice
Share
Copy

WNCI-FM radio in Columbus, Ohio, wasted little time putting the down-and-out Ted Williams to work on the air this morning, even if it was a tongue-in-cheek proposition.

But the plug for AT&T by the homeless YouTube sensation with the self-described "God Given Gift of Voice" was just the beginning. Shortly after, a Cleveland Cavaliers representative was live on the "Dave and Jimmy Radio Show" offering Williams a full-time job doing voiceovers and mortgage payments on a house.

The organization was inspired "by the power of your voice, the power of your dreams," she told the recovering alcoholic nearly two hours into the show, which was inundated with e-mails, including more than 100 job offers.

The dizzying path from street corners to overnight sensation has left Williams a little short of breath.

"It's making me a nervous wreck," he admitted to the Columbus audience a day after he finished panhandling and a day before his scheduled "Today" show appearance in New York City.

Indeed, his new year is shaping up to be happy one, after so many hard times.

As drivers exited Interstate 71 on Hudson Street in Columbus recently, they may have noticed Williams with a unique appeal for help. It was hard not to listen.

"When you're listening to the best of oldies, you're listening to Magic 98.9," he would bellow with his deep pipes, in a delivery as smooth as any you've heard on the radio.

But on the side of the road, Williams held a cardboard sign that explained that he would announce for food.

"We'll be back with more right after these words," he said recently, as a reporter handed him a buck.

Unshaven, disheveled and wearing a camouflage jacket, this announcer -- a former radio disc jockey -- now speaks to just one driver at a time.

Williams said he became fascinated with radio when he was only 14 years old, growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He had visited a station once, and the DJ behind the mic, who looked nothing like what Williams had imagined, told him that radio was "theater of mind."

"I said, 'Well, hey, I can't be an actor, I can't be an on-air personality,' but the voice just became something of a development over the years," he explained to a web producer for the Columbus Dispatch, who put video of Williams on the newspaper's website this week.

Williams had gone to school to be a broadcaster and worked his way from town to town, up and down the dial, eventually ending up at a now-defunct AM station in Columbus.

"And then alcohol and drugs and a few other things became a part of my life," Williams recounts, sounding as if what comes out of his mouth came straight from the bottom of his belly, in a web video that has quickly gone viral.

Photographer Discovers Ted Williams

The small cardboard sign he holds tells passersby of his "God Given Gift of Voice," which he graciously offers to those willing to extend some help.

"I've got two years clean," Williams says. "And I'm trying hard to get back.

"I'm hoping that somebody from these television or radio stations says, 'Hey, I need a voiceover!' or 'Hey, I need something,'" he says.

Doral Chenoweth, a veteran Columbus Dispatch photographer who now produces videos for the paper's website, discovered Williams holding his sign last month.

"I rolled down the window and said, 'Do you really have a golden voice?' And he did. I mean, that voice just shocked me when he opened his mouth," Chenoweth says.

A week later, Chenoweth says, Williams was still panhandling in the same spot, so Chenoweth had the ex-announcer perform on tape.

The newspaper put the video online Monday, and a version on YouTube had been viewed more than 30,000 times in its first 24 hours. Among the thousands of comments are several offers of employment for Williams.

The radio trade industry website All Access reports WNCI-FM in Columbus hopes to have Williams on its morning show Wednesday, but station executives did not return calls to confirm that.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison attend the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Inaugural Gala presented by Salvatore Ferragamo at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 17, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Stefanie Keenan/Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts/Getty Images for Wallis Annenber