Golden-voiced Ted Williams found out the hard way that skyrocketing from homelessness to nationwide celebrity virtually overnight has a downside: a slip from sobriety and a tangle with a family thrust back into his life.
But after the speed bumps in the 53-year-old’s feel-good story, Williams says he’s slowed things down considerably — and grabbed his sense of identity back in the process.
“I think it was too much, too fast,” Williams told Meredith Vieira live on TODAY Wednesday. “I wanted to take advantage of everything possible before somebody pinches me and says, ‘Ted, wake up — it was just a dream.’ It was just so fast.”
‘It was just awful’
Williams grabbed national attention in January when, as he was panhandling on the side of a Columbus, Ohio, highway, a local reporter shot video of him delivering a mock radio monologue in the silky-smooth voice that had gained him professional success before he fell into the abyss of drug abuse, alcohol addiction and homelessness. The video clip wound its way onto YouTube, where it soared past 10 million views in just days.
Just four days after being discovered along the road, Williams appeared on TODAY. But now, two months later, Williams admitted he began to unravel after the appearance.Video: Homeless man with golden voice ‘thankful to be here’ (on this page)
“It was just awful,” he told Vieira Wednesday. “I mean, in spite of the fact I made it here — my first step from homelessness to the TODAY show — shortly after that it was pulling and tugging with the other networks and tabloid magazines and all.”
After years of obscurity, Williams lapped up the attention. Offers poured in from around the globe: He became the voice of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and fielded an offer from the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers. But quickly it became clear that Williams hadn’t yet found his footing.Video: Cops detain man with the ‘golden voice’ (on this page)
While staying in a Los Angeles hotel awaiting an appearance on the “Dr. Phil” show, Williams began drinking and got into a physical clash with one of his nine children, who was appearing with him. On Dr. Phil’s show, Williams admitted he was drinking again.
Phil McGraw arranged for Williams to go into rehab, but Williams abruptly left the facility after 12 days. Subsequently he tried another stint in rehab, and today he resides in a sober living facility in Studio City, Calif.Video: ‘Golden-voiced’ man heads to rehab (on this page)
Williams insists he’s doing much better today, and says that one reason is that he now has support staff fielding the job offers that continue to pour in. “They’ve really kept me grounded, keeping me away from all these offers, not letting me know there’s an abundance of them,” he told Vieira.
“I’ve had so many opportunities and so many travels, and I’m really, really taking it just one day at a time,” Williams added. “No more, ‘Ted, we’ve got this to do with you next week’ and all of that.”Video: Homeless man headed to Hawaiian airwaves? (on this page)
Still, Williams does have big plans. He told Vieira that he has a book and a reality show being shopped. In addition, he’s setting up a “Second Chance Foundation” to help others receive the sort of opportunities he has.
In response, Vieira told the golden-voiced man that she worries he’s still taking on too much. But Williams expressed confidence that his life is more manageable now, pointed to a higher power to guide his way.
“I do have a stronger spirituality,” he said. “I do have to get reconnected with Jesus Christ, who helped me through all of this.”
A highlight of the New York City native’s return to his hometown this week was another reunion with his 90-year-old mother, Julia Williams. In January the pair had their first meeting in years, and while Julia reveled in it, she also expressed concern whether her troubled son had truly conquered his demons.Video: Man with golden voice, mom reunite after 20 years (on this page)
But on Wednesday Williams told Vieira that this week’s meeting was different: “My mom can always tell if something’s happening, if I started deteriorating ... but she said, ‘You look great, just keep it up.’ ”
Appearing in a later TODAY segment with Al Roker, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales, Williams responded to questions e-mailed by viewers. Asked how others could get the second chance in life he’s received, Williams advised them to “continuously pray” and “display your talents every chance you get.”Video: ‘One day at a time,’ Ted Williams recommits to sobriety (on this page)
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Responding to another question, Williams said that the biggest thrill he’s had since being rediscovered was introducing the TODAY show live in January. But he indicated he’s ready for a quieter life one day when another viewer asked where he sees himself in five to 10 years.Video: Homeless man’s golden voice kicks off TODAY (on this page)
“Being out to pasture with my grandkids ... just having a great time with my family and just really taking all of this in; just laying back and relaxing,” Williams responded.
He added that after years of drug and alcohol abuse, his priorities have changed. “Now I’m finding a different way of having fun,” he said.
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