Did you hear the one about the homeless man with a beautiful deep voice who became an pop culture sensation overnight? Who hasn’t. Only weeks ago, Ted Williams, a former drug user and alcoholic, held up a cardboard sign on the side of the road somewhere in Columbus, Ohio. He claimed that he had a God-given gift of voice, that he was sober and that he needed a job. A photographer for the Columbus Dispatch Newspaper pulled over and asked if he really had a golden voice and Williams gave him a demonstration. A week later, the photographer came back to the same spot to videotape Williams. The newspaper put the video online and a version of the video had been viewed over 30,000 times the first day it was posted.
Almost instantly, Ted could be seen in every newspaper, TV station and internet service known to the free world. Job offers began to pour in. Just last week, he was chatting next to Matt Lauer on the Today Show, his bushy, messy hair replaced with a fresh haircut. We heard him claim that he was clean and sober. We heard him say that “this time” things would be different. More job offers. We saw him reunite with his loving, yet skeptical mother. Then early this week he was reunited with his estranged children. A star was born complete with his own Facebook page.
But just as Ted’s new life began to get back on track, it was quickly de-railed once again. What started as a happy affair, but soon was broken up when police were called to temporaily detain him after an argument with one of his daughters. By Wednesday, Ted was invited on the Dr. Phil Show for some tough love. By Wednesday the evening, he admitted that he had relasped into drinking and checked into a rehab clinic. And you thought you had a tough week.
With today’s technology, we are seeing complete strangers become famous literally overnight. On one hand, this is a heartwarming story, helping a fellow human in need. It’s truly amazing seeing the opportunities that have opened up for Ted, but many, like Ted’s mother, waited for the other proverbial shoe to drop. Would he succeed? Would he fail? Would he break his mother’s heart again?
Fortunately, it appears that Ted is starting to get the help he needs. Hopefully this new stint in rehab will lay the foundation for a new life with his family and his God. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get full time work, buy a house and live a stable life. Now, can we leave the poor guy alone? Can we let him heal privately? Why do we feel that we have a right to peek in a stranger’s life just because we have the technology to do so?
Remember that other YouTube wonder, Susan Boyle? Again, a wonderful story of a woman you wouldn’t look twice at, that could stop you cold with the sound of her beautiful voice. But the media has been all over her as well. There were rumors that she had a fit when she didn’t win Britain’s Got Talent Show and that fame was overwhelming her. Only weeks ago, a video surfaced of Boyle struggling to get the notes out of O Holy Night on ABC’s The View.
What’s wrong with us? On one hand, we love to see a story about the underdog making it to the top, but then we can’t wait for them to fall once again. Remember all the hoopla surrounding Brittany Spears’ strange behavior? She appears to be doing okay now, but the media will be back just as soon as she screws up again. How about the ongoing saga that is Lindsay Lohan? Why must Perez Hilton or TMZ post every little bit of dirt they can find and why do we read it? Why is one homeless man suddenly plucked off the streets and praised when there are so many others with similar stories of their own who will never meet the same fate? Have we forgotten how to extend help and love without a camera?