Golden Voice: The Rest Of The Story

Throughout the media circus surrounding Ted Williams, the 53 year-old homeless Columbus man whose “golden voice” has made him a worldwide celebrity, we thought there was an “untold story” behind him.

Sure, he admitted to recovering from a drug and alcohol problem…in the initial video from the Columbus Dispatch, even, the same video which became viral on YouTube and garnered millions of hits. (Some 12 million, at last check.)

After appearing on the “Dave and Jimmy” show based at Clear Channel’s WNCI/97.9, Williams got a flood of job offers, and has appeared on CBS’ “Early Show” and NBC’s “Today Show”, the latter after getting stuck in the Columbus airport Wednesday trying to fly to New York City because he had no ID.

But since he’s now known globally, that makes him a target for those looking into his background…and like any celebrity with problems, the folks at The Smoking Gun found his rap sheet.

And when he told Columbus CBS affiliate WBNS/10 “10TV” (video) that his lowest point was “having a penitentary number”, he wasn’t kidding.

Williams, 53, has been busted for theft, robbery, escape, forgery, and drug possession. He is pictured…in mug shots…taken as a result of those Ohio collars, which stretch back more than two decades.

The Smoking Gun item – which features six different mug shots – says he got into trouble with Columbus police as recently in July of last year, in an incident related to his panhandling in front of an area auto tire and battery shop, and the curious behavior of Williams and a female companion near the store.

The Columbus Dispatch also uncovers Williams’ past:

State records show that Williams served three months in prison in 1990 for theft, and nearly two months in 2004 for theft, forgery and obstructing official business.

He was also cited for a dozen misdemeanors, including drug abuse and criminal trespassing. In the past six months, he was cited four times for pedestrian solicitation near I-71 and Hudson Street, the same intersection seen in the video.

The rap sheet apparently doesn’t involve anything violent, and it was no secret that Williams was addicted to drugs (he specifically mentioned cocaine use in the WBNS interview).

And it’s apparently not enough to derail at least some of Williams’ job offers, including one from right here in Northeast Ohio.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer reports that the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers are still interested in Williams, despite the rap sheet, though it looks like he may have some talking to do:

“We’ll look into it,” Tracy Marek, senior vice president of marketing for the Cavaliers, said of Williams’ criminal background. “We believe in second chances and second opportunities. The gentleman deserves an opportunity to explain certain situations. We’re not jumping to conclusions. It’s not fair.”

And though Williams has gotten job interest from MTV executives, a shot at voiceover work from industry legends Joe Cipriano (the voice of Fox and CBS) and Randy Thomas (the voice of the Academy Awards), NFL Films and many, many others, he seems genuinely interested in taking the Cavaliers’ offer, which apparently involves arena voice work and the offer of possible financing for a new house. He has told various media outlets that he wants to take the NBA team’s offer.

Fully milking the worldwide publicity, the Cavaliers have set up a “We Want Ted Williams” site, with YouTube clips and a section for fans to “encourage” Williams to take the job with the NBA team (over 800 comments so far). And no, we don’t know if there’s any truth to the rumor that the Cavaliers want Williams to intone “LeBron sucks”.

Meanwhile, we want to clear up a misconception here: Williams is not just some homeless guy who happens to have a “golden voice” and hasn’t really tried to use it.

He’s a homeless former radio veteran, with at least three or four stints that we’ve been able to figure out from his own accounts – in Columbus at then-WJZA/107.5 (“Z107.5”, “Power 107.5”, no relation to the now-former smooth jazz outlet at 103.5 now known as “Rewind”), at WVKO/1580 in its days as a soul music outlet, and at 103.1.

He also told OMW reader Mark Zinni at Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8’s “Fox 8 News” that he once worked in Cleveland, at now-Radio One owned WJMO/1490 (since moved to 1300).

The Columbus Dispatch notes his last radio job:

Williams’ most recent job in radio involved recording voiceovers for the former WJZA-FM, said a co-worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Williams, the co-worker said, was among those laid off in 1997 when the station was acquired by Power 107.5.

That would actually be Blue Chip Broadcasting (later swallowed into Radio One) doing the acquiring, which Williams explained to WBNS/10 in the interview linked above.

There is some skepticism about Williams’ radio past…at least some are saying he never worked at some of the stations he mentioned, though Williams gave Fox 8’s Mark Zinni a perfect legal ID for WJMO (1490 is licensed to Cleveland Heights), so either he’s a radio guy who knows stations’ city of license (or remembered it from a tape of the station), or he worked there.

We’ll see if the “media frenzy” dies down now, and if you will indeed hear Williams’ voice at Quicken Loans Arena.

Note that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert gets a double shot of publicity from this: with the basketball team, and with his very own Quicken Loans, which has offered to help Williams finance a new home…

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5 Responses to Golden Voice: The Rest Of The Story

  1. Mark says:

    He could be a double for Obama or Geraldo Rivera in some of those photos on The Smoking Gun site!

  2. 74WIXYgrad says:

    And if the radio thing doesn’t work out, he has the perfect resume to join the Cincinnati Bengals.

  3. Andrew J says:

    I ran across Mark Zinni’s unedited version of his interview with Williams on channel 8’s website yesterday (who knows if it’s still there) . It gave little doubt that Williams actually worked at WJMO. He rattled off the station location quickly (E 118th and Euclid) off the top of his head. This was right before he gave the plug for the show he once had with the legal ID.

  4. carey c says:

    Hey Entercom, Cumulus and all you other radio monopolie. . . think about having some real people as jocks. Canned stations leave a bad taste in my mouth. “Theatre of the mind” needs to return. . .please

  5. tony says:

    Ted Williams WAS indeed at WJMO 1490, probably around 1989, if memory serves correct. I was just breaking into radio in the late 80’s (at WJTB in North Ridgeville/Elyria) and I recall hearing him doing morning drive on WJMO. I wondered what the heck someone with a voice and talent such as his was doing at a small AM station in Cleveland. He only spent a year or so there, but I can personally verify that I remember him there.

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