Watching the Ted Williams Reality Show

Ted Williams the way he is...

By now you’ve seen the video.  A wild-haired homeless man with a weather-beaten face stands by a freeway exit hitting up drivers for loose change and a dollar or two.   Ted Williams is 54 and looks ten years older.  He has lost his family, lost his wife, lost his kids and lost pretty much everything else.  But he has one thing left.  A golden voice to offset a face made for radio.

And then Ted became the star of his own reality show.

Williams did not plan to be in a viral video.   He was minding his own business, standing by the side of a freeway exit hitting up strangers for dollars and loose change.   Some guy from the Columbus Dispatch rolled up with a mini-camera and next thing you know Williams is all over the Net and the networks.

And why not?  It’s a GREAT story.  It’s the kind of human interest, touchy-feely, gives you a nice glow kind of story because if Americans love anything it’s a story of a person falling and rising.   No pleas for pity.  No government handout.   No charity.  Just give a guy a chance.

Everybody loves a redemption story.

Who knows what kind of life Williams led before?   The poor and homeless are invisible in this society.  We see them but we pretend we don’t.   We know they are there, but we hurry by and hope they don’t hit us up with some sob story and a dirty, open palm.  If anything, Williams humanizes the down-on-their-luck masses.  He could be an inspiration to the homeless and remind the rest of us that everybody’s got a story and some of them are pretty damn compelling.

Unless someone want to crap all over their turn of fortune.   Huffington Post contributor David Sirota wrote a sour, spiteful rant entitled “Ted Williams and the Triumph of American Dream Propaganda.”

He’s right about the lack of economic mobility for many Americans. He’s wrong to use the story of Ted Williams to make his point. If Williams hadn’t happened along, would Sirota still have his shrill little bitch fest published by the HuffPo?

I don’t think so. If Sirota had gotten off that freeway exit three days ago and seen Williams standing there, would he give him a buck or look the other way?   There was a poll taken a few years ago that showed conservatives gave more to charity than liberals.  Apparently, Sirota likes the poor and homeless as long as they stay that way.  Is this an example of the “left-wing elitism” the Right always likes to ding liberals with?

Sirota is seizing upon the Williams story to use it as the hook to a post that would just be one of many on The Huffington Post.

Title the post, “The Triumph of American Dream Propaganda” and who’s going to click it except the friends and family of David Sirota? Stick Ted Williams name to it, this week’s media delight and the page hits go up exponentially.

...the way he was..

Before I started blogging I was a writer and newspaper editor and I know if you want people to stop and read something you need to give them something to hook them in. Ted Williams is a compelling hook–this week. By next week, everyone will have tired of him and moved on to something newer and fresher.

Two days ago, I could have probably scored an interview with Ted Williams by simply driving a few miles north and offering him a few dollar bills.

But now?   The dude is a bona fide overnight sensation, viral video hero and media sensation. With an agent.

There are so many things coming at Williams.  Job offers and even housing.   Access Hollywood, The David Letterman Show, and even a movie offer to do the voice of Wolfman Jack.   I’m afraid Williams is  now be out of my reach.

On the local news stations Williams was the lead story with footage of him flying off to New York to do The Today Show.  But there was a slight snafu.  He wasn’t allowed to board the plane and depart because he had no I.D.  He had to wait a few hours until he could get a non-driver State I.D.   Williams was sporting his newly trimmed haircut, but he was wearing the same camouflage jacket he’s been sporting in the video and was carrying his possessions in a plastic bag.

Apparently, Williams was whisked off to his numerous media appearances by his agent (who formerly managed The Hues Corporation of “Rock the Boat” fame) that he didn’t have time to see his mother who lives in NYC.  The tender reunion occurred today with cameras filming the son and mother who hadn’t seen each other for over twenty years.

Some people can handle new-found fame and fortune.  Others are overwhelmed by it and left crushed with the spotlight fades.    Which one will Williams be?    When the job offers,  book and film deals, television appearance and interview requests dribble away to nothing (as they inevitably will) what will be left of Ted Williams.   How many homeless people have agents?   Williams doesn’t need an agent.  He needs a job and a chance to get his life straightened out.

But that’s for next week.   Right now, Williams should try to enjoy his 15 minutes of fame.   One day he’s sleeping on the ground in a tent near the freeway and the next he’s chilling in a New York hotel.   He’s reaching his saturation level and by this time next week he will be old news and we’ll be back talking about what mischief Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian are up to.

Our attention spans are short. Our need for fresh “celebrity” meat never satisfied. Feed us new meat.

...and the way he used to be.

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2 thoughts on “Watching the Ted Williams Reality Show

  1. fantastic piece, jeff. i’m still absorbing the myriad aspects of this story — redemption, the celebrity culture of america, the comeback angle, the altruism, the potential for it to raise consciousness. interesting story, for sure, and a very interesting take on it. keep up the good work.

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