Story behind the homeless radio star
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)
A homeless man whose silky announcing voice has catapulted him to national fame reunited Thursday with his mother, recorded a commercial for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and agreed to do voiceover work for MSNBC.
Video posted by The Columbus Dispatch shows Ted Williams walking quickly toward his 90-year-old mother at their New York reunion. Williams says, "Hi, Mommy. Hi, Mommy," when he sees her in a hotel for the first time in about 20 years.
Brooklyn resident Julia Williams covers her face as her son approaches, and he hugs her, saying, "I feel the same way, Mommy."
"I'm home," Williams says. "I told you I was coming this year. I don't look the best, but I'm home."
Williams, 53, was left homeless after his life was ruined by drugs and alcohol, and he was living in a tent near a highway in Columbus just days ago. He quickly became an online sensation after the Dispatch posted a clip of him demonstrating his voiceover skills while begging by the side of the road.
Williams appeared on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning and has been offered jobs by the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and others.
At the reunion, he wore a camouflage jacket over clothes that he told his mother are all that he owns and said he just finished doing a commercial for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese that is to air Sunday during the Fight Hunger Bowl on ESPN.
Williams also recorded voiceover promos Thursday for MSNBC's Lean Forward campaign, and the spots were to begin running immediately, network spokeswoman Tanya Hayre said. He was being paid for the spots, Hayre said, but she declined to say how much.
In the reunion video, Williams' mother refers to him as "my prodigal son," and when she tells him, "Please don't disappoint me," Williams responds, "I'm not, Mom, I'm not. I'm through with it all."
"You always told me to pray, and I've been praying," he says. "This has been a dream, a dream and a prayer."
On the "Today" show, Williams described his previous 48 hours as "outrageous."
"There's no way in the world that I could have ever imagined that I would be - I mean, just have all of this just all of a sudden come into this portion of my life," he said during a live interview in the program's studio.
But he said he was ready to handle the second chance and the job offers he was being given and predicted that in five years he'd be working as a radio program director and living in his own apartment. He said in 2010 he found a "new sense of spirituality" that would help him deal with whatever success comes.
Williams was contacted Wednesday by the Cavaliers, who have offered him a position that could include announcing work at Quicken Loans Arena, the team's downtown facility. Williams said the team has offered him a two-year contract and would pay his living expenses.
It's been a shocking turn of events for the golden-voiced Williams, who had gotten by living in shelters and occasionally with family and friends over the past few years. Williams also has been in his share of trouble. His past includes a lengthy list of arrests. He has served time in prison for theft and forgery and has been cited with numerous misdemeanors, including drug abuse.
He was most recently arrested on May 14. He pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor theft charge. In court records, his address is listed as "Streets of Columbus."
Williams acknowledged his record during the "Today" show appearance and explained that he turned to crime so he could afford his drug habits.
Upon learning of Williams' criminal history, the Cavaliers said their offer still stands.
"We believe in second chances and second opportunities," said Tracy Marek, the team's senior vice president of marketing. "The gentleman deserves an opportunity to explain certain situations. We're not jumping to conclusions. It's not fair."
Williams said his life began spiraling downward in 1996, when he began drinking alcohol "pretty bad." He used marijuana and cocaine and lost interest in his radio career. He wound up on the streets despite the best efforts of his children, seven daughters and two sons, who live in the Columbus area.
Williams said he celebrated two years of sobriety around Thanksgiving.
"I just hope," he said, "everyone will pray for me."