The man who discovered Ted Williams says 'it's probably easier getting through to Obama [now] than Ted'
Image Credit: Peter Kramer/MSNBC/NBC Newswire via AP ImagesThough Ted Williams, the golden-voiced homeless man from Columbus, Ohio, seems like the quintessential rags-to-riches story for our Internet age, it didn’t happen overnight. Doral Chenoweth, the 47-year-old web producer for the Columbus Dispatch who filmed Williams, actually shot those life-changing 97 seconds of film approximately eight weeks ago. He’d first encountered Williams, his cardboard sign, and his baritone pipes a few weeks before that when he and his wife were driving past on their way to the store. “He just let loose with that velvety, old-school voice,” Chenoweth tells EW. “We had a good time, but you know, life goes on. The light turns green. I threw him a dollar and off we went.”
About a week later, though, Chenoweth, who’s worked for Dispatch for 20 years and calls himself a modern-day backpack journalist, endured a slow news day and needed something — anything — to shoot. He found Williams at the same corner, and this time when he said, ‘Say something with that great radio voice,” he had his FlipCam rolling. “It was so touching,” recalls Chenoweth. “I thought it was sweet.”
But Chenoweth had no clue he had gold. He felt the video’s ending was awkward and the clip ran a little too long. So he sat on the footage for weeks. Then, on Monday, when he needed something fresh, he dug up the video on his computer and popped in on to the paper’s website. And… nothing special. “It kind of did an average number of hits for a video on our website on a Monday,” says Chenoweth. “But Tuesday, some guy from Ohio State calls me out of the blue and says, ‘Your video is about to go viral.’ By Tuesday night, it was skyrocketing. And Wednesday was just a media frenzy.”
Chenoweth has spent the last few days witnessing Williams’ surreal ride from homelessness to mega-stardom. “It’s probably easier getting through to Obama [now] than Ted,” he jokes, adding that Williams is handling the transformation “like you might expect. He’s kind of excited, frazzled, but sharp all at the same time.”
About to fly home after a whirlwind trip to New York City, Chenoweth was reflective, hopeful for Williams, and still amazed by the events. “Maybe if I had released the video the week before Christmas, it never would’ve gained any traction in the national media,” he points out. “God’s in control of everything and God’s in control of this video. Ted’s got a real good outlook on it and so do I.”
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