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Ted Williams: Revelations Behind
The Voice Over Video Sensation

By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor
©2011 Paul Strikwerda
 
If you happen to read this story a year or even six months from now, will you still remember Ted Williams?
 
And if you do, will you be thinking of that great hitter from the golden age of baseball - or of the homeless man with the golden pipes? (See VoiceOverXtra article and videos.)
 
Only a week ago, some of us were watching retrospectives of the year that was.
 
To me, those programs are a wake-up call because they always remind me of how little I remember of the year’s most notable events and newsworthy personalities.
 
Here today. Gone tomorrow.
 
Ted’s remarkable story had me thinking.
 
It brought up questions about the unfair randomness of reporting and about self-serving charity.
 
THE VIRAL VIDEO

What would have happened if that videographer for the Columbus Dispatch had done what thousands and thousands of drivers did for years: ignore that unkept panhandler begging for some change, or have him do a trick for a dollar without a video camera ready?
 
Would Mr. “Golden Voice” be the Internet sensation he is today?
 
Of course not. He’d still be roaming the streets, together with over three million other homeless people in this Land of Plenty.
 
WHAT'S NEWS?
 
By nature, news focuses on the extraordinary and the exceptional. It is selective; it is simplistic and often sensational.
 
Increasingly, news media emphasize non-news items such as stories about the irrelevant lives of celebrities.
 
Objective, in-depth reporting has been replaced by shallow, subjective entertainment.
 
ON-CAMERA
 
More importantly, the medium started to dictate the message: if we can capture it on camera, it’s news. No cameras, no news!
 
What we don’t see does not exist.
 
A few days ago, tossed-by-the-road Ted Williams did not exist.
 
FEEL-GOOD, TOO
 
There’s another reason why Mr. Williams’s story captured the hearts of many news editors.
 
As we all know, most news is bad news, and to offset that daily dose of misery, newsrooms comb the wires for the perfect feel-good story with a fairytale ending.
 
Well, last Monday was their lucky day.
 
“Talented helpless homeless man finds redemption on the highway. We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.”
 
TWO SIDES OF THE COIN

Please understand that I am very happy for Ted.
 
I was one of the first people to watch his video and I immediately joined the Facebook group “Help Get Ted Williams a Voiceover Job.”
 
I did what I could to alert my voice over community, and I even wrote to the new Oprah Winfrey Network, suggesting that they should hire Mr. Williams.
 
At the same time, I felt ashamed that I live in one of the richest nations on earth where people’s fate may depend on random encounters with reporters and networks, rather than on solid support from a caring society.
  • Yes, it’s great that a deserving family receives a million-dollar Extreme Home Makeover.
  • Yes, it’s nice that an undercover boss donates five grand to a working minimum wage earning mother so she can give her daughter the medication she needs.
But it’s time to get real.
 
PARTIAL REALITY
 
Let’s remember that these so-called “reality shows” provide tear-jerking, ratings-boosting entertainment that single a few lucky individuals out, often ignoring the underlying issues that have lead to these people’s problems.
 
Let’s see if we can relieve some symptoms instead of dealing with the cause.
 
As long as the numbers from Nielsen are up, our sponsors will be satisfied!
 
There is a not so fine line between offering alleviation and engaging in exploitation. Today we’ll eat you up. Tomorrow we will spit you out.
 
SWEET CHARITY

As soon as the Golden Voice video went viral and Ted Williams was scheduled to appear on the radio, lucrative voice over offers started rolling in.
 
The part of me that was rooting for Ted was absolutely thrilled.
 
Another part of me was stunned.
 
TOUGH TIMES
 
In these challenging economic times, some voice over colleagues with as much talent as Mr. Williams are forced to sell their equipment and find other employment.
 
Even for people with a proven voice over track record, it’s harder and harder to get the attention of major players.
 
On certain voice casting sites, producers are "generously" offering up to $250 for a TV commercial.
 
Meanwhile, Ted landed a $10,000 contract from the Ohio Credit Union and was hired by Kraft, MSNBC, the Cleveland Cavaliers … AOL News even speaks of “a thousand job offers.”
 
WHY NOW?
 
Again, none of us in the industry begrudge Ted’s sudden success.
 
However, some of us are looking at these generous companies, saying: “Where were you when we knocked on your door?”
 
I’ll go even further than that and ask these companies:
  • When was the last time you helped the homeless?
  • Why are you just now jumping on the bandwagon?
  • Are you really motivated by altruism, or are you hoping to get something out of giving something?
In other words: Was your gift a selfless act or rather self-serving?
 
And if you were giving in order to gain, was it really a gift?
 
MEANINGFUL GIVING
 
Maimonides was a 12th century Jewish scholar and he wrote a code of law based on the Rabbinic oral tradition.
 
He organized different levels of charity into a list from the least to the most honorable.
 
Here they are:
  • Giving begrudgingly
  • Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully.
  • Giving after being asked
  • Giving before being asked
  • Giving when you do not know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient knows your identity
  • Giving when you know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient doesn’t know your identity
  • Giving when neither party knows the other’s identity
  • Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant
Hopefully, a year or even six months from now, Ted Williams will be completely self-reliant.
 
Hopefully, we’ll all still know him as the man who gave the homeless a voice. A golden voice.
 
ABOUT PAUL ...
 
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice-over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice-overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He also publishes an informative and entertaining blog, Double Dutch.
 

 

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Comments (11)
Gary Sanford
1/12/2011 at 9:32 PM
I think it's a potential conflict of interest for Ted's agent and promoter to also be his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. I don't doubt Alfred Battle is a good friend, but let's be honest, it's almost impossible for one person to fairly balance those two roles.
Gary
1/12/2011 at 12:37 AM
EXCELLENT, especially the paragraph "TOUGH TIMES". The generous outpouring of supporting job offers was no different than the prizes & audience gifts on daytime game & gab shows ... gifts that are provided for (free) PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATION ... especially when the going rate for a 30 second commercial broadcast or ID is in the upper 5-figure, 6-figure cost range.
Paul Strikwerda
1/8/2011 at 4:26 PM
Hi Jeff, thanks for mentioning all the reasons why you're not getting any sympathy votes.

Nothing captures the imagination more than a classic underdog story about a guy who went from rags to riches by a stroke of luck.

Ted's friend and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Alfred Battle, also happens to be the founder and CEO of Battle Plan Promotions, a nonprofit entertainment company dedicated to developing "undiscovered talent."

Battle said he's been checking in with Williams over the years and offering assistance -- including occasional voice over and concert announcement gigs -- "whenever he would let me."
Debbie Irwin
1/8/2011 at 3:28 PM
I echo Paul's response, which was also well written!
Jeff Rumplik
1/8/2011 at 1:39 PM
Makes those of us who haven't had our break in the VO industry want to run down to the local busy street corner with a cardboard sign and a friend with a Camcorder.

While taking classes for VO, I was told that the first thing I needed to do was make a demo tape. "No one is going to want to hire you unless you have a tape/DVD" Where's Ted's DVD? I haven't had the funds to afford the studio time and copies of my DVD ... and he's working!

Does this mean that it's better to film yourself for YouTube, Facebook or Twitter in order to land a job?

Well done! Good Job, Ted. Hope you have plenty of success. Hope I do too (whether I go viral or not!)

By the way, I'm a straight, sober, drug-free, Cancer-Free, Never been arrested, White, 4th generation American, Republican, College Graduate, Homeowner, Independent Business Man, Married with Children for over 20 years male that also has a Great Speaking Voice: for Games & Animation, and a great attitude on life. My motto is: Everthing works out for the best. There aren't any major Companies calling me. Hello?
Bob Jordan
1/8/2011 at 10:29 AM
Paul,

From a business standpoint your thoughts are insightful and spot on. From Ted's standpoint, he was advertising his business, standing at the corner of preparation & opportunity.

Cheers !

Bob Jordan
www.thevoicebobjordan.com
Paul Strikwerda
1/8/2011 at 10:08 AM
It's nice to see three Paul's on one page! Even if your first name isn't Paul, you're welcome to respond.

Personally, I'm always interested in the story behind the story. We already know that Mr. Williams ain't a saint, and as more details about his past life are being made public, I wonder how many companies will still want to associate themselves with him.

Let's see how many other individuals with a criminal past they are willing to hire, and what they intend to do about the problem of homelessness ... even if this would not result in positive publicity.

Some people still believe in giving because it's the right thing to do and not because you're getting something in return.

John McLain
1/8/2011 at 10:07 AM
Tremendous article, thanks! This story has sent shock waves through the industry, and much of this reaction has been built on raw emotion. It's refreshing to see a thoughtful, reasoned take.

John
BP Smyth, Narrator
1/8/2011 at 9:05 AM
Ted Williams was at one time just another D.J. doing his job on a local radio station with that great "radio voice" of his. He was no different than any of us, working with his voice to make a living. Whatever the reason, he disappeared from the broadcast industry. Just another voice leaving the profession. Did the world notice his disappearance? No, it did not. Was his "voice" sorely missed by the masses across our nation? No, it was not.

What we are witnessing now is the "story" of a down-and-out homeless person, with a great talent that is now just being rediscovered. What I find so sad about all of this, is what it took to make all of this notoriety come about. We live in a society today that certainly seems to place people on a pedestal after some horrible event has taken place in their lives. You see, Mr. Williams' voice didn't change, his talent didn't disappear, but his life circumstances changed in a negative way. Now, Mr Williams is in the limelight, with all the accolades that come with it.

It's a sad commentary on our society as a whole that seems to have a very limited capacity to recognize talent up front, without having a personal disaster connected to it. Just look at our television programming of today, with all those "reality" shows depicting less than desirable human behavior, and the rewards that come with it. These shows are quite popular, because if they were not, they would not be on the air. Perhaps Mr. Williams' personal life would have gone in a more positive direction had his super talent been recognized early on. And, I must ask the question; why wasn't it?

I want to make it perfectly clear here that I am not criticizing Mr. Williams in any way shape or form. I'm criticizing an American society, that I believe, needs to return to rewarding its people for their achievements on their merit alone, and not because of a personal disaster enhancement.

Best of luck to you, Mr. Williams. Take full advantage of all this notoriety while you can, because as you know, this is a very fickle world we live in. And, the best of luck to all the other voice talent out there, for the same reason.

-BP

Paul J. Warwick
1/8/2011 at 7:11 AM
Paul,
I agree most heartedly with you. Now what will the "Splendid Speaker" do for others?
Paul Payton
1/8/2011 at 12:35 AM
Well said, well thought out. Bonus points for quoting Maimonides. And yes, many of us are just as good as Mr. Williams, but thank God (or whatever higher power you choose) the dues most of us paid to get here weren't as heavy as his. I wish him success, joy, serenity and a very happy home!

Good health, good luck and good works to and for all in the new year, our new colleague Ted included.
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