The Splendid Speaker
BOSTON (CBS) – It isn’t every day we in the voice-over community (a tight but well spoken-for bunch) are allowed out from our studio shells, let alone get a little recognition. Monday of this past week, a legendary announcer whose golden tones have blanketed our airwaves sent me THE link. By now most inhabitants on earth not only know of it but can probably recite the lines, without the intensity of the video’s star of course.
There he was. The homeless guy in Ohio with the ratty clothes, wild hair, choppers in serious need of dental help and the voice that touched off a You Tube explosion. When I first caught it I was impressed. Really impressed. As a voice-over artist and teacher of many, I know it when I hear it. And this dude has it, a deep, rich melodious timber with the magical element that someone with a powerful voice needs to succeed in the business—the ability to connect. Don’t read to them, tell it to them. Ted Williams, panhandling for quarters, knocked it out of the park on the short live-action video. A day or so later, millions were forwarding links about “Teddy Voice-over Game” as I like to refer to him. He made it to the Today Show and all of the networks faster than a speeding Beiber. He’s become an international celebrity, has already cut his first major commercial for Kraft Macaroni (he sells the concept of melting cheese as well as anybody) and is fielding job offers from sports teams, networks and mega ad agencies. Cynics are right when they point out that some sponsors are jumping onto the obvious bandwagon that Ted is riding, for the next few weeks anyhow. But as far as I can tell, he’s the real thing when it comes to delivering a top voice –over of national quality. Ted is what we refer to in my business as the “V.O.G.” announcer. Translation—“Voice of God.” It is a sacred spot usually reserved for say a James Earl Jones or someone of Darth Vader’s ilk and pitch.
What a feel-good story for the world when we need some decent news. The New Year is starting off just as the old one ended with a sour economy, bitter politics, and a boatload of letdowns. To witness a guy not only getting a second chance but receiving a golden ticket after a lifetime of hard knocks should do anyone’s heart good. Knowing he’s talented enough to survive and thrive when the current media love fest dims is reassuring.
I have one bit of advice for Ted Williams. That he surround himself with family and true friends who will be there to support the man, not just the celebrity voice. Mr. Williams has not only touched bottom during his adult years, he’s made his physical home there for quite a while. He carries, as we all do, a fair amount of baggage, sadly much of it saddled by alcohol and drug addiction. He’s making the transition as we speak from a house with cardboard walls to one with hot and cold running water, cable TV, heat and air conditioning, perhaps even a microwave, fridge and washing machine. That’s quite a lifestyle change for a guy who just last week was picking through dumpsters for his next meal. For sobriety to work one must accept a load of responsibility and it’s a daunting task to attempt it all alone. We all want him around for many years in the booth gracing us with what he was born to do. We should also wish for him grounding, balance, mentorship and plenty of support. The entertainment landscape is littered with talented people burning out well before their time. From Judy Garland to Lindsay Lohan, the pressure of being front and center in a world of celebrity is many times overwhelming, leading to decline, despair and too often an early death.
So to Ted Williams I say drink plenty of warm tea and honey, avoid smoke and other irritants and remember that you’re stepping right back into a life and career of pressure and deadlines. But doing voice work might be the most fun one can have as an actor without having to memorize the damn lines. They actually pay some of us, sometimes rather well, for using our voice to tell the story. And here’s the best part Ted and I’m certain you already have a good grasp on this. In life, as is the case in the studio, you do get the chance to roll on take 2.