The Grio — What do you call a homeless black man who has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, a police record that includes arrests and serving prison time for theft and forgery, and an ex-wife and nine children he’s unable to support?

America’s sweetheart, apparently.

I’m referring, of course, to Ted Williams, the man with the startlingly smooth radio voice who was “discovered” a week ago living on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, and has since become a national celebrity.

Despite his somewhat colorful past, Williams was quick to garner both sympathy and awe from almost everyone who has come into contact with his charming YouTube debut, including myself.

In that video, he appeared polite, humble, and perhaps most importantly, talented, actively challenging our collective stereotypical notion of what a homeless man in America should be. It seemed all he needed was a second chance in order to pick himself up and live out the unlikely but feel-good success story we’ve all become accustomed to seeing in Disney movies: A man has passion and talent, falls on hard times and is unable to pursue said passion and talent. He’s “discovered” and is thus finally able to realize his ever-important and miraculously in-tact passion and talent.

And just like that, Williams’ earnest narrative, gentle smile, and “golden” radio voice prompted an outpouring of sympathy and job offers from across the country. Let’s face it — we were all rooting for him.

That he had been chosen by us, “the people”, made it even more compelling, turning him into the kind of exciting modern day celebrity whose very existence would not have been possible mere years ago, before the era of YouTube and viral video. Imagine: if it was our very attention that was catapulting him to fame, in some sense we had helped someone on the road to a new and better life, simply by clicking on a YouTube video. We were all do-gooders now.

And then, slowly but surely, the inconveniently messy details began to leak out.

Sure, we had known about the history of drug and alcohol abuse from watching the original interview. But it had seemed a brief blip on the screen of our love for Ted Williams. And when we found out about a few nonviolent crimes on his police record a day or so later, we took all that in stride, too. But that wasn’t the end of it.

Monday night, Williams was detained by the LAPD after he and his daughter got into a heated argument that reportedly turned physical. Yikes. And it’s becoming harder and harder to rep #TeamWilliams as his mother, ex-wife, and children each take turns stepping forward to offer their version of why they feel Williams is ill-equipped to handle his sudden fame. Maybe we could still let this all slide in the name of holding on to that warm fuzzy feeling we felt when we watched the original video and heard Williams’ story.

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But the most recent detail threatens to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back: Yesterday, Williams, 53, reportedly admitted to Dr. Phil that he’s been drinking again, and needs to check into rehab, despite having previously insisted that he’s been sober for at least two years.

As these new details emerge that complicate Williams’ rosy public image, we can’t help but feel a bit culpable for the media frenzy we helped create around a man whose capacity to handle it is questionable at best.

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • S.

    The most surprising information in this article is that Ted Williams is Black! *shocked face*

    “America’s sweetheart, apparently”

    ^I’m guessing his racial ambiguity helped play into this… no?

    *Giggles at Wendy Williams being right*

    I hope he gets well soon, I was really rooting for him and I don’t wish for him to waste his 15 minutes of fame showing the world of why he was homeless in the first place

  • African Mami

    Let us not define him by his past deeds, let his now be his defining theme. He might have a checkered past, but if he is willing to seek the needed help, he surely deserves a second chance. Wish him all the best!

  • sloane

    i’m just worried that after rehab and the recent hit his public image has taken with his lapse in sobriety and going to rehab may cause some of the opportunities he’s been offered to dry up. i think we all know that when someone’s 15 minutes of fame are up they are completely forgotten about and i wonder if the high profile job offers will still be there when he’s done with rehab. i hope they still are and that he’s able to get his life back on track. i’m still rooting for him.

  • Rhuebekah

    I highly doubt he was sober for two years as he claimed. I watched him on Dr. Phil and his story kept changing. When Dr.Phil offered to fly him to a rehab facility he was full of excuses. I really hope he actually goes to rehab. I beleive his family and mother are telling the truth about him. The thing is he is an addict and he will lie, steal, and smooth talk his way into getting what he wants. Its unfortuante but it is true for a lot of addicts. I really hope Dr. Phil doesn’t give up on him. They need to turn the cameras off and help clean himself up.

  • Alexandra

    The same media that helped praise him and made him somewhat ‘famous’, will the be same media that will break him down. And they’re doing a pretty good job.
    Some news sites are bringing up his past arrests, stories, and even posting his many mugshots.