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Posted at 5:51 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Ted Williams and the man who made the video

By Elizabeth Flock
Ted Williams and Doral Chenoweth (Doral Chenoweth)

Doral Chenoweth was on his way to go shopping with his wife in October when he noticed a panhandler off I-71 in Columbus holding a sign that read: "I have a god given gift of voice." Chenoweth stopped, asked the man to say something, gave him a dollar for his golden voice, and drove on.

Chenoweth, a multimedia producer for the Columbus Dispatch, went back on a slow news day a week later to find the voice, carrying his flip cam.

The video Chenoweth made would go viral within days and skyrocket the panhandler -- an ex-radio announcer and recovering drug addict named Ted Williams -- to instant fame.

Williams was asked to appear on MSNBC, Jimmy Fallon, and every major news outlet. It seemed a Cinderella story for the YouTube ages. And then, just as fast, Williams was being detained by the police for an argument with his daughter and checking himself into rehab on the advice of Dr. Phil.

Yesterday, Ted Williams resurfaced for the first time on "The Today Show," saying the decision for rehab was rushed. He is now living in a clean-living sober house in Los Angeles.

Much has been made of Williams, but we were curious what happened to the man behind the camera. It turns out Doral Chenoweth wasn't sure the video would amount to much.

He sat on the video of Williams for eight weeks before using it, sure that the video was too shaky and grainy, and busy with more pressing news. Chenoweth didn't decide to post the video until Jan. 3, after a visit to a local church where he prayed with two other homeless men who reminded him of Williams.

He posted the video and the next day he got a call from someone who told him "your video is about to go viral," because it had been posted to and pushed up to number one. His next call was from CNN.

"I realized people don't always need a polished video," says Chenoweth. "This was a simple story with one source. It didn't meet all the journalism standards. But people loved it."

Chenoweth immediately went looking in the homeless camps for Williams, but Williams had already heard the news and gone to his long-time friend and former AA sponsor, Al Battle. Battle also happened to be a talent manager.

Chenoweth has seen Williams only five times since the video. "He has this bubble around him, and it's hard to get through." But the last time Chenoweth and Williams met, the man with the golden voice said he had carried Chenoweth's business card in his wallet for the past eight weeks and thought about Chenoweth every day.

Williams remains assured of his future, telling WBNS-TV in an interview embargoed until yesterday that he plans to shop a reality-show concept to TV networks.

Chenoweth also feels optimistic about Williams: "He was homeless, now he's not. That's the power of social media and journalism. I can't wait to see where we hear his voice next."

Despite his brush with viral fame, Chenoweth is happy to stay at the Dispatch. "I'm going to stick to journalism and not be a talent scout."

Watch the original Ted Williams video below:

By Elizabeth Flock  | February 10, 2011; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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