Ted Williams, arrested after raising his golden voice in a Los Angeles hotel room on Monday, exemplifies Biggie’s maxim: Mo’ money, mo’ problems.
Also for Ted Williams, mo’ problems, mo’ problems.
Last week Death and Taxes writer Colleen Stufflebeem criticized the national spirtual orgasm America was having over Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice. “It’s strange how demanding and unforgiving the world can be on the common man, but how readily accepting it can then be on the common man who shamelessly broadcasts himself,” she wrote.
The story was published the day after Williams appeared on the “Today Show” when every other headline about Williams was blindly, almost nauseatingly uplifting. Needless to say, the reaction to Stufflebeem by commenters was uniformly negative. One commentor threatened to punch her in the face, and another, imaginatively named “Stuffleho,” suggested that she find a way “to rid herself of her fingers.”
It was truly amazing how violently readers reacted to a unique, though cynical, angle on what was supposed to be a heart-warming, God-affirming story about sin and retribution. Williams’ appearance on the “Today Show” was supposed to be the first chapter in an American narrative involving involving God, Hollywood, and a pair of digital bootstraps known to everyone as YouTube.
Then yesterday, headlines surfaced about Williams engaging in a spat with his daughter over money in a Los Angeles hotel room that eventually culminated in his arrest. Most of these stories were ignored by last week’s rabid commenters, probably in an effort to prevent their heads from exploding with confusion. “Fists got flying– none of which were mine,” said Williams in an “Entertainment Tonight” interview, displaying a large scratch on this left cheek.
His daughter Janey shared her side of the story with Dr. Phil. “He said, ‘You, you fat [expletive],’ and when he said that, I just got angry.”
Many people commenting on our story referred to God’s role in Williams’ change of luck. This week’s events must be very confusing for those who credited Jesus with his YouTube breakthrough.
To me, there is nothing mysterious about getting into a fight with a family member, especially one you’ve no doubt disappointed over the years. I’m not saying Janey Williams is the true victim in this story, just that things get tricky when we try to turn human beings into movie characters—and even trickier when the movie is categorized as “feel-good.”
If you are a living, breathing human, “feel-good” does not broadly apply to life.
This chapter in the Ted Williams YouTube story will most likely not be the only one that takes a sour turn. As Americans (or maybe just people) we are taught that we can pick someone up from the streets, build them into an idol, and then—once they’re rich and famous—tear them down.
We the public are the ones playing God in the Ted Williams story, and by getting in a physical altercation with his daughter, Williams has upset the flow of our favorite narrative. Williams and his family were not supposed to meet Dr. Phil for at least another two years. And it was supposed to be on Oprah.
Life is a slog. There are many moments that feel good, and for many of us there are even a few moments of genuine success. Whether Williams “deserved” his comeback is entirely irrelevant. As “the public,” let’s try, at least in some small way, to treat each other as people, not stories, and come to terms with the fact that a “second chance” isn’t usually enough for those of us who have stumbled to get back up and get it right.