Three days ago, Ted Williams was a homeless guy panhandling along a freeway. Now he’s the latest media sensation in a you tube genre first clicked into life by viral viewings of the never-been-kissed middle-aged Susan Boyle. When Ted opened his mouth and a velvety FM baritone came out, the world stopped for a moment to listen – and then forwarded Ted’s feel-good story on to their friends.
Everyone loves a happy ending, and as the offers and media appearances are now piling on for Ted as they did for Susan, I pray he gets his. The demands of life in the spotlight can shatter an emotionally-fragile person. Boyle has had mental health issues in the wake of her meteoric rise to fame. Ted is now in the spotlight on the back end of years of addiction and a decade of homelessness. Happy endings at mid-life don’t come without reckoning with the large assortment of second-hand Samsonite baggage these folks (and most of the rest of us) carry.
I am grateful that occasionally our gaze turns from the manufactured beauty of most celebrities to embrace talent in battered packaging. Ted and Susan serve as pieced-together icons of hope for the rest of us – all of the un-pretty, battle-scarred rest of us. Buried just beneath Ted or Susan’s mangy, pre-celebrity exteriors was the shock and awe of their stunning, incongruous talent.
But maybe the best use of the little jolt of hope we get from these Star Is Born you tube stories is to remind us tune our ears to those around us for a moment so we can hear the beautiful music coming from a neglected, broken, un-pretty neighbor, coworker or friend.