Yeah That’s Right, I Said It
By Sheletta Brundidge
Recently the country was captivated with the rags-to-riches story of Ted Williams. The homeless radio announcer stood on the road begging when a newspaper reporter from The Columbus Dispatch shot a video clip of him. That two-minute exchange changed Williams’ life forever.
We all know how the story unfolds from there: Eleven million YouTube hits later, he’s rubbing elbows with NBC Today Show’s Matt Lauer and fielding a job offer from Oprah Winfrey. His real-life story is the made-for-TV movie with the happy ending we all love.
While I’m happy for Williams’ newfound success and find his redemption touching, I can’t root for him. Asking me to cheer him on is like asking Magic Johnson to get court-side seats at the Boston Garden and pull for the Celtics to win an NBA Championship over his beloved LA Lakers.
It ain’t gon’ happen, Captain, ’cause at this point Mr. Williams is my competition! He’s the enemy, ’cause he’s taking money right out of my pocket. I got a family I’m trying to feed!
You see, without a résumé, a fancy demo reel, expensive head shots or an agent, Williams has landed coveted broadcasting jobs that I’ve only dreamed about. Oprah’s offering him a show on her OWN Network. That was a gig I auditioned for!
I went to Dallas for the open casting call and stood in line for hours in an unforgiving girdle that turned my size-10 waistline into a size four. I shall never forget the 103-degree heat that beat down on me and thousands of folks hoping to become the next Oprah.
I pitched a program called “The Model Marriage,” a one-hour show that would help struggling couples work through difficult situations with love and laughter. I never got a call back.
Then I look up and Williams is sitting there all smiles on the couch next to Matt Lauer on The Today Show. I’ve pitched story ideas to that show for years trying to get on that couch. All I ever got back was the automatically generated response, the one that says, “We got your email. Don’t respond to this email. We’ll get back to you if we’re interested, but probably not! Thanks for watching The Today Show!”
Am I a hater? Well yeah, but at least I own it.
When my radio talk show in Minneapolis was replaced by the nationally syndicated Gayle King Radio Hour, I got laid off. With the way radio works now, local personalities are being pushed out to save a few bucks. In the ol’ days, local radio stations would employ local talent who were hooked into the community. Then big media giants like Clear Channel and Radio One bought up all the competition and replaced the local DJs with national programs.
So I moved to Cincinnati hoping to jumpstart my career in a new market. I mean, I’ve got 10 years in the business, a solid background, great references. So it should be a breeze, right? Wrong!
I pounded the pavement for months looking for a gig. I’m a hustler at heart, so I wasn’t about to give up. Short of stalking folk, I’ve been doing whatever it takes to get on the radar. Three months of calls, emails, interviews, and coincidentally jogging in front of one manager’s house on trash day as he pulled the bin to the curb have gotten me nowhere.
I was at my wit’s end and ready to accept my life of eternal unemployment when Williams’ story started popping up on every freakin’ TV show. I even think I saw him on Sesame Street chattin’ with Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
It angered me that after years of getting high and no work ethic, a two-minute YouTube clip had turned Williams into some kind of folk hero. He ain’t no damned hero! Yeah, that’s right, I said it — heroes raise their children. Heroes don’t leave their wives. Heroes show up to work every day. Heroes don’t do drugs.
So now that Ted Williams done took all the jobs I had lined up, I’m gon’ flip the script. I’m gassing up the Nissan today and taking the one-hour trip from Cincinnati to Columbus. I’m gone stand on his old corner off Hwy. 71 and hold up a sign that reads: “Unemployed radio announcer. Ten years’ experience. No criminal convictions (not counting the misdemeanor charge when I stalked my husband’s girlfriend). No former drug addictions or downward spirals. Will work for descent wage and free concert tickets.”
The next time God chooses to bless a homeless man on the roadside, I pray it’s an engineer or a CPA and He leaves the few radio jobs left for unemployed broadcasters like me struggling to find work.
Sheletta Brundidge is now an associate producer for WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. Twin Cities residents can still get a daily dose of Sheletta’s observational humor by visiting her website at http://sheletta.com.