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Ted Williams: Radio Personality, Internet Star

The last few years have been strange for Ted Williams. That’s possibly an understatement for a man who went from panhandling to afternoon cable—or as he likes to say “drinking Cobra to Grey Goose”—in a matter of minutes. But as quickly as he shot into the public’s consciousness after Doral Chenoweth III’s simple video of [...]
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The last few years have been strange for Ted Williams. That’s possibly an understatement for a man who went from panhandling to afternoon cable—or as he likes to say “drinking Cobra to Grey Goose”—in a matter of minutes.

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But as quickly as he shot into the public’s consciousness after Doral Chenoweth III’s simple video of his amazing radio voice went viral, he was written off—skewered by Dr. Phil, plagued by relapse, shamed by past arrests, and preyed on by shady managers. In many ways he’s a modern parable; the insatiability of our pop culture demands quick categorization. Should we root for him? Should we dismiss him? Does he deserve all of this?

It turns out the space between never-was and has-been was as thin as the soles of his shoes, the ones that plodded up and down a thin highway island in search of cash—cash that would spend little time in Williams’ pocket before making its way into the hands of a crack dealer.

Funds were just as transient after his re-discovery: money from gigs with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kraft never really arrived, instead destined for the coffers of unreliable promoters and managers who descended on the viral star virally, leaving him just as broke as he was three years earlier—except this time with the specter of a failed second chance hanging over his head.

Yet, Ted Williams is probably the happiest he’s been in his whole life. He’s clean and sober, and has a reality show in the works that aims to offer second chances like the one he received.

“Hey Ted!” the man says—a familiarity in his voice that I will hear a lot over the next two hours, never knowing whether they know him or just feel like they do.

To tell the third (or fourth?) phase of Ted’s story, we go right back to where the second phase started—that thin stretch of grass near the I-71 ramp, where he used the only thing un-ravaged by addiction and depression—that golden voice—to get by.

I’m standing there, too. Those big hands shake mine, before extending toward a slowing car. The driver reaches out with a business card and hands it to the erstwhile celebrity, who can’t help but be a little disappointed there’s no money in his hand.

Some habits are hard to break.

Open, eloquent, passionate, and humble, Williams looks me directly in the eye when he talks, his attention only broken by passersby and well-wishers—which are frequent during our interview.

“Stop for a minute,” Ted says to his manager. We’ve only been en route from his offices on Main Street to the Hudson I-71 overpass for a minute when he sees a homeless man on the street. “Hey Ted!” the man says—a familiarity in his voice that I will hear a lot over the next two hours, never knowing whether they know him or just feel like they do.

[I want to] facilitate a place for homeless people to be able to do their laundry. It’s one of the worst things, to lug around your clothes and they’re dirty. So I want them to at least have that opportunity to wash some of their most important clothing items. And it’s all going to be absolutely free through my donations.

Ted takes a call from one of his daughters, one of his nine children. “Daddy’s in the company of a magazine editor and I’m riding out to my infamous corner of I-71 and Hudson…Oh no, honey, no, not under the bridge…if you give me about 20 minutes or so, honey, I promise you I’ll call you.” She asks for his address and he declines to give it to her, and feels compelled to explain it to me.

The reconnection of family I’ve found can be beautiful, and then it could have some very detaching moments, and that’s one of those detaching moments. I don’t want my daughter to know where I live so she can come and disrupt me or get me out of focus. She’s going through some things now where she’s starting to feel like she’s being slighted—unresolved anger, resentment, all of those words fit what my children are going through. And this is a child that I’ve had no dealings with—no hands-on with upbringing—but I have in these past three years tried to connect, and each time I’ve tried to connect, it wasn’t the way I thought it would be or envisioned. I thought when you don’t see a child for 16 years and you come into their life that it was party time, celebration…it’s not that way. I’m, on the other hand, trying to reach out to her with things that I don’t have yet: money. I’m always trying to give away money. [My manager] even gets mad at me now because he asks me, “Ted, what do you need money for? You’ve got a place to live, you’ve got food in your refrigerator, your clothes are clean and everything…why do you need money?” ’Cause he knows that I’m the type of person that if I got $10 and I see a guy standing out there looking like he could really use 10 bucks about now, I’m not thinking about what he’s going to use it for, I just know that this man needs 10 bucks. OK, I’ll give it away.

As we arrive at Hudson and cross onto the strip of grass between ramps, more than a dozen cars stop and roll down their windows—some to snap a quick, blurry photo, others to offer encouragement or to recall a moment they’ve shared with him over the years. Each time, he beams an authentic smile and turns on the voice: “You know you love it! My man! I’m here with the 614!”

[Even if] you don’t have nothing…a smile is what you have. A smile. You could have a person who’s going through addiction or mental health [issues], and they haven’t had nobody smile at them because everybody down here looks down on them, doesn’t give them any kind of encouraging word: “Hang in there! Hey, pray more! Hey, there’s a free…” anything, anything. And sometimes that’s all I had on that corner in spite of my hairdo and my nasty clothes and my ugly teeth, I still had a smile and a kind word for people, whether they gave me anything or not.

There was people that pulled up on me knowing that they didn’t have not one penny to give me, but they did again have that encouraging word. Like maybe, “I would help you but I’m barely keeping gas in my car,” or “Honey, I just lost my job but I would love to give [to] you.” And I’d still say [radio voice], “When you’re listening to nothing but the best of oldies…” and they’d be like, “My God.” It made them feel like “wow.” So that when this story finally hit, as crazy and as overwhelming as it hit, people was like, “Damn, it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”

“Hey buddy! What’s up, big man?” The attention he still warrants is enough to make me fear that we’re going to cause a traffic jam.

My purpose was to build a relationship with Christ Jesus. I stood here in spite of my smoking and all—the Bible says “acknowledge him in all your ways.” God ain’t through with none of us yet. I stood here for that reason because I thought this was the lowest form of homelessness, the lowest form of crack addiction, to be standing out here on the street corner begging for money. This was my rock bottom. Dr. Oz’s people, they said, “Ted what was your bottom?” I said, “Standing on that corner.” Because I easily could have went over there and stole a DeWalt drill. Took my chances at it, anyway, as opposed to standing here for an hour, trying to get five bucks to go get me a hit.

“Lemme go say hi to my friends, here! You know you love it!” Ted enters a nearby hardware store and credits the staff with always treating him with kindness. He rewarded them by only stealing from Lowe’s down the street when times got tough. He tells them about plans for his upcoming reality show. It’s an odd reunion, but in the best possible way. They seem as proud of Ted’s story as he does.

My girlfriend would sit on the top of that hill over there, and they never ran her off. But it’d be pouring down rain and she’d be willing to go and turn a trick real quick as opposed to me standing there. I was against it so I would say, “No you sit there, you sit there.” I would find out what days I should stand on this side as opposed to what days should I stand on the other. It was back and forth, back and forth. But guys like these, man, [they] understood the struggle. I’m sure they didn’t like crackheads, but as opposed to running and darting out of Lowe’s with two drills in my hand or something [laughs], I never stole anything out of here.

“Well, that we know of,” jokes one of the employees. “Check the tapes!” Ted says. “I love you guys.” For our photo shoot, I hand Ted a black cardboard sign, and after some thought, he writes, “He Who Was Homeless Will Now Lead Them Home.” He admits that it’s surreal to be back in this same place where he fought every day to survive, especially the aforementioned motorist who handed him a business card.

I have to admit that I thought he had a dollar in his hand. It went right back three years ago. I almost forgot I had a suit on. I almost forgot what this sign actually said, and I was reaching out as if he was giving me some money and disappointed when it was a business card. Those feelings still resonate in my spirit…we were passing off this ramp to make a left to go over to Wendy’s, and my grandson said, “Hey Paw Paw, there’s your job,” and I’m thinking, “Where?” I’d never worked around here…he was actually pointing to the corner. [To him], that was my job.

Ted knows he’s no saint. Dr. Phil rubbed his face in it—“the criminal-like side of me, the deadbeat dad side of me, the addiction side of me,” as Ted says. He’s transparent, especially regarding his addiction and his depression. Ironically, he’s needle-phobic and pill-phobic and can’t bring himself to take any painkillers, despite a spinal issue. Since his addiction started at the height of his success–his morning radio shows were top-rated in the Columbus market in the mid-‘80s–I ask him what caused the descent.

I was very displeased with my life after I walked out on my children. I walked out on a woman who had four of my children, and I walked out on her to only take on a relationship with another woman and impregnate her with four more, so I wasn’t legally divorced at that point. So I didn’t expect anything good to happen to my life—I would spend my nights haunted by the idea of them wondering if I [was] ever going to walk through their door again. And those things haunted me…[I thought I should just] go all the way out, go out in a blaze of glory, no pun intended. So that’s what I did, I just used that as the one factor in me just going into addiction instantly.

Dr. Phil…I thought at that time he was trying to build me up to bring out the redeeming qualities that I had inside of me. And it wasn’t. I think it was ratings, so exploitative. I was like, “Lord, is that what my story’s all about? Is to let the world see that I’m a piece of crap and at how you can clean up a piece of crap?” And that’s what the Lord said: yes. He said, “I knew your heart, Ted.” Because when I didn’t have nothing to give, I still gave…I saw a guy standing over there, and he had less than a layer of clothing, and it was cold, and I took my coat off. My girlfriend thought I was a nut. “You’re giving this guy your coat? And it’s cold as shit?”…I said, “Don’t worry about why I give,” and I just gave and I walked away, and lo and behold I got a leather coat not too long after that.

Ted believes in karma—or at the very least, the notion that giving is as important as receiving. His hope is to produce a reality show that offers a second chance to people, a premise he compares to Extreme Home Makeover, except more person than property.

I don’t want to “make over,” I want to give second chances to people who deserve them…Let’s say there’s an addict, a homeless man who wants every opportunity in the world to go to drug treatment…Maryhaven’s list is huge. And who knows, I might run into a gifted Ted Williams.

Ted clutches the mustard seed necklace around his neck, a token he’s adopted as a symbol of his faith, based on the Scripture passage that there’s power in faith as small as a mustard seed. Whether his show becomes reality or not, it’s clear he’s achieved some peace in this strange, surreal life of his. After all, Ted has lost and gained and lost again, and survival grants you a certain freedom from everyday fears, a clarity in times of chaos. Ted is Ted again—perhaps for the first time in a long time.

You are honestly getting the real Ted Williams, you are. I feel that clarity…I feel good, I feel confident. I’m just having the time of my life, man, not only reconnecting with family members but going out on that highway just brought déjà vu in many ways. One of the best things that it did bring to me was how people still gave me that, “Hey, Ted, keep doing what you’re doing.” And that just means the world to me, to hug people…

“I love you,” Ted tells me, and he gives me a hug. And then he’s off, down the road again in search of his (second) second chance. 

His potential reality show, A 2nd Chance With Ted Williams, was fundraising on IndieGoGo throughout the month of December.

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Coronavirus

Penzone shares: what to expect with salons

Julian Foglietti

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With the closing of Hair Salons on March 18th, buzz cuts and bowl cuts have made an appearance on the heads of Ohioans, young and old. Luckily for those desperate for a do, Dewine has announced that hair salons may begin to reopen on May 15th. To guide us through the transition, I spoke with Debbie Penzone, President and CEO of Penzone Salons, about serving on the Governor's salon advisory board, dealing with the business effect of the virus, and what we can expect from hair salons moving forward. 

I understand that you served as the chair of the Governor's committee board regarding reopening salons. What did you do in that role? 

On the committee, my role was pulling from my experience as a cosmetologist and business owner to assemble a group of individuals that represent our business in Ohio. We had everyone from 10 person salons to one person barbershops. braiding salons and nail salons, to schools and three health commissioners. From there, the job was building an agenda and listening to members while consulting health professionals on how to expand upon existing sanitation guidelines.  The Ohio State Board of Cosmetology has been enforcing for years. Beyond that, it was a lot of keeping time, guiding the conversations, gathering information and reporting it.  We also wanted to build plans if something did happen in a salon, and make sure that everyone could abide by these practices so we can remain safe and open.

In what ways has the virus caused you to rethink the way salons will function moving forward?

One of the things we did was go through a COVID specific certification process with Barbicide, which produces a lot of the sanitation products already used in salons and barber shops. A lot of people don’t realize that in the Ohio Administrative Code, there are very specific sanitation guidelines that you have to follow when you get your license, and there is a major component of constantly learning new sanitation practices all the time. The main difference you’ll see is us taking that sanitation to the next level: social distancing between booths, or barriers put in place, as well as reduced capacities in many salons. There will be more emphasis on reducing contact points and sanitizing things like doorknobs and counters as well. The biggest change will be the way we interact with our clients. We're a very emotional industry. We’re huggers, and we’re very close with the people we work with. Our clients are like family to us, so having to distance ourselves and not engage in that way will be different. 

What has been the greatest challenge to overcome over the past months? 

It’s really been adapting to the constant change we're all facing. We might spend all this energy sharing with our team new knowledge, but the next week it will change again. It’s been difficult to coordinate and continue to train everyone and update them with the new practices, as well as provide support for them while we're all distanced from each other. We're all scared right now, and it’s important to not lose our community so we can give each other confidence in the direction we’re heading in.

What have you witnessed over the past few months that gave you hope?

The biggest hope for me was serving on this committee. I’ve always felt so strong about our industry, so bringing so many people together and supporting one another during this difficult time. This whole thing has really brought us together as an industry, and shown that we can work together to support each other and raise each other up. There's enough clients for everybody, and it’s beautiful to see the incredible diversity of salons and see us all coming together to work with one another.

Are you worried about customers returning?

We’ve opened our booking today, but were not opening on the 15th, because we want to have a few days to go over the new procedures with our teams before we start to bring clients in. Every salon will only be operating at 50% capacity, and then we’re extending the hours to make sure everyone has the same hours they used to, and some of them are already booked out to July.

What would you say to ease the concerns of customers?

Really that we’re regulated by the state board and have so many sanitation practices in place. We have printouts posted showing the guidelines for clients that come to the stores, and for those who are high-risk, we are opening up early so they can be the first people to come in right after the salon is sanitized. What's important to remember about salons is that the regulators randomly check our spaces to make sure we're complying, and as we build on regulations, these checks are going to be taken to the next level. 

As a hairstylist, do you see any hairstyle trends emerging from this?

I definitely think there's gonna be a boom for bobs and pixie cuts, ‘cause people are just done. Maybe some bold colors, because everyone just wants to come out and say, “I’m back, baby.” Maybe just a little more attitude with the cuts people are getting.



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Coronavirus

Meet the Saviors: from doctors on the front line to PPE makers

Mitch Hooper

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While searching for Columbus’ helpers, we found that they come in many different shapes and sizes. And this month, we are telling as many of their stories as we can.

These are the stories of the saviors on the front line, working at hospitals, and assisting patients on a day-to-day basis. Or these saviors are at home and providing essential resources to these same folks on the front line. These efforts are quite literally saving lives and risking their own in the process.

Saviors: Pauline Vales, COVID-19 ICU Nurse at Riverside

It was just a little more than a week before Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state would be going into social distancing orders when Pauline Vale and her husband had already begun leaving for a vacation to Texas. And when she returned home on March 10, the events preceding have been a rollercoaster ride of long days and nights, moments of sacrifice, and above all, bravery in the face of danger.

“We have to be mindful about what we need to do each time we enter a patient room because we can’t just run in and out when we need something. It’s harder to connect with our patients because they can’t see our faces, we can’t hold their hands without gloves on, and it’s harder for them to hear us talking through a mask,” Vales explained. “It seems like there is something new every single day, so we have had to adapt and evolve many times over in the last weeks. And there is just more stress and worry in general, but my unit has really come together as a team and done so many amazing things.”

The challenges are seemingly endless for nurses in the ICU like Vales. She said beyond medical professionals having limited contact with patience, hospitals are not allowing visitors unless it's a life situation or fits a different protocol.

There’s also the battle of resources; now more than ever, folks on the front line need protection like gloves and N95 face masks. Luckily, that call is being heard by larger corporations who can do something, such as Battelle. Battelle now works with hospitals, including Riverside, to decontaminate face masks for these front line workers.  And coincidentally, Vale’s husband works as a virologist at Battelle while she was also a former microbiologist for Battelle.

“I have been able to share my knowledge about virus research and testing with my co-workers at the hospital. It has been very helpful to understand the challenges in developing reliable testing and treatments,” she said. “When we first realized that PPE supplies were a real concern, we were worried about how we would be able to protect ourselves and still care for our patients. The relief of having enough PPE available was really palpable on the unit.”

Vales also faces challenges in her personal life. As a mother to a six-year-old boy, the outbreak of COVID-19 has severely changed his day-to-day without much preparation. Like most young children, social distancing is stopping him from going out and playing like he normally would.

“It’s difficult to convey the situation without scaring him,” she said.

But still, Vales and the rest of the team at Riverside continue to fight on the front line, day-in and day-out. And through all the adversity and tough times, she is still taking a moment to recognize the silver lining on these cloudy days.

“The outpouring of support for health care workers has been amazing and people have been so generous to our unit. We have gotten sweet treats, thank you cards, coffee, and so many encouraging words, which has been very much appreciated,” she said. “Different departments in the hospital have been doing kind things for each other, and our food service staff have been a huge support. I have seen many kind acts across Columbus as well. Food drives, to organizing financial help for families in need, to the support of local businesses. It has been great to see so many people doing what they can to help others.”

***

Saviors: Travis Ulmer, MD, FACEP

Sometimes the battle against COVID-19 in Columbus means taking your talents elsewhere; and that’s what Travis Ulmer, MD, FACEP, is doing. And even then, it’s an uphill battle.

“The toughest thing I’ve had to deal with is that I’ve been applying and registering to help New York City for multiple weeks,” Ulmer said. “But extensive red tape has prevented me from being where the healthcare workers are truly overwhelmed and need us the most.”

Ulmer specializes in emergency medicine here in Central Ohio. As someone who has worked on the front lines here, he’s been reminded of the importance physicians like himself can have—especially during an international pandemic. And all the extra steps medical workers have made to further protect their families, he said the outbreak has been eye-opening within his own life.

“I will never take for granted the impact and importance of being present for our families when we are home,” he said.

But, while there have been many struggles, he’s found the silver lining in moments like this.

“The most beautiful thing I’ve seen is that so many people appreciate the entire medical staff, not just us as physicians. There is an incredible workforce that collectively cares for patients. I am so glad they are being recognized and appreciated for the heroes that they are.”

***

Saviors: Kim and Kallie Mallett, Mask Makers

Life was normal for Kim and Kallie Mallett just a few months ago. While Kim worked at Burn Boot Camp, Kallie was busy as an American Sign Language interpreter. And then in a flash, as it has been for most of us, life was far from normal.

Gyms were one of the first of businesses to close due to COVID-19 so Kim was out of work. And Kallie was also temporarily laid off from her position. Though the financial losses have been tough to manage, the biggest thing the two said they miss is getting to interact with and help all the people they meet through their jobs. So it makes sense that the two found a way, even through social distancing and shelter-in-place, to help by making face masks.

“I have been sewing off and on for years so when an EMT friend expressed a need for homemade masks as a way to extend the life of hers and her fire stations N95 masks, we felt called to help,” Kim said. “We quickly realized how significant the shortage of PPE was across all essential workers and just kept going. In the three weeks we’ve been making masks, we have completed almost 700.”

Through mask making, they’ve been able to raise more than $900 in donations—$700 of which will be donated to the Mid Ohio Food Bank and the rest will be used to purchase more fabrics to make more masks.

“It’s been amazing to see Ohio come together and lend a helping hand to their neighbors—from six feet away, of course,” Kim said.

“I’m further reminded of how interconnected we all are and how we need to continue to rely on each other because we truly are all in this together.”

And of course, they’ve learned lessons along the way.

“I’ve learned to take it slowly and one day at a time,” Kalie said “I will be more appreciative of time with friends, the ability to workout with my gym family—really, just normal life in general.”

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Govt & Politics

NY Times lauds Dr. Amy Acton with video tribute

614Now

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If you live in Ohio, you'd have to have been living under rock these last 6 weeks to not know who Dr. Amy Acton is. Now the NY Times is making sure the rest of the country knows too with this nearly 7-minute tribute video titled, "The leader we all wish we had".

As the state's lead spokesperson on the healthcare side of the pandemic, Acton has received wide praise from both near and far. Despite recent protests that occurred outside of her Bexley home, most Ohioans believe she has been a shining star in these dark times.

She has a tribute t-shirt, "Not all Heroes Wear capes" created by Homage

Her own (Ok, Gov. Dewine too) tribute parody video

Her very own bobblehead from the Bobblehead Hall of Fame

A Facebook Fan Page with over 133,000 members

Here's our profile piece from the April issue of (614) Magazine - the cover of which is featured in the NY Times video. Very cool, Sarah!

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