The untold truth of Trivago pitchman Tim Williams

Who doesn't know the Trivago Guy by now? The wrinkled shirt, the messy hair, the overall unkempt look —  you know the man! First appearing on the small screen in 2013, Trivago's quirky, messy spokesman became an overnight viral sensation. Trivago Guy made countless headlines as folks tried to figure out the root of his strange sex appeal and unearth his past. As it turns out, the man behind the mega casual look is Tim Williams, and he's a Texan who has spent a large chunk of his adult life living and working in Germany. Trivago is actually a German-based company.

In a quest to uncover everything there is to know about Williams, we discovered his roots, his bizarre rise to fame (he went from Hollywood to a German soap opera without speaking a word of German), and his fall from grace, which came in 2019 in the form of an arrest for driving while intoxicated. Here is the untold truth of Trivago pitchman Tim Williams.

He's a Texas boy and proud

Williams has not forgotten his roots. When Houston, Texas' Robert E. Lee High School held a reunion for its Class of 1985 in 2015, Williams made sure to attend. As he told Elle, "Somebody posted a thing on Facebook, 'Who's going to the 30-year Robert E. Lee High School reunion?' I wrote, 'No husbands! Ladies, don't bring your husbands!' And the girls were like, 'No way! No wives either!' So we just had a great time." And it sounds like they had quite the great time as kids, too. Calling his high school a "party school," he explained, "Weekly night boozers. Live bands playing, security guards, and stuff. At horse stables. We'd rent out the whole stable and have an 18-wheeler there with bands playing."

Reminiscing with The Houston Chronicle, Williams revealed that he grew up in the Houston's Dairy Ashford neighborhood, noting that he was "the class clown." As such, he said, "So my grades were, uh, let's say average." Regarding his reunion, he added, "Seeing all my old friends made it feel like yesterday. I was acting already in high school, so I don't think any of my friends are surprised about the commercials. I only felt support from them."

In addition to missing his friends and family, Williams also regularly daydreams about the local hot dog spot. "James Coney Island! Maybe I should do a commercial for them and get free hot dogs for life!" he joked.

He got his start on The Cosby Show (sort of)

Believe it or not, Williams is a professional actor, and he first caught the acting bug in high school. As he told Rolling Stone, "I walked into the drama class one day after school and asked the teacher if she could make me an actor." After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in 1985, he left Houston and moved to New York. There, he studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, as confirmed by The Houston Chronicle, before heading off to Hollywood.

His first-ever TV gig came on The Cosby Show sort of. "I played an 18-year-old who gets a 17-year-old pregnant and has to learn a portion of life from Dr. Huxtable," Williams told Rolling Stone. "We shot it and I watched the episode and that portion was cut! I think maybe the material was a little too strong for TV at the time, but I got to work with the man I always knew as Fat Albert!"

He did eventually manage to make it onto the small screen, however, snagging bit parts in a number of impressive shows, including My So-Called Life, The Sopranos, and Law & Order. 

He built a career in Germany without speaking German

After failing to make a name for himself in Hollywood, Williams made an unexpected jump to Germany of all places. In 2001, he was cast in a movie called Suche impotenten Mann fürs Leben (In Search of an Impotent Man), which was filming in Cologne, Germany. The best part? He didn't speak any German. Recalling his decision to move to Germany in the first place, he told Elle"I met a girl while I was over there. I was in love. I moved August, 2001. Eleven days later, 9/11 happened. And I said, 'I think I'm gonna stick around here for a little while.'"

"It was difficult for the first few years to start acting in the German language," he told The Houston Chronicle. "I didn't speak any German when I moved over. But there were some roles to be found." Including playing Kurt LeRoy, an American rock 'n' roll star, on a television soap opera called Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times). He landed that gig in 2011 and never left.

Years later, he's still living in Berlin, which might have something to do with the fact that day-to-day life apparently couldn't be easier. As he told Digital Journal, "In Berlin, there is a lot of English being spoken. In fact more now than ever, I hear more English than German in Berlin."

A soap opera role led to Trivago

While working on Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times), a gig he kept between 2011 and 2013, Williams was approached by a then-unknown German travel company called Trivago. As he told Digital Journal, thanks to the time he spent working on local TV shows and movies, he "got to know a few people in the business and would always lend a hand for a voiceover here and there." He continued, "One day, I got a call to do a voiceover for a commercial that Trivago was going to air in the United States," adding, "I did that voiceover and a few weeks later they asked if I would be their actor for the next North American spot. I did that and that blew up for them and I guess myself, in a way."

His first commercial debuted in 2013 and instantly went viral. As it turns out, his headline-making look, which earned him the title of "TV's sloppy, sexy pitchman" from Rolling Stone, was also due in part to his soap opera work. "I was still shooting Good Times, Bad Times when Trivago came up, so [the creative team at Trivago] couldn't cut my hair as short as they wanted to," he told Elle. "I couldn't shave my face all the way down, either, because my facial hair doesn't grow back so quickly."

His sloppy look was totally intentional

Between the stubble, the messy hair, and the wrinkled clothes, Tim Williams became an overnight viral sensation. Countless memes were created, a fake Twitter account was launched, and numerous articles tried to dissect his strange sex appeal. As Elle noted in 2015, "You're not the only one with a crush on Trivago Guy."

And guess what? It was totally intentional. As Jon Eichelberger, regional manager of Trivago North, told the outlet, his team actually asked women around the Trivago office for their thoughts on Williams and whether or not he was appealing. He was. "The common term is 'silver fox,'" Eichelberger said. "There's something about him. We wanted to capture it, and I think we did a good job. People like to talk about him."

In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, Williams further defended his look, saying, "For the record, a stylist created the Trivago Guy look in a painstaking process. They settled on the scraggly look and no belt after trying out a variety of garb that included suits and belts. They wanted something easy and approachable. One of the differences between the Trivago Guy and me is… I wear a belt."

Even so, he eventually got a makeover. As CNN reported in November 2014, Trivago Guy got a more polished look, courtesy of Aaron Marino, an "Atlanta-based style consultant" who was the lucky winner of the "Makeover #TrivagoGuy" contest.

His fans get handsy

Fact: Trivago Guy's fans are an enthusiastic bunch. Speaking with Elle in April 2015, Williams revealed, "I live in Berlin so I don't get it as much, but now I've been over in New York since January and it's crazy. Airports especially." He noted, "That's when people want to talk to you. And you're trapped."

"The touching thing — it's bizarre," he noted. "You're standing there having a cigarette or whatever, waiting for the light to turn. 'Excuse me, are you the Trivago guy?' It happened in Houston just recently. I took my mom out, and we were waiting at the bar for a table and a guy came up to me like, 'You're the guy in those Trivago commercials,' and just put his arm around me. It's like, Why are you putting your arm around me?"

And it's not just strangers who behave bizarrely around him. "Maybe you meet somebody — like a friend introduces you to somebody — and they'll be like, 'We met! We know each other!' I know faces really well. So I know if I've never met you," he said. "I give it about 10 seconds, or I don't say anything at all, depending on how I feel about that person. See if they figure it out, 'Oh, from television! Ah.'"

He wants to make a name for Tim Williams

Now that he's known around the world as Trivago Guy, Williams wants to earn the same amount of recognition for his own name. "I am Trivago Guy. But if someone wants an autograph, I sign my name — 'Tim Williams.' It's about time that they start hearing that name," he told The Houston Chronicle.

"The thing about commercials for an actor is, you jump in, make a little money to help you keep going, and then you do something else," he elaborated. "You don't think about the consequence of success. I had no idea, nor did Trivago, that the commercials would be so successful. I woke up one day, and the public relations man for Trivago called and said, 'You're trending.'"

Up next, as he told Elle, he'd "like to do an interesting television show. Or a decent film. A good story. Something that's completely different from the Trivago Guy. Maybe a killer!" He went on, "Or maybe they think he's a killer. A journey film. Something about a journey of life."

What's more, he'd like to get a place in the United States to share with his two sons, Chase and Jack. "I want to buy a house in Nashville. It's an amazing city," he told Sounds Like Nashville in 2018. "The people are so kind, generous and loving. It feels like I'm home when I'm there."

He's a gifted country musician

On Sept. 28, 2018, Williams dropped a country album called Magnolia City. The title is a nickname for his native Houston and the record includes songs (all of which he either wrote or co-wrote) "about missing Houston, missing my friends," a few tracks about his ex, an ode to his father, and more.

Speaking about his longtime love for music with Sounds Like Nashville, Williams revealed that he started out loving rock — "I was listening to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen and ZZ Top and all those boys" — until seeing John Travolta in Urban Cowboy got him hooked on country. "I urged my mom to take me to Gilley's because I wanted to ride the mechanical bull that John Travolta rode in the movie," he reminisced. "And then right outside of Houston, there's a little town called Simonton. They have the Simonton Rodeo every Saturday night and my mom used to take me and my friends out there and we'd go two-stepping during my early teenage years."

And it's not his first record, either. In 2014, Williams released an EP called Temporary Man, which he described to Rolling Stone as "a mix of some bluesy rock with a Nineties feel and a ballad thrown in for the ladies."

He was arrested for DWI

In April 2019, Tim Williams went from lovable TV personality to lawbreaker when he was arrested in Houston and charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. It was around 3:15 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon when the 52-year-old was found "passed out with his foot on the brake in a moving lane of traffic," Houston Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva confirmed, as reported by CNN.

According to CBC, Williams failed a field sobriety test, but agreed to have his blood drawn for further alcohol testing. He was released on a $100 bond and, as KHOU 11 discovered, the court also requested a mental health evaluation.

A Trivago spokesperson told CNN, "At this stage, we do not have the full details of the situation, but we want to make clear that Trivago treats such incidents very seriously and strongly condemns drinking and driving, which poses a risk to others and goes against the Trivago culture."