Cal Worthington dies at 92; car dealer known for wacky ‘dog Spot’ ads
If you watched television in Southern California in the 1970s and beyond, it was impossible to miss Cal Worthington, the lanky pitchman in the cowboy hat touting deals on a sprawling car lot with his “dog Spot.”
“Spot,” however, was anything but a dog — think lion, tiger, bull, penguin, anteater, iguana, even a whale. And Worthington, the Oklahoma transplant who rode and wrestled with the exotic creatures in one of TV’s wackiest and longest-running ad campaigns, kept the gag going for decades, building a cult following along with one of the most successful car dealerships west of the Mississippi. “Go see Cal” became a part of Southern Californians’ vocabulary.
His use of humor — “I’m going to pretend it’s a dog, that I’m really a little stupid,” Worthington recalled for Los Angeles magazine in 2003 — was novel for the era.
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“Keen on becoming a pilot, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and flew B-17 Flying Fortresses on 29 bombing missions over Germany. He left the military with the rank of captain, a Distinguished Flying Cross and hopes of becoming a commercial pilot, but lack of a college degree disqualified him.” – The New York Times, Sept. 9, 2013.
‘I never much liked the car business,’ Mr. Worthington said in 2007. ‘I just kind of got trapped in it after the war. I didn’t have the skills to do anything else. I just wanted to fly.’