Cal Worthington

Cal Worthington
Cal Worthingto
Born November 27, 1920 (1920-11-27) (age 90)
Shidler, Oklahoma
Nationality American
Known for Dealer Ship

Calvin Coolidge "Cal" Worthington (born November 27, 1920 in Shidler, Oklahoma) is a well-known car dealer throughout the West Coast of the United States. He is best known for his unique radio and television advertisements for the Worthington Dealership Group. He was usually joined by "his dog Spot", except that "Spot" was never a dog. Often, Spot was either a tiger, a seal, an elephant, a chimpanzee, a bear, and once a hippo that Cal rode in the commercial. On some occasions, Spot was a vehicle such as an airplane that Worthington would ride on top of. Spot was officially retired in the mid 1980s, however he is mentioned in some commercials today.

According to a profile in the Sacramento Bee published in 1990, Worthington grossed $316.8 million in 1988, at the time making him the largest single owner of a car dealership chain. He has sold automobiles since 1945 and owns a 24,000 acre (100 km2) ranch located in Orland, California, north of Sacramento, California. His advertising agency, named Spot Advertising, had Worthington as the only client, and spent $15 million on commercials, the most of any auto dealer at the time.


Early life

Worthington grew up in a family of nine children and dropped out of school at the age of 13. His first job was as a water boy on a road construction crew for 15 cents an hour.[1] He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps at the age of 15. Worthington served in the United States Army in World War II, flying for the Army Air Corps, where he was the aerobatics champion at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo, Texas, and served as a second lieutenant. During the war, he served as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 390th Bomber Group, flying 29 missions over Germany, and was discharged after the war as a captain. He was awarded the Air Medal five times, as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. Jimmy Doolittle presented Worthington the DFC. He has also been in recent articles in flying magazines as the man who trained some of America's astronauts while in the service.

After leaving the Army, Worthington wanted to be a commercial pilot, but was stymied by the requirements at the time for a college degree. He sold his car for $500 to purchase a gas station, which proved a bust, but was able to sell it for the same amount he paid, an indication of future success in sales. He began to sell used cars in front of the post office in Corpus Christi, Texas, by making a folksy pitch when people got their mail. He moved to a dirt lot rented for $25, where he made a $500 profit one week by selling three cars, and decided this would be his career.

Professional life

In 1949, Worthington moved to Huntington Park, California, with a Hudson Motor Car dealership and purchased time for a three-hour live country music TV show every Saturday and Sunday on Los Angeles TV station KTLA, which eventually was entitled "Cal's Corral". When television became more established and sponsorship of entire programs was unfeasible, he became a Ford dealer with 1 minute and 30 second commercials. By the 1970s Worthington was saturating the overnight station break schedules of four of the seven local broadcast television stations in Los Angeles which agreed to play four movies overnight. Worthington's commercials could be seen breaking into old movies overnight, from midnight to 6 o'clock. One of Worthington's rivals in the early 1960s was Chick Lambert of 'Brand Motors Ford City' who, as pitchman, always introduced "my dog, Storm" (a large German Shepherd dog) as a prop in the commercials. Storm would be seen either lounging on the hood of a car, sitting behind the wheel or walking with his owner along the rows of cars. By mid-decade Lambert had taken his dog act to Ralph Williams of Ralph Williams Ford (formerly Leon Ames Ford) becoming well known for Storm and his intro, "Some people call this a commercial; I call it an invitation." Worthington livened up the commercial wars by countering with the first of his "dog" Spot ads, a gorilla that roared. The response was so positive that a new campaign was born, featuring "Cal Worthington and his dog Spot!" Among the many creatures that were featured as Spot were a killer whale from SeaWorld; a lion; an elephant; a goose that, in a memorable appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, ruined Carson's suit; a tiger; various snakes; a rhinoceros; a skunk; a bear; a roller-skating chimpanzee; a carabao (water buffalo); and a hippopotamus.

Worthington appeared as a car dealer in the 1973 film Save the Tiger in addition to numerous appearances on The Tonight Show. According to a spokesman for the Television Bureau of Advertising, Worthington "is probably the best known car dealer pitchman in television history."

Life today

In 1979, Cal divorced his wife of 37 years, Barbara, and married Susan Henning. That marriage ended badly seven years later. In 1995, he married Bonnie Reese, a 35-year-old radio personality. That marriage ended in 2002. In April 2011 Cal married Los Angeles-based Icelandic jazz singer Anna Mjöll Ólafsdóttir.

The Worthington Dealership Group has outlets in Carlsbad, California; Long Beach, California and Anchorage, Alaska. Dealerships that have been sold were located in Federal Way, Washington; Sacramento, California; Folsom, California; Reno, Nevada; Sugar Land, Texas; Houston, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; South Gate, California and Claremont, California.[2] He was one of the first to abandon the traditional stand-alone dealership in favor of "auto malls."

In addition to automobile dealerships, Worthington owns ten ranches (including his Northern California headquarters and the PX ranch in Nevada, which was once owned by The Salt Lake Tribune owner and mining magnate, U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns and years later by actor Bing Crosby). As of 2002, he also owned three shopping centers and one office tower, grossing $600 million a year.

My Dog Spot ads

For nearly a quarter-century, from the 1960s up through the 1990s, Worthington ran a series of zany TV and radio ads for his auto dealerships patterned loosely after the pioneering "oddball" advertisements of Earl "Madman" Muntz. They were known as the "My Dog Spot" ads because each commercial would introduce "Cal Worthington and his dog Spot!" However, the "dog" was always some exotic animal being led around on a leash, such as a tiger or elephant.

These commercials were originally a parody of a long-running string of commercials for a local Ford dealer, which invariably began with "I'm Chick Lambert, Sales Manager here at Ralph Williams Ford, and this is my dog, Storm." Storm was a German Shepherd, who was usually lounging on the hood of the first car to be featured in the ad. These commercials were seen on every channel in Los Angeles television through the 1960s and early 1970s. In addition to the many animals that were featured, one of Cal Worthington's "Spots" was Deacon Jones of the then NFL's L.A. Rams (one of the "Fearsome Foursome"), who sang the "Go See Cal" jingle.

Worthington's commercials were also accompanied by a jingle set to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" with the lyrics re-written to the refrain of "If you want a car or truck, go see Cal, if you want to save a buck, go see Cal" with the "Go see Cal" repeated numerous times. When the idea of a jingle was first pitched to him, it was conceptualized as slow with a big roll up of drums; Worthington disagreed and felt the song should be fast and wrote the lyrics and recorded the song himself.[1] The jingle was successful and Worthington found that some children thought his name was "Go see Cal".[1]

Worthington would get the animals from two local circuses he made deals with, in addition to private owners who would lease their animals to film and television shoots in nearby Hollywood.[1]

In 1974, the popular TV series Emergency! featured the paramedic stars of the show rescuing a car salesman who is trapped inside a car with a tiger during a commercial shoot.[3]

The "My Dog Spot" ads were spoofed at the start of the animated film Dirty Duck; a car dealer shoots his dog at one point.

In some commercials Worthington would claim he would do a stunt for a sale, such as eating a bug or "stand upon my head 'til my ears are turning red".

A Cal Worthington commercial was also in the movie, "Into the Night," with Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer.

In May 2010, Worthington appeared in a political advertisement for California State Assembly Candidate Larry Miles. The spot, a throwback to the "Spot" spots, featured Worthington, "Spot" and Miles.[4]


  • Woodroffe, Pam. Seattle Times April 6, 1986, "Cal Worthington's 'depressed'"
  • Hintzberger, John. Seattle Times April 15, 1986, "Trustworthy or Trustless? Poll rates people in the public eye"
  • Stanley, Don. Sacramento Bee January 14, 1990, "The Dealer: By Golly, Cal Worthington Went From Dirt-Poor Ranch Hand to Millionaire Car Czar"
  • Rivenburg, Roy. Los Angeles Times June 3, 2002, "Spot's Co-Star"
  • Hemmings Classic Car, August 1, 2007 (reprinted on
  • WoWHead site link for Kall Worthaton.

Cultural references

Cal Worthington and his dog "Spot" was referred to as Loud Kiddington and his dog Fetch in a parody skit from the animated show Histeria! telling the story of Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants, which Hannibal rented from Kiddington.

Worthington's ads were also parodied in Marty Feldman's 1977 comedy feature film The Last Remake of Beau Geste. The film included an ad by "Honest Hakkim", a used camel salesman who gave specifics about the deals he was offering on particular camels in the same manner that Worthington would tout specific cars in his ads. The ad in the movie ended with Hakkim promising to "stand upon my fez 'til my face is such a mess" and then singing "See Hakkim, see Hakkim, see Hakkim" to the same cadence as was used to sing "Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal" in Worthington's advertisements.

The popular Blizzard Entertainment game "World of Warcraft" features a character named "Kall Worthaton" selling car-like "trikes".


External links

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