Photo from LA Observed
Cal Worthington died Sunday at age 92, reminding us of an era of car dealers with high profiles, broad personalities and wacky TV commercials to match. An obituary is here.
Reader Bob House reflects: “I bet lots of 909ers have memories of late-night car salespeople. In addition to Cal and his ‘dog,’ Spot, there was Ralph Williams and his dog, Storm, a guy who had ‘cars coming out of his ears’ — toy cars on a string pulled so as to appear to be coming out of his ears.”
House continued: “And, regrettably, Bob Yeakel, a dealer who in the early ’50s sponsored ‘Rocket to Stardom,’ an amateur talent competition, which featured live interviews with his car dealership’s customers. After one such interview with a black couple who were satisfied with their purchase, Mr. Yeakel turned to the camera and said, ‘There goes a couple of happy (racial epithet).'”
And of course there was Worthington and his “dog, Spot,” who might be a gorilla in one ad or a frog in the next, but was never a canine. That doesn’t have much to do with cars, but it got attention. This LA Observed post includes two videos: a vintage commercial and a compilation of his wackiest stunts.
Worthington had dealerships all over SoCal, including Claremont..He bought the Auto Center out of bankruptcy in 1995 and sold it 14 months later to Roger Hogan. In the interim, he did tape some commercials from Claremont. (I know when I think of exotic animals and homespun car dealers, I think of the City of Trees and Ph.Ds.)
Care to share any memories of Cal or his fellow hucksters?