‘Go See Cal’


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┬ápurchase, 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?

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  • I wasn’t exposed to Cal until I moved down here in the early 1980s, but I did catch some of his commercials. One time, however, I was watching a news show (TODAY Show I think) and they presented an automotive expert – a sedate-looking Cal Worthington. (Well, I guess he was an automotive expert…)

  • SAWZ

    (I couldn’t read the obit due to the Times pay wall.) In the early 60’s we used to watch Cal’s Corral every Sunday. Johnny Cash was just starting out, and he was a performer many times on that that show.

    • davidallen909

      Oh, sorry the link didn’t work for you. The LA Observed link extracts the most relevant portion of the Times obit.

  • DebB

    Wow, this brings back memories! No one who grew up in So Cal could forget that jingle – he apparently wrote 26 stanzas of it! I would have guessed his commercials started a lot earlier than 1971, and I completely forgot that he owned the Claremont Auto Center. But there’s no forgetting “Here’s Cal Worthington and his dog, Spot!”

  • Doug Evans

    My memories of Cal Worthington… Growing here in in So Cal, he was of course all over the TV when I was a kid, and I distinctly remember as a very young person thinking that the jingle said “goosey cow, goosey cow, goosey cow,” and trying to figure out what that meant. (I figured it had something to do with the animals at the end.)

    And then just last week (may have been two weeks ago, but very recently), my daughter and I were watching TV, and a Cal Worthington ad came on. I was surprised that he was still doing them. It was just like I remembered, except that he didn’t stand on his head and there were no animals. I was glad to see it and glad that he was still around. So it kind of felt like a double-punch to the gut when I saw that he had died. But 92 years isn’t a bad haul at all!

  • John Clifford

    Interestingly, the dog spot stuff was a spoof of another car celebrity car dealership, Leon Ames (he played the father on TVs Life With Father). Ames didn’t do his own commercials. They were done by his general manager who had his German Shepherd Storm, who would lie on the cars he was trying to sell. Cal mocked him with his commercials that featured HIS dog, spot.

    The GM and Storm moved around to several other dealerships (possibly another actor’s dealership, Ben Alexander Ford–Alexander was Jack Webb’s original sidekick on Dragnet), but he was never as popular.

    Also remember Yeakel Olds and their show. They broadcast live from the dealership and had a play area for kids. Since Oldsmobile had the Rocket 88, they had a rocketship slide that my young self longed to play on.