If you're the sort of person that appreciates a good rhino or gorilla in your car dealership ads, today is a sad day. Cal Worthington, perhaps the best-known car dealer in the Western US, died today while watching football in his California ranch.
Cal Worthington is best known to most people as the affable guy in the cowboy hat who co-starred in innumerable television ads with "his dog Spot." Spot, of course, was never anything remotely canine, and varied from tigers to gorillas to bulls to hippos, and sometimes even vehicles like airplanes.
Aside from teaming up with exotic animals, Worthington's ads were known for their maddeningly catchy jingle "Go See Cal," which was sung to the tune of "If Your Happy and you Know it," and usually sung at speeds normally associated with your brain on trucker's crank and eleven cups of coffee. The frenetic pace was also usually found in the turntables the used cars were showcased on, which spun at rates just fast enough to make you fear for the safety of the siberian tiger or whatever animal was in crushing range of a Valiant flung from a turntable.
Calvin Coolidge Worthington (named after the then Vice President) was born in 1920 to an Oklahoma family and their poverty. He dropped out of school at 13, and eventually joined the Army Air Corps in time for WWII, where he trained a number of pilots who would go on to become America's first astronauts.
After the war, Worthington started a Hudson dealership, and sponsoring TV shows. His real innovation in advertising came in the 1970s when he convinced Los Angeles TV stations to fill their overnight schedules with movies, and Cal Worthington's commercials running throughout the night.
Anyone who's spent any time on the West Coast surely has some part of their brain coerced into knowing the Cal Worthington jingle, and most of us have genuine affection for the gangly, aging cowboy who tried to get us to buy Chevettes with gorillas.