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Posted by on Sep 19th, 2013 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Cal (& His Dog, Spot) Drive into the Sunset

© 2013 WordChaser, Inc.  Jim Chase is an award- winning advertising copywriter and native of Southern California.  Readers are invited to “friend” his  My Thoughts Exactly page on  Facebook. Also visit Jim’s new blog with past columns and additional thoughts at: http://jchasemythoughtsexactly.blogspot.com

© 2013 WordChaser, Inc.
Jim Chase is an award- winning advertising copywriter
and native of Southern California. Readers are invited to “friend” his
My Thoughts Exactly page on
Facebook. Also visit Jim’s new blog with past columns and additional thoughts at: http://jchasemythoughtsexactly.blogspot.com

Last week, television lost one of its pioneering pitchmen, Cal Worthington. The car dealer was an icon of the early black-and-white days of the industry when TVs were heavy, wooden pieces of living room furniture and required a minute or more to warm up once you switched on the power. And yes, you had to actually walk over to the TV set and turn a knob. Horrors!

Cal Worthington died at the impressive age of 92 at his ranch in Orland, Calif. Born Calvin Coolidge Worthington in Bly, Okla., “Cal” was one of nine children born into extreme poverty. Quoted in a recent article (NY Times, 9/6/13), “We were starving and barefooted. I had a very awful childhood.”

Mr. Worthington (he of multiple dealerships including Worthington Ford, Dodge and Chevy, which he pronounced “Sheevy”) was known for appearing on camera with his “dog Spot” – which was never actually a dog. I remember Spot being a tiger, elephant, gorilla, iguana, snake and I’m sure there were other critters, big and small, not one of them being of the man’s-best-friend dog species.

Worthington first began broadcasting commercials for his car dealerships in the 1950s and quickly became a pop culture legend known for his antics (along with the fact that he ran as many as 100 commercials a day), which included his many dogs Spot, lashed to the wing of a biplane while talking about the details of cars available for sale, and standing on his head while balancing on the hood of a car. This particular trick was the demonstration of his professional motto, “I’ll stand on my head ’til my ears are turning red to make a deal!”

This same motto was also included in the lyrics to Worthington’s famous jingle that implored car shoppers to “Go see Cal!” for the best deal by far. And because I don’t want to be the only boomer who can’t get the dang song unstuck from his mind, I can’t help but inflict – er, I mean remind – dear readers of this insidious jingle. (Sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”)

When you need a car or truck, go see Cal.
If you want to save a buck, go see Cal
Get a new car for your wife, she will love you all her life
Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal!
If your axle is a-saggin’, go see Cal!
If you need a station wagon, go see Cal!
If your wife has started naggin’, and your tailpipe is a-draggin’
Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal!

If you need a better car, go see Cal!
For the best deal by far, go see Cal!
If you want your payments low, if you want to save some dough
Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal!

I promise you – that tune will be stuck in your head for the next six weeks. You’re welcome.

Car buyers did, indeed, go see Cal whose empire reached its peak in the ’60s with an impressive 29 car dealerships from San Diego to Anchorage. Today Worthington’s sons still own several of those dealerships.

Watching TV as a kid, Worthington always seemed like everybody’s wild and crazy uncle – you just couldn’t look away wondering what goofy antic he would pull off next. He was the total opposite of another ubiquitous TV car pitchman I remember from roughly the same era, Ralph Williams – “Hi friends, this is Ralph Williams of Ralph Williams Ford (or Dodge, Pontiac, etc.).” Talk about your stereotypical, fast talking car salesman – that was Ralph Williams.

But Cal Worthington was simply entertaining. To this native So Cal kid, he ranked up there with Engineer Bill, Hobo Kelly and Captain Kangaroo.

I guess kids today have their icons, too, like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Honey Boo Boo. God help us.

I’ll see you ’round town.

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