Famous car salesman Cal Worthington passed away at the age of 92. Worthington spent decades dominating TV advertising on nights and weekends with unique ads.
The salesman was known for crazy antics in his commercials, including standing on top of his head while on a car hood after assuring customers he would “stand on my head to make you a deal.”
He was also famous for showing off his “dog Spot,” which was, in reality, any animal other than a dog. USA Today reports that Spot was, at one point, a tiger, lion, gorilla, and even a hippo Worthington rode on top of.
Worthington was among the last of the famous TV pitchmen from the 1950s through the 1980s and was instantly recognizable for his Oklahoma twang.
The Los Angeles Times notes that Cal Worthington got into the car business in 1950 when he purchased a dealership in Huntington Park, California. While he started using his style to gain more business, his mark on television wasn’t seen until he introduced Spot in 1971.
The ads were inspired by two of Worthington’s competitors, Ralph Williams and Fletcher Jones, both of whom ran ads that featured dogs. So, he decided to mimic them. Worthington borrowed a gorilla and chained it to a car bumper. With the ape snarling in the background, the salesman then told the camera, “Howdy, I’m Cal Worthington and this is my dog Spot. I found this little fella down at the pound, and he’s so full of love.”
The icon was born. Worthington spoofed the ads for several years, offering “Spot” to his customers. From the beginning, the salesman insisted on writing and starring in all of his advertisements, believing that the power of repetition would bring in more customers. He spent $12 million at his peak to run his commercials 50,000 times per year.
Cal Worthington died on Sunday while watching football at his home on the Big W Ranch.