Cal Worthington, who vowed to “stand on my head to make a deal” and was shown doing so in his car lot, died last Sunday at age 92. Cal Worthington was arguably the nation’s greatest car salesman and the most talked about television advertiser of the 1960’s and 1970’s. If you ask anyone who grew up in the Los Angeles area during that era what words follow “If you are happy and you know it,” they will respond “Go see Cal, Go see Cal, Go see Cal.” I have probably seen over a million TV ads and none are as memorable as Cal Worthington’s. From his “dog Spot” (which could be a lion, gorilla or monkey) to his cowboy hat and country twang, Worthington understood the selling ability of irony decades before major advertising agencies.
Worthington, along with Earl Scheib
, who promised to paint “any car, any color for $29.95,” advertised each Wednesday night on my favorite television show, Pro Wrestling from the Olympic Auditorium. Both are part of a Los Angeles noir that always existed beneath the city’s tanned bodies and celebrity culture. To get the full sense of Worthington’s colorful character, be sure to read the wonderful New York Times obituary