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Survived by his dog, Spot.
September 9, 2013 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Calvin Coolidge "Cal" Worthington and his "dog", Spot, were fixtures on 1970's TV in Southern California.

Cal saturated the commercial breaks during the overnight hours on four of the seven television stations in Los Angeles, which had agreed to fill their overnight schedules by playing movies. Go See Cal and his "dog" Spot was the gimmick, but his "dog" was always a tiger, orca, seal, giraffe, monkey, even a hippopotomus but never, never a dog. He also, being in Los Angeles, appeared in a number of TV shows including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Emergency! Cal epitomized late 60's, early 70's California kitsch.

Cal died at his ranch this morning. Pour one out for Cal, and his dog, Spot.

Previously.
posted by Sophie1 (79 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
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Geez, saw these all the time in So Cal and Arizona.

Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please also see Roderick on the Line #27 for relevant material.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2013


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Drive past his dealership and see his ads all the time. He wasn't looking too hot over the last few months. Sad to see him go.
posted by Punkey at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2013


Seattle area too! Why do I know that his wife drove a Zimmer?
Three day trial/exchange!
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 12:56 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I grew up in SoCal and as a kid who was propped up in front of the TV as a surrogate babysitter from the time I was in diapers, those ads were the soundtrack of my childhood ..... way more so than (just an example) the Beach Boys or Linda Ronstadt or the Eagles.

Sad news. RIP, Mr. Worthington.
posted by blucevalo at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2013


.

Icon of my 80s So Cal childhood. I think the "dog Spot" I remember best was the elephant.
posted by epersonae at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2013


Pussy cow.

Famously (and intentionally?) misheard jingle lyrics for "go see Cal", independently verified by at least 3 unconnected southern Californians. Go figure.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


.

I remember the elephant best too, and spent a hilarious half hour when I was four trying to convince my uncle that Cal was saying "Pussy cow".
posted by annathea at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Noooo... *waves sad goodbye to childhood*

I also remember the elephant.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:03 PM on September 9, 2013


My video tapes of Cal Worthington's ads were a big hit at college (not a California college, obviously) parties in the late 80's, oddly enough.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:04 PM on September 9, 2013


Yeah, his reach was pretty far. I remember his commercials were pretty ubiquitous in Houston back in the day as well.
posted by SkinnerSan at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


             .-.-.
          _ /     \ _
         / `\=====/` \
         '.__`---`__.'
             `````

. <---- his dog spot

RIP!

hat via
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


.

The ads originally mocked a rival dealer with a real dog.
posted by brujita at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2013


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posted by tilde at 1:11 PM on September 9, 2013


LAist short obit post, with the expected video clips.

LA Times obit, noting he "died Sunday while watching football at his home on the Big W Ranch near Orland, Calif."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pussy cow.

Famously (and intentionally?) misheard jingle lyrics for "go see Cal", independently verified by at least 3 unconnected southern Californians. Go figure.


Make that 4? 5?

In San Diego, we saw plenty of his commercials down here via channels 5, 11, and 13 being carried by local cable, but he also eventually opened a dealership in North County (Carlsbad), so for a decent amount of time, we had these commercials on our own channels as well. And this was way into the 90s. I'm honestly surprised he was still around.

.

Pete Ellis Dodge also had an earworm of a jingle.
posted by LionIndex at 1:13 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I totally heard "pussy cow". I used to run around the house singing it.

Attractive, I know, but I was probably 7.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:15 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't remember commercials I saw last night, but I remember seeing Cal and his 'dog' while visiting my aunt and uncle in Riverside in the late 70s and early 80s.



also heard pussy cow even when I knew that wasn't what it was saying...
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:16 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hear "pussy cow" too, and I never lived in Southern California or heard of him before. The power of suggestion is strong.
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pete Ellis Dodge also had an earworm of a jingle.

Freeway 17, Camelback Exit, Phoenix.

Thanks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2013


Freeway 17, Camelback Exit, Phoenix.

OH, HELLS NO! Long Beach Freeway, Firestone Exit, Southgate.
posted by LionIndex at 1:26 PM on September 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Pete Ellis Dodge also had an earworm of a jingle.

Also...

"Long Beach Freeway, Firestone Exit, South Gate"

and there was one for his dealership in Bellflower, too, which I don't remember right now.
posted by chimaera at 1:26 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pete Ellis Dodge also had an earworm of a jingle.

Here it was "Pete Ellis Dodge - Ten-ninety-five West El Camino Real - Sunnyvale"
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


.

He was making those ads right up to the end, which, good for him.

"Here's an oh-five Wrangler, 5995, nothing down, drive it home today; here's a 2011 Toyota Tacoma..."

Another earworm:

"605 to South Street,
Cerritos Auto Square!"
posted by notyou at 1:34 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll stand upon my head until my ears are turning red!
Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Go see Cal!

Some of the greatest commercials ever, gotta love the guy.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:34 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh you won't get a lemon,
I wouldn't a got a lemon?
From Toyota of Orange!
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:36 PM on September 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


chimaera: ""Long Beach Freeway, Firestone Exit, South Gate"

and there was one for his dealership in Bellflower, too, which I don't remember right now
"

Pete Ellis Ford, 91 Freeway, Lakewood exit, Bellflower. Those are the two I remember.
posted by team lowkey at 1:37 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy smokes, I didn't realise he was still around.

When I was in 3rd/4th grade, we went to a school by his Long Beach dealership. And I used to drive everyone insane by singing the jingle. Because you had to Go See Cal, Go See Cal, Go See Cal.

Not that my family ever actually ever bought a new car. Maybe that's why it annoyed them so much.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I heard Pussy Cow until someone corrected me at about age 8, but then it was just "Go see Cow".

My grandfather bought a number of cars from the "Worthington Brothers" dealership. I need to ask my dad what the marketing was like when it wasn't just Cal, but him and his brother.
posted by sideshow at 1:41 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aw, man :(

.
posted by Pecinpah at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2013


If you want a car or truck, go see Cal.
If you wanna save a buck go see Cal...


It's been seared into my memory for 30 years.

.
posted by klanawa at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2013


Chalk up another one for Pussy Cow... I hear it too.

also

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posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing plenty of these ads in the Pacific Northwest in the late eighties and early 90s. If I recall correctly, didn't Cal get into quite a bit of trouble with shady dealership practices at some point around then, causing his dealership network to shrink quite a bit?
posted by stenseng at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2013


And if we're going to speculate on who is going to take the ear worm crown in SoCal, I nominate South Coast Toyota and their repeated lame-ass "South Coast Toyotaaaaaaa" chant.
posted by sideshow at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another one who heard "pussy cow" here! I was confused for many years as a kid about what exactly a pussy cow was...

And now I have that jingle stuck in my head.
posted by milkcrateman at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding having heard it repeatedly growing up in Houston in the 80's. I always heard it as "horsey cow," though.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 1:46 PM on September 9, 2013


Aw. On the other hand, who the hell would have suspected he was still alive.

Had to check - Tex Earnhardt ('and this ain't no bull') still is too. I don't know why hanging around 2-ton steers and/or circus animals stopped being a thing for car dealers, but dammit, someone should bring it back.

also, the fact that Pussy Cow wasn't the name of a seminal LA punk band in 77 or so just proves, once again, that this is the Wrong Timeline.

on the other hand, the fact that the top 10 google resluts for 'pussy cow' seem to be SFW aside from the words, helps a bit
posted by hap_hazard at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lived in a suburb of San Diego, Poway, CA ~ 1977-1979. I was seven-eight years old. I can sing an entire one of these to this day. My favorite TV commercials ever, probably.

"I will stand upon my head 'till my ears are gettin' red!"

Thanks for this post.

.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2013


Like everyone else, I came in here to say "pussy cow," because who wouldn't?

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posted by the_bone at 1:49 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lyrics (and a good summary video).

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posted by blob at 1:51 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing Cal Worthington's ads when I was a wee tiny kiddo living in Riverside in the late 70's/very early 80's, and then my family moved back up to Seattle and the ads were there, too, so imagine my surprise when I met people from back east as I got older and they had NO CLUE what I was on about when I'd absentmindedly sing the pussy-cow song to myself.

Also, I never really realized it until a few minutes ago when I watched an old Cal ad, but my step-dad sure looked a lot like him. Way to imprint on the advertising of your youth, Mom. Sheesh.


.
posted by palomar at 1:53 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Mercaptan at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2013


Oh man. He looks so young in those ads. When I was a kid I thought he was an ooold ooold man

Now it is me who is the ooold ooold man


.
posted by ook at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I first saw him back about 1979 when I was working my way through nursing school in San Diego, on the night shift at Children's Hospital. I would see him while I sat rocking and feeding sick babies. He seemed sooo old then, and to me he was a little exotic. (Los Angeles!)

I've lived in a LA for a while now, and it doesn't seem exotic anymore, except in a few spots. And every time I see Cal I am surprised that he has not aged a bit, though I have.

.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:13 PM on September 9, 2013


And if we're going to speculate on who is going to take the ear worm crown in SoCal, I nominate South Coast Toyota and their repeated lame-ass "South Coast Toyotaaaaaaa" chant.

Hooman Toyota (or Nissan), hands down.
posted by notyou at 2:14 PM on September 9, 2013


He threw famously wild parties up here in the PNW too, according to a friend of mine who was a high school teacher and heard the story from several of her students who claimed to have been hired to work at some of them.
posted by jamjam at 2:19 PM on September 9, 2013


Ah, ancient Southern California car dealership earworms. I won't get the exact wording correct, but there was this radio ad from the '60s that would never leave your head once it got in:

Stanley, Stanley, Stanley Chevrolet
Two blocks off the Santa Ana Freeway
Nine one oh three five East Firestone
Stanley Chevrolet!


The Google probably has the canonic version out there somewhere.
posted by Creosote at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2013


I grew up in Long Beach right next to Cal Worthington Ford on Belflower and Spring. I used the dealership in my directions all the time when telling people where I lived. "Oh I'm like 2 blocks from Cal Worthington." Almost every single person would then proceed to sing. It was probably split 50/50 as to whether they sang Go See Cal ... or Pussy Cow.

.
posted by Arbac at 2:38 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


We have a lot of dirty minds on Metafilter.

*pussy cow* = another Spot!
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:44 PM on September 9, 2013


I remember when my younger brother was looking for his first car. He saw a Go See Cal commercial which included a nice-looking pick-up priced at $995. When we got there, because of where we parked, we passed that pick-up which was hidden around the back. Its interior was gutted.
A seminal moment in "growing up."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:48 PM on September 9, 2013


"I'll eat a bug!" was another one of his catch phrases.
posted by Danf at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2013


We have a lot of dirty minds on Metafilter.

Actually, I heard it that way when I didn't know it could be anything but a cat.
posted by LionIndex at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2013


If you grew up in Detroit, you heard this one, Hey dawg.
posted by klangklangston at 2:53 PM on September 9, 2013


Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal.

Now he's in heaven, so you can see him there.

RIP Cal.
posted by Lynsey at 2:53 PM on September 9, 2013


I was a transplant to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s and didn't grow up with that jingle, but once a native co-worker said "pussy cow" it could never be unheard. I found it hard to establish a sense of place in L.A., but long-running shared cultural regional media touchstones like Cal Worthington's ads, Jack Stephan ads, Sit and Sleep Ads (mostly the 'We'll beat anyone's advertised price or your mattress is FREEEEEEE' slogan) and Huell Howser definitely helped.
posted by usonian at 3:01 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


.

Spent many a late night watching his commercials--the ones with the bear (and the big cats) really stuck with me because it looked so unsafe--those critters were "playing" pretty ferociously. At least I can say, "rest in peace" and not, "rest in pieces..."
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:06 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pussy cow. I'm glad I wasn't the only one.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by lapolla at 4:23 PM on September 9, 2013


but long-running shared cultural regional media touchstones

You're killing me, Larry.
posted by hwyengr at 4:30 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My very first comment on MetaFilter was a reaction to a Cal Worthington post:

Not only did Worthington have loads of dealerships in Southern California, he also, as Wikipedia notes, had a dealership in Alaska.

So I had the dubious pleasure of turning on the TV in Anchorage, Alaska and the first thing that comes on is Cal Worthington and his blasted commercial!

I honestly had to look around twice to make sure I wasn't back home in Southern California...

go see cal, go see cal, go see cal! (just don't buy his cars!)


I can't believe he was still alive. He was ancient back in the '90s--and the Mefi poster from 2007 thought then that he didn't have long to live. 92 is a more than decent run.

.
posted by librarylis at 4:41 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also thought he was on death's door the last time I saw one of his ads in the late 80s. That he made it this long is great. I'm back in california again and one thing about TV and radio that I had forgotten was car dealers all have jingles. As if it is a legal requirement.

Descansa en paz, Cal.
posted by birdherder at 4:58 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


dirtdirt: I grew up in washington, and they had Cal ads up there in the 80s. My sister in the late '90s / Early '00s was living down there and used to play shows with a band called 'Pussy Cow' for the same reason.

Definitely not your imagination.
posted by lkc at 5:17 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was born in the early 70's. I grew up in Northern California (and Central, and then Southern in my adult years) and these ads were an ever present thing. I am amazed he was still alive!

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posted by routergirl at 6:00 PM on September 9, 2013


I used to write jingles about the salesmen in the office to that tune.

If you want to buy a brand new CPU
Come on down and get a quote from Jim and Drew..

A proper way to memorialize the passing of the esteemed Mr. Worthington would be to watch the 1980 Robert Zemeckis movie Used Cars. Here's a representative scene, backstory: Kurt Russell is trying to prevent the used car lot owner from seeing the bootleg commercial they're shooting live at their competitor's car lot.

Hi friends, Marshall Lucky here for New Deal Used cars, where we're battling inflation not only by fighting high prices, not only by murdering high prices, but by blowing the living shit out of high prices.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:24 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The attention from Johnny Carson got Cal his first national recognition, mostly because he had more showmanship and a better sense of humor than Johnny's previous go-to for "Southern California Car Dealer" jokes, Ralph Williams Ford. Originally "Leon Ames Ford" for the character actor who invested in it and provided a 'name', but with Ralph doing the commercials that became ubiquitous on local late-night TV. Then Ames cashed out, Williams got his name in lights and passed the TV spokesman role to General Manager Chick Lambert, who used "my dog Storm" in the commercials to 'humanize' his sales pitch, which inspired Cal to his 'Dog Spot' running joke. Johnny noticed and the rest is TV history.

The original location of Ralph Williams Ford was on Ventura Blvd. in Encino, an L.A. suburb that was pricey Hollywood Hills to the south (where the Jackson 5 moved to when they hit it big) and middle-class San Fernando Valley to the north (where Tim Conway bought a house when he hit it medium-sized and never moved out). I lived two blocks north of Ralph Williams Ford growing up and saw real estate prices rise to the point that Ralph sold his lot and a 10-story bank building rose in its place, which in spite of all attempts to the contrary, I always did and always will call "The Ralph Williams Building".

The 'Ralph Williams Building' also had one of the first multi-level parking structures in the area in back, with no gates or other security, making a cool downhill track for our bikes. We also rode our bikes up and down Tim Conway's driveway, and to his credit, he never shooed us kids away.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:37 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, I just saw a Cal Worthington ad on daytime TV two days ago, with Cal calling out 2010's model cars. I was kind of amazed that he was still going, and kind of thought to myself, how much longer can he do this? I feel like I jinxed him now...
posted by malapropist at 8:08 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a clear memory of asking my mom, "How does he get his dog into all those costumes?"


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posted by BlahLaLa at 8:33 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Glad to hear he died happily watching football, and not "stand(ing) on his head, 'til his ears are turnin' red" as originally promised.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:08 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


.

Sacramento reporting in. I can sing his lyrics 30 years later as well as some Sesame Street songs (e.g. put down the ducky!).
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:18 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh god on the way home I heard the "Yesseritos auto fair" one and it's still killing me hours later.
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember him from late '90s central valley late-night tv.
posted by shinyshiny at 10:43 PM on September 9, 2013


My dad bought a few trucks in the 70s and 80s from the Worthington Ford in Anchorage, AK. Those commercials were part of my childhood.
posted by virginia_clemm at 10:48 PM on September 9, 2013


Saw him on tv just this weekend. Sad.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:02 AM on September 10, 2013


Growing up on the East Coast, my only exposure to Cal (and Spot) was one of his ads which featured prominently in the Jeff Goldblum insomnia flick, Into the Night, which ran on cable interminably. From the content and production quality, I assumed the ad was a parody, made for the film (à la RoboCop).

When I was nineteen I spent a few days in LA, and my head nearly exploded when I found his ads were actually on broadcast TV. "Go see Cal!"
posted by steef at 5:17 AM on September 10, 2013


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posted by dragonplayer at 7:59 AM on September 10, 2013


Nice reminiscince from Ken Levine, includes the 3:20 youtube compilation of some of Cal's/Spot's greatest hits (or maybe outtakes? Not sure if the stuff of him getting apparently almost eaten by tigers and bears was in the commercials).
posted by hap_hazard at 1:52 PM on September 10, 2013


Buy a new car for your wife
She will love you all your life...



.
posted by luckynerd at 8:46 PM on September 10, 2013


Buy a new car for your wife
She will love you all your life...


Next time, I think I'll get the Lifetime Extended Warranty.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:54 PM on September 10, 2013


An article written by the man himself.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:43 PM on September 12, 2013


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