Cal Worthington, the iconic car dealer and TV pitchman of decades past, is dead. He was 92.
Worthington, who died on Sunday at his ranch in Orland, Calif., was known for his entertaining and at times outlandish TV and radio advertisements which often featured him with a various exotic animals, promising viewers that he would "stand on my head to make you a deal."
In the TV spots, the 6-foot, 4-inch tall Worthington, wearing his signature 10-gallon white cowboy hat, would introduce himself saying, "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."
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Of course, there was never a dog in the commercials, but rather, depending on the year, viewers saw Worthington standing near a pair of goats, a hippo, a tiger, a gorilla, a snake or an iguana, among other animals.
At one point, the savvy showman even rode Shamu the killer whale at an aquatic theme park while waving his cowboy hat, The New York Times noted
As he pitched the latest deals offered at his numerous car dealerships, viewers would hear an all-male chorus sing catchy jingles in the background, such as:
"If your axle is a-saggin’, go see Cal.
Maybe you need a station wagon, go see Cal.
If your wife has started naggin’, and your tail pipe is a-draggin’
Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal."
"I try to make my commercials a little less obnoxious than the other guy," Worthington told The Los Angeles Times in 2003. "They’re obnoxious, but I try to make them a little less obnoxious."
The Oklahoma native, who had sold more than a million cars during his lifetime by his account, had at one time owned nearly two dozen car dealerships – stretching from Alaska to Texas – and been the nation's top-selling Dodge salesman in the 1960s, the Associated Press reported
A former pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Worthington flew B-17 Flying Fortresses on 29 bombing missions over Germany, before returning home with the rank of captain,
Having been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the war, Worthington had hoped to become a commercial pilot after the war, but was disqualified due to his lacking a college degree, The Times noted.
After purchasing a gas station in Corpus Christi, TX, that did not prove profitable, Worthington converted the failed business into a used car dealership, and the rest is history.
In a 2007 interview, Worthington said "I never much liked the car business. I just kind of got trapped in it after the war [and] didn’t have the skills to do anything else. I just wanted to fly," The Times reported.
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Worthington was married four times, the last of which ended in divorce.
Amazingly, Worthington reportedly never owned a car himself, but rather borrowed one from the lot whenever he needed it.
He is survived by his sons, Rod, Cal Jr., and Coldren; his daughters, Barbara Worthington, Susan Skellenger and Courtney Worthington Shepherd; and nine grandchildren.
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