an icon of exuberant cheesiness

WORTHINGTON and Spot.jpg

For anyone who lived in Southern California for any length of time over the past half century, Cal Worthington was an inescapable pop culture icon. A fixture on late-night TV, Worthington was a used-car dealer who personified shameless promotion, and took glee in using any means whatever – once strapping himself to the wing of a plane – to draw customers to his empire of auto dealerships.

What I remember him for is the steady– and unexplained – appearances of a plethora of animals in his commercials, each referred to as "my dog, Spot." 

From the NYT obituary:  "The exuberant cheesiness of Mr. Worthington’s ads made him a folk hero, as much a part of California popular culture as Woodies with surfboards on the roof or Orange Julius stands. He was a frequent guest on 'The Tonight Show,' where Johnny Carson performed ad parodies. He appeared as himself in the 1973 Jack Lemmon film 'Save the Tiger' and was the model for the car salesman played by Ted Danson in the 1993 film 'Made in America.' He even infiltrated Thomas Pynchon’s novel 'Inherent Vice.'"

RIP Cal. And your dog, Spot.