AKA Calvin Coolidge Worthington
Birthplace: Shidler, OK
Location of death: Orland, CA
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Ate bugs to make deals
Military service: US Army Air Corps (WWII, Capt.)
Cal Worthington was one of the first car dealers to appear in his own TV ads as a zany character, and his wacky ads made him a multi-millionaire. Dressed as a duded-up cowboy with an old-fashioned jacket, a ten-gallon hat, and a folksy drawl, his ads promised he would stand on his head to beat anybody else's deal, and guaranteed that if customers found a lower price elsewhere Worthington would "eat a bug."
His first "My Dog Spot" ad was intended as a jab at a rival dealership, which had promised to donate a few dollars from every sale to a local dog shelter. Worthington thought his competitor's ad was annoying, so he rented a gorilla and allowed it to wander the car lot behind him as he said to 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 ad made people laugh and sold plenty of cars, so for decades Worthington appeared with a different exotic animal in ad after ad, always introducing the pig, porcupine, tiger or whale as "my dog Spot." In famous filmed moments, an elephant once urinated on his shoe and a baby goat held in his arms peed on Worthington's pants.
Worthington was raised dirt poor in Oklahoma and Texas, and piloted a B-17 bomber in World War II, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for piloting 29 missions over Germany. Discharged from the Army and needing some cash, he parked his used Hudson in front of the post office in Corpus Christi, Texas and approached passers-by, offering to sell the car at a reasonable price. He found a customer so easily, he decided to use the proceeds to buy and sell more cars. Eventually he was chased away from the post office, and rented an empty lot for $25 a week. As his auto empire grew, he sold Chevrolets, Fords, Dodges, Mazdas, Pontiacs, and tens of thousands of used cars in Anchorage, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, Seattle, and other American cities.
In the 1950s and '60s he sponsored Cal's Corral, a country-western music show that aired on local stations wherever he owned a car store, and gave early exposure to such rising stars as Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, and Buck Owens. In the late 1970s and through most of the 1980s he was dogged by charges of deceptive advertising, and in the late 1990s low customer satisfaction ratings at his car stores led General Motors to refuse to sell him additional dealerships. Through the late 2000s, Worthington still owned four dealerships, and with his investments in shopping malls, office space, and his numerous ranches, his net worth was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. His authorized biography was titled My Dog Spot.
His second wife, Susan Henning, was a sometimes-model sometimes actress who worked as Hayley Mills' backside in the original Parent Trap, and played a mermaid in Live A Little, Love A Little with Elvis Presley.
Wife: Barbara Worthington (m. 1942, div. 1979, one son, one daughter)
Son: Rodney Worthington (pilot)
Daughter: Barbara Worthington
Wife: Susan Henning (actress-model, m. 1979, div. 1986, one son, one daughter)
Son: Calvin Worthington, Jr.
Daughter: Susan Worthington
Wife: Bonnie Reese (disc jockey, m. 1995, div. 2006, one son)
Son: Coldren Wilshire Worthington
Distinguished Flying Cross
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! (1990) · Himself
Into the Night (15-Feb-1985) · Himself
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