Cal Worthington and his “dog Spot” in 1974. The Southern California legend of car sales died Sunday at 92.
When Worthington prepared to make his TV debut, he conceived an ad that teased his rivals while also poking fun at himself. But instead of man’s best friend, he chose a gorilla, which appeared on camera acting very undog-like while chained to the bumper of a car.
"Speak, Spot," Worthington told the beast. The gorilla roared, the audience howled. And "business about tripled" after the commercials began airing, he said.
Worthington “was a marketing and advertising genius,” said marketing consultant and teacher Larry Londre, who grew up in Los Angeles appreciating the circus flair of the commercials. “He created what you would call a unique selling proposition. Instead of selling cars he sold a personality.”
The Times obituary by Martin Miller and Elaine Woo has many more colorful stories, a photo gallery and a video that includes clips of Worthington’s famous commercials.
— Matt Ballinger
(Photo: Cal Worthington in a TV studio on Jan. 29, 1974. Credit: Marianna Diamos / Los Angeles Times file)