Have You Heard of Cal Worthington (and his Dog Spot)?

Thanks to the internet, you probably have seen Cal Worthington…and Spot!

From TV Host to Car Dealer

Oklahoma native Calvin Coolidge “Cal” Worthington moved to Huntington Beach, California in 1949, after finding modest success as a car salesman in Corpus Christi, Texas. Once there, he established a Hudson Motor Car dealership. After that, he purchased time for a three-hour live country music television show every weekend on Los Angeles’s KTLA, later named Cal’s Corral.  When sponsorship of entire programs became unfeasible, Cal switched to owning a Ford dealership, becoming known for his offbeat (and memorable) advertisements.

Cal Worthington’s Dog Spot

One of Cal Worthington’s rivals in early 1960s Southern California car dealerships was Chick Lambert of Brand Motors Ford City. Lambert always pitched for his the Ford Dealerships he worked for (he was employed by multiple area dealers over many years) with his dog, Storm. Worthington upped the ante of advertising wars by introducing his dog Spot.

Except…Spot was not a dog.

That’s right, Cal Worthington’s pet sidekick was…a gorilla that roared!

(Not the gorilla).

In fact, I’ll give you the truth…Spot was never a dog. However, Spot was many different animals – an elephant, a tiger, a skunk, bear, killer whale from Sea World, a goose, a bull, snakes (EWWW!), a roller-skating chimpanzee, a carabao (Water Buffalo), and a hippopotamus. But never a dog.I’d buy a car from the guy who runs with a leashed tiger and lives!

Now he’s just trying too hard!

Cal Worthington (and his Dog Spot!) commercials were a hit and a staple of Southern California into the 1990s. And that jingle? The stuff of “stuck in your head” earworms!

The jingle (to some extent) still exists in current advertising for Worthington Ford, with his grandson, Nick, as the new “Cal Worthington.”

Upload via Nick Worthington

He tries, but he’s no Cal Worthington…and his dog Spot.

Come on, he didn’t even have a dog Spot in the ad!

Cal Worthington’s Legacy

Worthington’s “His Dog Spot” commercials were legendary on the West Coast, saturating the Los Angeles-area airwaves. In the 1970s, his ads aired on four of the seven Los Angeles stations. Famously enough, they aired mostly in the overnight hours during late movies. The Television Bureau of Advertising said that Worthington is the best known car dealer pitchman in television history.

We didn’t have a Cal Worthington-esque car dealer in the Northeast/New York City market (that I’m aware of), though we did have appliance store Crazy Eddie and his memorable ads, if you like comparisons!

He was INSANE!

Not bad for a man who never owned a car, hated selling them, and only wanted to be a pilot.

Worthington passed away in 2013 (he lived to the ripe old age of 92!), but his legacy of drawing potential buyers in with his catchy advertising lives on in the archives of YouTube.

Wouldn’t you love to see those ads?

Go See Cal, Go See Cal, Go See Cal!

Uploads via lugnutsoldcrap

Upload via Chuck D’s All-New Classic TV Clubhouse

And how about this one from 2007-2008? Yes, that is Cal Worthington!

Upload via CalWorthingtonFord

Upload via Richard Carson, who noted that these ads all aired within a half hour of each other on KTTV during their late movie in 1988.

There’s also a few in this Oddity Archive episode on local advertising (Beginning at 22:58)

Uploaded via OddityArchive

He put a smile on your face, didn’t he?

BEST Products Store Architecture: Seeing Is Believing!

Seeing is truly believing, but you won’t believe your eyes when you see the amazing architecture design of Best Products Catalog stores.

BEST Products: History Lesson Time!

BEST Products (it is important to capitalize “Best”) was a catalog showroom retail chain, founded in 1957 by Sydney and Frances Lewis. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, BEST was in business until 1997. Sydney Lewis worked with his father, managing an encyclopedia sales operation, and came up with idea of selling additional merchandise along with the encyclopedia bills. The first catalog went out in 1957, with the first showroom opening at 4909 West Marshall Street in Richmond.

The store employed a catalog showroom model. I shopped at a location near my grandparents’ homes as a kid, and the concept was like nothing I’d ever seen (and haven’t seen since). I recall finding merchandise on the showroom floor, taking a slip to a counter, and the product coming on a conveyor belt from the ceiling. To a kid, this seems like magic. I loved this store the way most kids love Toys R Us. Don’t get me wrong, I love Toys R Us, but seriously, the magic conveyor belt from the ceiling was truly an structure of amazement. Like I said, there’s nothing quite like it, and hasn’t been since.

BEST Products filed for bankruptcy twice – once in January 1991 (re-emerged June 16, 1994) and again in September 24, 1996. The second time was the last, with the entire chain (169 stores, 11 jewelry stores, and a nationwide catalog) closing by February 9, 1997. Many of these stores are now Best Buy locations, and there is nothing of this sort in existence.

If you’ve ever shopped at a BEST store, they weren’t just known for their cool store concept, they employed a unique concept in another respect…

A Marvel of Amazing and Unique Design

In the 1970s, BEST Products contracted with James Wines’ “Sculpture in the Environment” (SITE).

Cutler Ridge, Florida location

The purpose was to design nine highly unorthodox storefront facilities; among them, stores in Houston, Richmond, Sacramento, Towson, Maryland, and Hialeah, Florida.

Hialeah, Florida

To describe is to not give it justice, but to show you…oh, I can do that!

“The Peeling Project” – Richmond, Virginia

In 1979, a documentary was produced to show the concept, construction, and public reaction to these stores. The facades are incredible. I’d say they were ahead of their time, but they’re not ahead of any time. They’re truly…different.

The Notch Project – Sacramento, California

I bet you’re wondering, “Allison, where does such a documentary exist?”

Well, newly informed friends, allow me to show you the way!

The Tilt Building – Towson, Maryland

But first, find your way behind this tilting wall!

Witness The Amazing Structures of BEST Products Stores!

Retroist friends, for your viewing pleasure, the amazing design and reaction to the incredible construction of several BEST Products stores!

Upload via azbats1

That rainforest concept is incredible, and definitely my favorite!

Final Thoughts

I’ve looked up BEST Products in the past, and usually have only come across photos. I’ve really been after commercials and videos, so to find this documentary gave me a bit of optimism to find other bits of information about the stores.

As I was finishing up this post, I came across a college video about the layout of the stores. That, my friends, will be a story for another time.

Why not close with another interesting concept?

The Antisign – Distribution Center, Ashland, Virginia

Makes me dizzy just looking at it!

Related Reading

SITE – BEST Products Store Designs

Highly-detailed photos of the structures SITE created for BEST Products!

 

Did you go as TV’s FANGFACE for Halloween?

In 1978, you could have gone trick or treating in this Collegeville Halloween costume as the title character from the Ruby-Spears Productions cartoon, FANGFACE.

fangface_box_top_bottom

FANGFACE premiered in the ABC network’s 1978 Fall Saturday morning lineup. Fangface is the moon-induced alter-ego of Sherman “Fangs” Fangsworth, a tall, lean, awkward teen who reluctantly helps solve crimes with his friends Biff, the handsome leader, Kim, the smart and attractive girl and Puggsy, a short and stocky tough guy. They drive around in the Wolf-Buggy, their open-top dune buggy.

The plastic, vacuformed mask to this costume is a really good rendition of the cartoon character with some attention paid to the black line work.

This plastic, vacuformed mask is a really good rendition of the cartoon character with some attention paid to the black line work.

Unlike the typical lycanthrope who is affected only by the light of the full moon, Sherman transforms into a werewolf by simply seeing a picture of a moon. The crime-solving gang use his easy trigger to their advantage in order to replace the cowardly Sherman with the more aggressive Fangface. The flip side though is that Fangface can just as easily change back into the bumbling Fangsworth by seeing any kind of representation of the sun.

Here’s the show’s opening to acquaint yourself…

[source: youtube.com/user/cronocari }

The vinyl costume, usually worn over top your regular clothes as you headed out to score candy, has a sleeveless top with yellow pants which end just above the knees. As with most boxed costumes depicting licensed characters, the costume itself helped identify exactly who or what you were supposed to be dressed up as. This one is definitely no exception what with a full body image of the goofy werewolf and the title FANGFACE emblazoned across the top of your chest.

fangface_costume_topThe FANGFACE title deserves a closer look. There is some really nice illustration work going on in it, much more than seen in your average dimestore Halloween costume.

fangface_costume_title

The original series ran for 16 half-hour episodes for the ’78 season. It was retooled for the 1979 Fall season by adding Fangsworth’s baby cousin, Fangpuss.

Wonder if Collegeville bothered to follow-up with a Fangpuss costume as well?

Other Retroist post about FANGFACE:

There Was A Fangface Novelization?!

Linguistics in The Land of the Lost

The past 3 years of my life have been spent pursuing my M. A. degree part-time at Signum University. I’m getting a degree in Literature and Language with an emphasis in Imaginative Literature (Science Fiction and Fantasy). Part of my degree includes a requirement of two language classes. This past spring I had the opportunity to take my first language course, and boy did I pick a doozie–Language Invention through Tolkien. This is by far the most challenging class and one of the most fascinating classes I’ve taken thus far in my grad school career.

While I was fully expecting to get a crash course in philology and Elvish from my professor and Tolkien Scholar, Dr. Andy Higgins. What I was not expecting was to learn a particularly fascinating tidbit about some classic retro children’s television–Land of the Lost. While Sid and Marty Krofft were out breaking ground in innovative children’s programming with their life-size, colorful puppetry and mystical fantasy worlds, they also set a new standard for science fiction and fantasy television and film. Land of the Lost has the distinction of being the first television series to invent a language specifically for a TV show. The language of Paku, spoken by the Pakumi people, was invented by UCLA professor of linguistics, Dr. Victoria Fromkin. Not only is this the first art language invented for television, it is the first instance of a television show hiring a professional linguist to develop a language for television.

All of this was fascinating to me for many reasons.

1). Who does that for a kid’s show, especially in the 1970s?
2). I also had to ask–“Wait a minute, didn’t Klingon come first?”

Before I could fact check my professor, he stopped me in my tracks. (Really kids, 99% of the time, you shouldn’t have to fact check your professors; I just have a big ego). Land of the Lost aired from 1974-1976. The first instance of spoken Klingon occurred in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), where Mark Lenard introduced a few key phrases; however, the Klingon language did not reach its final form until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) when linguist Marc Okrand was brought in to fully develop the tongue of our favorite warrior race.

There you have it, Retroids, the first invented language for television wasn’t Klingon, it was Paku. You can now pull this fascinating bit of trivia out of your pocket at parties to impress your friends, or you can take a look at these helpful links to teach yourself Paku!

The Paku Dictionary

The next time you watch a science fiction/fantasy show with an invented language, raise your glass to Professor Victoria Fromkin, and of course, Sid and Marty Krofft. Without them, some of our favorite shows and films would be a little less fun. Until next time,

“Qapla’!”

“Yub nub!”

and

“Kasa!”