Veterans of LA Television

Cal Worthington’s humorous TV ads made the flamboyant car dealer a local LA legend.

The late Gene Roddenberry also made his Star Trek TV series and movies in LA, hub of the entertainment industry. 

And I don’t think you’d lose money if you bet Cal Worthington’s commercials occasionally aired during syndicated reruns of Star Trek on LA stations. Otherwise, I never knew that these two icons of the airwaves had anything but television in common until David Klaus sent me an item just before Veterans Day.

As young men, both Cal and Gene had the same, very important job in America’s military: they both piloted B-17 bombers in World War II.

Roddenberry flew 89 missions in the Pacific, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. 

Cal Worthington flew 29 missions over Germany during World War II, received five Air Medals and was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross by General Jimmy Doolittle himself.

You might say Gene and Cal also had another similarity: they were associated in the public mind with exotic and unusual creatures. While Roddenberry’s had different names — “horta,” “Denebian slime devil” etc. — Cal’s all had the same name: “Spot.”

CalWorthingtonOrcaCal created “my dog Spot” to parody the commercials of another TV pitchman who always introduced “my dog, Storm,” his pet German shepherd. Cal’s original “dog Spot” was an enraged gorilla. The joke has since been repeated many times in other commercials, the creatures named Spot varying from a tiger to a killer whale – and an infamous goose that accompanied Cal to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and ruined Carson’s suit.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

5 thoughts on “Veterans of LA Television

  1. I can tell you for a fact that Cal Worthington commercials played every day in the KTVU Star Trek showings (the one that made my Dad refuse to take my Mom to the hospital to give birth to me). They were always the first commercial in the second set of commercials they’d show.

    I can’t believe I remember that…

  2. The original car salesman that would introduce his dog was Ralph Williams, “…of Ralph Williams Ford of Encino!” He must have bought about one million hours of air time, since his commercials would show up every night on every channel that played old, old movies.

    And he even got mocked in one (or possibly two) of the Firesign Theatre albums.

  3. @Ed: Wikipedia said it was Chick Lambert who had the dog, though Chick did switch dealerships and work for Ralph Williams later. Otherwise Ralph did all the things you said — including having his growly, pseudo-sincere TV voice mocked by Firesign Theatre.

  4. I think it was Jack Harkness who made the joke about “It’s Lando Calworthington and his Bantha, Spot!”

    Jack also wrote about Kal-El of Krypton:

    “If you want to fight a crime, go see Kal!
    Need a rescue just in time, go see Kal!
    If a crook is on the loose you want in the calaboose,
    Go see Kal, go see Kal, go see Kal!”

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