Cal Worthington, car dealer famous for TV ads, dies

Worthington has Carlsbad dealership

LOS ANGELES - Funeral services were pending Monday for Cal Worthington, whose folksy yet flamboyant "Go See Cal" car commercials were a fixture on Southern California television for decades.

Worthington collapsed at his sprawling Big W ranch in Orland, north of Sacramento, on Sunday afternoon and was pronounced dead in his home by paramedics, according to Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones. He was 92.

Authorities were notified of the medical emergency at 3:29 p.m. Emergency dispatchers directed Worthington family members on how to administer CPR pending the arrival of paramedics with the volunteer Artois Fire Department, who were unable to revive him, Jones said.

Worthington was watching football with his family -- a favorite pastime -- when he was stricken, according to a statement released by his lawyer.

Jones described Worthington as a "fixture in the community for many, many years" who will be "sorely missed." An annual charity event organized by Worthington to aid a local hospital is scheduled for this weekend, he noted.

Sporting a 10-gallon hat and introducing numerous species of animal as his "dog Spot," Worthington promised to stand on his head to make a deal on a car at one of his dealerships.

He wrestled with chimpanzees, snuggled up to bears and played with a hippopotamus, all in the interest of selling cars.

Calvin Coolidge Worthington was born Nov. 27, 1920, in Shidler, Okla., and grew up with eight siblings. During World War II, he piloted B-17 bombers while assigned to the 390th Bomber Group and flew 29 missions over Germany. His military honors include five Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Worthington's interest in flying continued throughout his life and he maintained an airstrip on his ranch.

After his Army discharge, Worthington discovered he had a knack for selling cars and sold his own used vehicle to a fellow veteran for $500, according to Worthington's attorney, Larry Miles.

Worthington went on to sell cars in Corpus Christi, Texas, before making his way to the Los Angeles area, where he would open a car dealership in Huntington Park.

His oft-seen TV commercials helped him expand his business, which eventually included Worthington Ford in Long Beach, Worthington Mitsubishi in Carlsbad and a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Anchorage, Alaska. At one point, he owned about two dozen dealerships in five states.

With his success in business, Worthington bought his large ranch near Orland, where he spent much of his time in recent years.

He was back in Los Angeles last year as he tried to have his fourth marriage -- to Icelandic jazz singer Anna Mjoll Olaffsdottir -- annulled.

During those proceedings, Worthington told the judge that his then-41-year-old wife made large cash withdrawals from a checking account on which he added her name shortly after they were married.

In a pretrial deposition, Worthington said his wife apologized for some of her spending and said she had to pay some of her friends' bills.

Worthington is survived by six children and nine grandchildren.

Watch one of Worthington's commercials (mobile users: http://bit.ly/1cZSiLU):

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