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.
(Photo: Cal Worthington in a TV studio on Jan. 29, 1974. Credit: Marianna Diamos / Los Angeles Times file)
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Orson Welles: Obituary writer
The last written work from the man known for revolutionizing film with features such as “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man,” wasn’t a script, but an obituary published by the Los Angeles Times back in 1979 for his friend, and legendary director in his own right, Jean Renoir.
The story behind Welles’ foray into posthumous reporting was recently recounted by former deputy editor of the Sunday Opinions section, Steve Wasserman, in a piece for the L.A. Review of Books, which we 100% recommend reading.
A snippet of Welles’ obituary, as it ran in the Sunday paper, is seen below:
As for his conclusion to the piece:
I have not spoken here of the man who I was proud to count as a friend. His friends were without number and we all loved him as Shakespeare was loved, “this side idolatry.” Let’s give him the last word: “To the question ‘Is the cinema an art?’ my answer is ‘What does it matter?’ … You can make films or you can cultivate a garden.
Both have as much claim to being called an art as a poem by Verlaine or a painting by Delacroix… . Art is ‘making.’ The art of love is the art of making love… . My father never talked to me about art. He could not bear the word.”
Photo: Steve Wasserman / L.A. Review of Books
Remembering the revolutionary Paolo Soleri
Paolo Soleri, an Italian architect whose most widely-known project was the ecologically-focused city of Arcosanti, passed away yesterday at the age of 93.
Arcosanti, built far out in the Arizona desert, was a counter-culture icon, and intended to meld architecture and ecology in a sustainable city for 5,000 individuals. The city, still under construction, will now serve as a living testament to Soleri’s vision.
Read our full obituary from architecture critic Christopher Hawthrone here, or check out an article on Arcosanti from way back in 1987.
Photos: Tom Tingle / Arizona Republic, Megan Kimble, Robin Rauzi / Los Angeles Times
RIP Annette Funicello
One of the biggest stars of the initial “Mickey Mouse Club,” in the 1950s,
Annette Funicello passed away today at the age of 70 after a lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis.
Funicello followed her Disney stardom by defining the 60’s-era “beach” movies alongside frequent co-star Frankie Avalon.
As for her humble beginnings, she was chosen for her breakthrough role by Walt Disney himself:
Funicello was a 12-year-old dance-school student when Walt Disney saw her performing the lead role in “Swan Lake” at her dance-school’s year-end recital at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank in the spring of 1955.
Read the Times’ full obituary on Funicello here.
Photos: The Walt Disney Company, Lennox McLendon / Associated Press, Vince Vucci / AFP
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies at 87
The ever-combative “Iron Lady,” whose lengthy tenure of Britain’s first female prime minister drew rampant cheers and criticisms abroad and at home, passed away this morning at age 87.
She altered the country’s political and social landscape for decades following her departure, as summed up in our obituary:
The woman many regard as Britain’s most important peacetime leader of the 20th century shook her country like an earthquake after moving into 10 Downing St. in 1979. In nearly a dozen years at the top, she transformed the political and economic landscape through a conservative free-market revolution bearing her name, Thatcherism, which sought to reverse Britain’s postwar decline and the welfare state that she felt accelerated it.
What do you think Thatcher’s legacy will ultimately be?
Photos: Jockel Fink / Associated Press, AFP/Getty Images archives, Carl Court, Jean-Claude Delmas / AFP
Q: What would you do with a man who refuses to use a deodorant, seldom bathes, and doesn’t even own a toothbrush?
A: Absolutely nothing.
Barbara Demick’s obituary of Kim Jong Il is up. A thorough, good read.
Photo: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il waves to soldiers during his visit to the North Korean People’s Army’s No. 789 unit. The date of the photo is unknown. Credit: North Korean Central News Agency
Christopher Hitchens, engaging, enraging author and essayist: The British-American’s polemical writings on religion, politics, war and other hot-button topics established him as a leading public intellectual. His openness about having cancer elicited thousands of letters and emails to Vanity Fair, where he was a longtime contributor.
Photo credit: Bill Tiernan / Associated Press
Devorah Lauter wrote about George Whitman, founder of the legendary Paris bookshop Shakespeare & Co., in April. He died Wednesday at the age of 98.
Sounds like he was a really interesting guy:
He once threw a book out the second floor window at a customer below because he thought they might enjoy reading it. And he used to light people’s hair on fire to save them the trouble of paying for a haircut. After all, he had been using the same technique on himself for years.
From Lauter’s article earlier this year:
Sylvia Whitman wanted to get to know her eccentric father, the owner of the iconic Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company. Now she’s caught his passion.
Photo: Sylvia Whitman with her 97-year-old father, George, in his room above the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, which he opened 60 years ago. Credit: Devorah Lauter / For The Times
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Richard Steinheimer, the pre-eminent railroad photographer, died at 81 earlier this month. He recorded the industry’s transition from steam to diesel, perched atop speeding trains to photograph their motion, and took “some of the most beautiful night photographs of railroads ever made.”
Photo: Steinheimer shot this early steam-era masterpiece in 1951 outside Thistle, Utah. View more photos at the gallery. Credit: Richard Steinheimer / DeGolyer Library