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How old is Cal Worthington? I'm 65, and I remember watching him sell cars on TV ads when I was a kid. As seen on TV lately, he looks pretty good. Or has he been cloned?

-- Roy, National City

Cal and that blasting banjo music... He's got a knack for sponsoring the quietest movies ever made, I think. You might sleep through the movie, but you're not going to miss the commercial if Cal can help it. Can't tell you how many times Pa Alice has leaped up off the couch out of a sound sleep about two in the morning thinking he was being mugged by a bluegrass band.

If anybody has the bucks to pay for a clone, it's old Cal. Rich? Man, he's rich. Whew! The richest eighth-grade dropout in the world, I'd bet. And the rich always look better than you and I. It's the law. On his next birthday, according to all published biographies, Calvin Coolidge Worthington will be 87. After abandoning school and kicking around Oklahoma for a while, he was a WWII bomber pilot, won the Distinguished Flying Cross, then in the late '40s sold his first car from a space he appropriated at the curb in front of the Corpus Christi, Texas, post office. That's where Cal found out he had the ability to talk you out of your shoes, then sell them back to you.

The original Cal could have been the inspiration for "Would You Buy a Used Car from This Man?" He once groused to a judge that if he was forced to explain in detail a car-buyer's financial obligations, it would be bad for business. He cleaned up his act and started slinging metal all over California. And he's been on TV as long as there has been TV. Cal first hit the small screen in 1950. He's most famous for his dog Spot -- never a dog, always something like a snake or a water buffalo. That was Cal's swipe at a competitor, a dealer whose TV ads included the family dog. A portion of the 405 freeway in Long Beach is named for Cal, which is appropriate, since that road usually looks like a big used-car lot anyway.

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