From cheating scandals to allegations of sexual abuse, there has always been a dark side behind the cash and colorful lights of TV game shows. But did you know that a notorious serial killer once appeared on the popular 1970’s game show, “The Dating Game?”
His name was Rodney Alcala. In 1978 Alcala appeared on the popular syndicated daytime show “The Dating Game.” He was attractive with long 70s style hair and a charming smile. As “Bachelor No. 1,” he was introduced by host Jim Lange as “a successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13.” Alcala vied with two other “eligible bachelors” for a date with contestant Cheryl Bradshaw — who, hidden behind a wall, asked them leading questions as per the show’s titillating format.
When Bradshaw asked Alcala her first question, “What’s your best time?” he smiled and answered, “The best time is night. Nighttime.”
While Bradshaw was enjoying his witty answers to her entendre-laced questions, little did she know that Alcala was actually keeping a deadly secret — he was an unrepentant serial killer.
If not for a healthy jolt of women’s intuition, Bradshaw would almost certainly be remembered today as one of Alcala’s victims. He won the game — but Bradshaw refused to go out with him because she found him creepy. One of Alcala’s fellow “Dating Game” bachelors, Jed Mills, told CNN in 2010 that Alcala “became very unlikable and rude and imposing as though he was trying to intimidate … he got creepier and more negative.”
According to Bradshaw, after the show ended, she conversed with Alcala backstage. He offered her a date she’d never forget, but Bradshaw got the feeling that her handsome potential suitor was a little off.
“I started to feel ill,” Bradshaw told the Sydney Telegraph in 2012. “He was acting really creepy. I turned down his offer. I didn’t want to see him again.”
Had the popular dating show performed background checks on their bachelors, they would have discovered that this “kind of good-looking but kind of creepy” guy had already spent three years in prison for raping and beating an eight-year-old girl (he’d done the same to a 13-year-old too), which landed him on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List.
But sometimes, a background check can’t even uncover the whole story. In Rodney Alcala’s case, the whole story consisted of at least four prior murders that he hadn’t been definitively linked to yet.
The following year, in 1979, Alcala was arrested, and later convicted, for killing a 12-year-old girl who was on her way to ballet class in Huntington Beach, Calif., one of at least eight murders he eventually admitted to, including two in New York (of a restaurant heiress and a TWA flight attendant, for which he was put on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list in 1971). He was suspected in many more crimes.
The serial killer, who was serving several life sentences, died in prison just this past July of “unspecified causes” at the age of 77. How he fooled the “Dating Game” producers or passed a background check (if there even was one) remains a mystery.