Cheryl Bradshaw's Dating Game episode aired in September 1978, but it would be another year before anyone would learn Rodney Alcala was one of America's worst serial killers.
Cheryl Bradshaw was thrilled when producers picked her as a contestant for The Dating Game in 1978. The popular television matchmaking show provided national exposure for the drama teacher, and Bradshaw had youth and beauty on her side.
Playing her role as the game’s bachelorette to pick one of three eligible men, she flirtatiously chose “bachelor number one,” Rodney Alcala. What she didn’t know was that Alcala was a convicted child predator — let alone a serial killer.
Without standardized background checks, nobody behind the scenes was aware that Alcala had served time for sexually assaulting and beating an eight-year-old girl, a crime that landed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. And, by the time he appeared on television, he had already embarked on a macabre killing spree that left five people dead, although those crimes had yet to be connected to him.
Charmed by his provocative retorts on the show, Cheryl Bradshaw unknowingly chose her potential killer as a romantic prospect. Instinctively turned off by his “weird vibes” following the taping, Bradshaw declined his date to go on a tennis lesson — learning only later how close she had come to a gruesome death.
Cheryl Bradshaw And The Dating Game
Introduced to the audience as a photographer and recreational skydiver, Rodney Alcala waltzed on The Dating Game stage on Sept. 13, 1978. He had joined the show’s pantheon of contestants who would become famous later on, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Farrah Fawcett. Alcala’s renown, however, was bleak.
His crimes had eluded ABC executives and the show’s host John Lange. Handsome and charming at audition, he had won over talent coordinator Ellen Metzger who was adamant to cast him. Her husband, executive producer Mike Metzger, meanwhile, was the only person who sensed any danger.
“No darn way was this guy going to be on my show, because I thought he had a strange personality,” Metzger told ABC’s 20/20. “He had a mystique about him that I found uncomfortable.”
Rodney Alcala had spent three years in prison for assaulting two girls before getting a job at The Los Angeles Times. By September 1978, he had lured five women to his home under the pretense of a photoshoot only to beat, rape, and strangle them. And now he was now answering Cheryl Bradshaw on stage.
Confident enough to plaster his face across TV, Alcala’s retorts were just as bold. When Bradshaw asked him, “What’s your best time?” he said, “The best time is at night” — a chilling likely reference to his crimes, Bradshaw learned in retrospect. Bradshaw continued, telling him to imagine himself as a dish served for dinner, asking “What are you called and what do you look like?”
“I’m called the banana and I look good,” said Alcala. “Peel me.”
While Bradshaw was increasingly drawn to his enigmatic aura, “bachelor number two,” Jed Mills, had a far clearer picture. Mills found Alcala “creepy” from the moment they met in the green room, where Alcala told him, “I always get my girl.”
Turning Down Rodney Alcala
In the end, Alcala did win Cheryl Bradshaw’s affection — until they actually met face to face.
“I started to feel ill. He was acting really creepy,” she said.
While Bradshaw initially agreed to meet her bachelor for a date the following day, her instincts took over, and she called one of the show’s producers, Ellen Metzger.
“She said, ‘Ellen, I can’t go out with this guy,'” recalled Metzger. “‘There’s weird vibes that are coming off of him. He’s very strange. I am not comfortable. Is that going to be a problem?’ And of course, I said, ‘No.'”
After his rejection, Rodney Alcala went on to murder 12-year-old Robin Samsoe in Los Angeles in 1979. A police sketch of the suspect led investigators to Alcala’s storage locker, which held countless keepsakes of victims, including Samsoe’s earrings. He was arrested and sentenced to death — but died of natural causes on July 24, 2021.
Before he died, Alcala claimed to have killed up to 100 people, and investigators continue to analyze his DNA samples to solve long-standing murder cases. To date, he has been linked to a total of ten homicides between Los Angeles and New York.
As for Cheryl Bradshaw, even though her Dating Game appearance nearly cost her her life, it appears it was her natural intuition that saved it.
After learning about Cheryl Bradshaw and The Dating Game, read about Pedro Rodrigues Filho, the real-life ‘Dexter.’ Then, learn the true story of Charles Van Doren and the quiz show scandals.