Although Cheryl Bradshaw’s episode of The Dating Game aired in September 1978, it wasn’t until the following year that the public learned that Rodney Alcala was one of the worst serial killers in the United States.
When Cheryl Bradshaw was chosen to compete in The Dating Game in 1978, she was ecstatic. The drama teacher’s popularity skyrocketed after her appearance on the hit TV dating show, and she had youth and beauty working in her favor.
She played the role of the bachelorette and flirtatiously picked “bachelor number one,” Rodney Alcala, from a pool of three eligible men. The fact that Alcala had been found guilty of preying on children and was possibly a serial killer was news to her.
In the absence of uniform background checks, those in charge were unaware that Alcala had served time for sexually assaulting and beating a young girl, putting him on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. He had already gone on a murderous rampage that claimed the lives of five people before he made his television debut, though no one had yet linked him to any of the crimes.
Cheryl Bradshaw fell for his witty comebacks on the show and made the mistake of choosing her potential murderer as a romantic interest. After the taping, Bradshaw’s date turned down his offer of a tennis lesson because she felt uncomfortable with his “weird vibes,” and he didn’t find out until much later just how close she had come to a horrific end.
The Dating Game With Cheryl Bradshaw
On September 13, 1978, Rodney Alcala walked onto the set of The Dating Game and introduced himself as a photographer and recreational skydiver. Like previous contestants Arnold Schwarzenegger and Farrah Fawcett, he would go on to fame after appearing on the show. However, Alcala’s fame was largely negative.
ABC executives and the show’s host, John Lange, were unaware of his criminal activities. Talent coordinator Ellen Metzger had been convinced to cast him after an audition thanks to his good looks and charisma. Meanwhile, only her husband, executive producer Mike Metzger, had any inkling that anything was amiss.
Metzger said on ABC’s 20/20, “No darn way was this guy going to be on my show, because I thought he had a strange personality.” The air of mystery around him made me uneasy.
Former inmate Rodney Alcala, who worked his way up to copy editor at The Los Angeles Times after serving three years in prison for assaulting two girls, was eventually hired. By September of 1978, he had murdered, raped, and strangled five women he had lured to his house under the guise of a photo shoot. Here he was, onstage with Cheryl Bradshaw, answering her.
Alcala was not only brazen enough to have his face broadcast on television, but his responses were also brash. In response to Bradshaw’s question, “What’s your best time?” he replied, “The best time is at night,” which, as Bradshaw later realized, was likely a reference to the time of day in which he committed his crimes. Bradshaw continued by asking, “What are you called and what do you look like?” as if he were a dish served at dinner.
And I look good, too,” Alcala boasted. Put me under a peeling machine.
Jed Mills, the “bachelor number two,” had a much clearer picture of him than Bradshaw, who was increasingly attracted to his mysterious allure. From their initial meeting in the green room, where Alcala boasted, “I always get my girl,” Mills had a “creepy” feeling about Alcala.
Ignoring Rodney Alcala
Alcala eventually won Cheryl Bradshaw’s heart, but not until they finally met in person.
Feelings of sickness began to invade my body. “He was acting very strange,” she said.
Bradshaw agreed to go on a date with her bachelor the next day, but her better judgment kicked in and she ended up calling Ellen Metzger, one of the show’s producers.
Metzger recalled, “She told me, ‘Ellen, I can’t go out with this guy.’ You can feel some strange energy emanating from him. He’s a very peculiar guy. I’m not in my element here. Would you say that’s a potential stumbling block? As expected, my response was negative.
Rodney Alcala was at the height of his murderous spree in the 1970s when he put himself in the spotlight of primetime television — winning a date with a woman on the hit TV show “The Dating Game.” https://t.co/BmuUKSBkjo
— ABC News (@ABC) January 8, 2021
Rodney Alcala killed Robin Samsoe, 12, in 1979 after being rejected and moving to Los Angeles. Samsoe’s earrings were among the many victim mementos that were discovered in Alcala’s storage locker after police used the suspect’s sketch to track him down. He had been arrested and given a death sentence, but on July 24, 2021, he passed away of natural causes.
Even after his death, investigators are still poring over DNA samples from Alcala, who claimed to have killed up to a hundred people. There have been ten murders in the New York and Los Angeles areas that have been linked to him.
It appears that Cheryl Bradshaw’s innate intelligence saved her life despite the fact that her appearance in the Dating Game nearly cost her everything.