Laughing, curly-haired, and hunky - but Rodney Alcala wasn't what he seemed...
The Dating Game.
It was an easy concept for a telly show. A woman had three questions to ask three men contestants behind a screen. She’d then choose one for a date.
In September 1978, the smiling host, with his bowtie and frilly shirt, introduced the viewers to glamorous Cheryl Bradshaw, her brown hair all Farrah Fawcett sweeps. She’d choose one of the three men contestants to accompany her on a date to a local LA amusement park.
One of the men she could go for was Rodney Alcala.
He had long, curly hair, a straight, Roman nose.
‘Rodney’s a successful photographer who enjoys skydiving and motorcycling,’ the host beamed.
‘My first question,’ Cheryl smiled. ‘To contestant number one. I’m serving you for dinner. What are you called and what do you look like?’
‘I’m called the banana,’ Rodney quipped in reply. ‘I look really good. Peel me!’
His answer was enough to win her over. She chose him for her date.
But what Cheryl Bradshaw, the telly host, the producers and the viewing public didn’t realise was Rodney Alcala was a vicious sexual predator who’d already killed. And who would kill again.
Rodney Alcala was born in 1943. Shortly after his birth, his dad abandoned him, his mum and his sisters.
When he was 17, he joined the US Army at 17.
Rodney served as a military clerk until a couple of months on when he had some sort of nervous breakdown. Exact details are unclear, but he was diagnosed by an army doctor with an antisocial personality disorder.
An antisocial personality disorder is characterised by a blatant disregard for others – and that disregard shows itself through the violation of the rights of others.
It means Rodney would want to resist social norms and laws. He’d have been incredibly deceptive and impulsive. And would not understand even the concept of remorse.
His army career a non-starter, Rodney signed up to a local university and studied film.
Throughout his adult life as a free man, Rodney would meet with young, aspiring models and photograph them nude.
He also photographed the women he killed. Often, he’d gain their trust by posing as a photographer before killing them.
His first known victim was in 1968. She was just 8. Rodney coaxed her into his flat, raped her and beat her with a steel bar.
He carried on telling young women he was an aspiring fashion photographer. He’d convince them to pose naked for him.
It’s unknown just how many of these women became his victims. But as recently as 2010, the police released 120 of Rodney’s photos to the public with the hope of identifying the models in them.
900 more photos were too explicit for public consumption.
Eventually, Rodney would be convicted of five murders. But no one knows how many he actually killed.
His killing method would also seem cruel in the extreme. Often, he’d beat his victims. Or he’d strangle them almost to death, only to revive them and start strangling them once more.
Then, he’d arrange his victim’s body into an erotic pose, and take photos.
After nearly two decades of sexual assaults and murder, Rodney Alcala applied to appear on the telly show, the Dating Game.
It’s hard to imagine why a man like him would want to be in the spotlight.
Perhaps he got a thrill from lying and deceiving the public, or from pretending to be someone he wasn’t…
On the show, the host introduced Rodney as ‘a successful ph0tographer…but between breaks you might find him skydiving or motorcycling.’
During filming, Rodney turned on the charm. And at the end of the show, he won a date at an amusement park with contestant Cheryl Bradshaw.
But when she met him for that date after the show, she changed her mind. She refused to go to the amusement park with him.
It’s said she found him ‘creepy’.
That decision may have saved her life. We’ll never know.
A year on, in 1979, Rodney met 12-year-old Robin Samsoe on a beach near his California home.
Two weeks later, her decomposing body was found in the hills around LA.
But Robin’s friends had seen her chatting with Rodney. Police were able to get a description.
Rodney Alcala was arrested. And although investigators found pictures of hundreds of women in his home, they could only link him to five murders.
He’s been on death row ever since…