Having experienced the sixties and seventies during my childhood, I thought that I had heard and seen almost everything on television. US presidential candidate Richard Nixon appeared briefly on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In to help secure the youth vote. The Communist Party of America held a television fundraiser and raised about $ 1,000. Legendary singer James Brown performed one of his sexually charged tunes on a star-studded telethon to raise money for the Democratic Party.
Brown must have been really interested in the song because in the middle of it he started taking off his pants! After a few seconds, the camera focused on his face and he remained there for the rest of his performance. Afterward, the embarrassed hosts pretended it never happened and moved on to the next act. Controversy was the name of the game back then if you wanted ratings, but the most outrageous television event of all took place behind the scenes on The Dating Game without anyone knowing.
The Dating Game was the brainchild of television show magician Chuck Barris, who also created The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show. ABC bought the concept and the show began airing in December 1965. It became so popular that ABC created a primetime version in 1966. In total, the show ran from 1965 to 1999 with a couple of revivals and four hosts starting with Jim Lange and ending with Chuck Woolery.
Due to the popularity of the show, many aspiring actors and artists wanted to be contestants on the FaceTime that the show provided, especially after the primetime version began. Those who appeared on The Dating Game before they became famous or early in their entertainment careers include Michael Jackson, Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers, Lindsay Wagner, Leif Garrett, Tom Selleck, Lee Majors, The Carpenters, Andy. Kaufman, Steve Martin, John Ritter, Phil Hartman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dusty Springfield, Maureen McCormick, Barry Williams, Sally Field, Richard Dawson, and Paul Lynde.
The show had a fun format. Three boys (Batchelors) answered the funny questions asked by a girl (Bachelorette) who was separated from them by a wall. He could not see his suitors. After a designated period of time, he had to choose one. Reactions varied, but at least bachelorette parties could look forward to an incredible evening or three. The prize was a date with a companion in some exotic place or an expensive stay. The escort was a good idea in case you got stuck with a guy who was a bit too touchy and sentimental. It was also helpful if you are Cheryl Bradshaw.
In 1978, Cheryl was single on The Dating Game. His choice of three boys included Rodney Alcala, who was the No. 1 bachelor. He was featured as a professional photographer who enjoyed skydiving and motorcycling as hobbies. Bachelor No. 2 Jed Mills, who sat next to Alcala later said, “It was creepy. Definitely creepy.” However, he was a smooth talker and easily capable of being personable when it suited him. Maybe that’s why Cheryl Bradshaw chose him as the winner.
As soon as Alcala came around the wall and met her, he smiled and said, “We’re going to have a good time together, Cheryl.” Or not. After having a backstage conversation with him, Cheryl later told a newspaper reporter that Alcala made her feel ill and she declined the date. Good move. In 1968 he was convicted of raping an eight-year-old girl. During and after his appearance in the dating game, he was killing girls, which earned him the nickname “The Killer of the Dating Game”. A detective called him a “Killing Machine” during a trial in 2010. He may have been killing since the late 1960s. He was already a rapist and serial killer at the time.
Alcala used photography as a way to get girls and boys to join him, promising professional photos or modeling work. He asked them to strip, or forced them to, then photographed and raped them. He enjoyed strangling the girls until they were almost unconscious and then reviving them. He did this multiple times and may have raped them each time until he finally killed them. He also photographed teenagers naked and in various sexual poses. He tended to let them go. One survivor said there were several naked young girls in the shoot and that he liked posing them with teenage boys.
Still on probation for the rape and a few arrests, Alcala’s probation officer inexplicably allowed him to travel to New York in 1977 for an alleged photography assignment. While there, Alcala killed Ellen Jane Hover (23). She was the daughter of the owner of Ciro’s in Hollywood. His remains were later found on the Rockefeller Estate in Westchester County. Acala raped and murdered in several states and the exact number of his victims is unknown. He photographed hundreds of adolescent girls and boys. The identities of most of those in the photos remain unknown. He was sentenced to death in California.
It is unknown if Chuck Barris was in the Dating Game on the day the episode was shot with Rodney Alcala. If it were, then there is a possibility that two serial killers who murdered for entirely different reasons would have set an even more ghoulish record for a television game show. The obvious question is whether Chuck Barris is a CIA hitman as stated in the book ‘Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’. It is a difficult question to answer. Some of those close to the entertainment businessman when he died at the age of 87 chose to comment on the controversy, but their opinions were divided.
The type of hiring and assignments described in the book are actually somewhat atypical of a covert government agency. On the one hand, it is not too difficult to know those procedures. On the other hand, the book is written in a way that makes the reader believe that someone actually experienced those things. Yet those situations could just as easily apply to an organization like the Mossad as to the CIA. So that’s another possibility.
Watching the Gong show exposes Barris as a grumpy guy who experiences emotions in a way that says things more important than the show were going on in his life. Those could have been familiar things given her tumultuous relationships and the drug and alcohol addictions that eventually took her daughter’s life. While many believe that Chuck’s story about the CIA was probably just him imagining another life, I say the jury is still out on the story until more facts or witnesses appear.
They want more? Read the Serial Killer Guide: The Best of the Worst