Before he was a convicted serial killer, Rodney Alcala was a winning bachelor on “The Dating Game.”
“Oh yeah, I remember it quite clearly,” said Jed Mills, the game-show contestant who sat next to Alcala in 1978. “He was creepy. Definitely creepy.”
Found guilty in February of murdering four women and a child, Alcala, 66, is acting as his own attorney in the penalty phase of the trial. He is hoping to persuade the jury in Santa Ana, California, to spare his life.
The crimes Alcala committed date to the late 1970s. Nobody at the time knew the man with the wavy long hair and toothy grin was a psychopath — an unstable, antisocial personality.
That includes Mills, a veteran television and film actor, whose only encounter with Alcala was when both of them appeared on “The Dating Game.”
“That’s when I became part of a nightmare, and I didn’t realize it was a nightmare until 32 years later,” Mills said.
Alcala, who already had been convicted for the 1968 rape of an 8-year-old girl, was the first contestant to be introduced in the game-show episode.
“Bachelor No. 1 is a successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the dark room at the age of 13, fully developed,” host Jim Lange said. “Between takes you might find him skydiving or motor-cycling. Please welcome Rodney Alcala.”
After the three bachelors were announced, the young woman who would choose one of them for a date began asking questions. She posed her first one to Alcala.
“What’s your best time?” she said.
“The best time is at night,” Alcala answered with a wide smile. “Nighttime.”
Mills, who was bachelor No. 2, said he had an almost immediate aversion to Alcala. “Something about him, I could not be near him,” Mills recalled. “I am kind of bending toward the other guy to get away from him, and I don’t know if I did that consciously. But thinking back on that, I probably did.”
Alcala was able to charm Cheryl Bradshaw from the other side of the “Dating Game” wall.
“Who will it be?” the host asked her at the end of the show. “I’ll take One [bachelor No. 1],” Bradshaw said, and out strolled Alcala.
If Alcala appeared likable to viewers at home, Mills said he was the complete opposite when they sat together in the show’s green room, where the show’s contestants waited before going on air.
“He was quiet, but at the same time he would interrupt and impose when he felt like it,” Mills said. “And he was very obnoxious and creepy — he became very unlikable and rude and imposing as though he was trying to intimidate. I wound up not only not liking this guy … not wanting to be near him … he got creepier and more negative. He was a standout creepy guy in my life.”
Within months of his “Dating Game” appearance, Alcala would become a killer, prosecutors said, abducting and murdering a 12-year-old girl in 1979. Before the decade was over, Alcala would claim four more victims, according to testimony at his trial.
CNN asked noted crime profiler Pat Brown to analyze Alcala’s appearance on “The Dating Game.”
“He was aware that he could say things that were considered sexy and funny and the girl would like that,” Brown told CNN. “He watched the game and he gave those answers and he won, so he learned some tricks. But a psychopath’s true nature comes seeping through.