by T. Anderson
Why were we spared by the Dating Game Killer?
With much fanfare and hype, the ads on TV promoted a new docudrama about The Dating Game Killer, Rodney Alcala, a serial killer preying on young girls in the 1970s. The promos continually interrupted my regular tv shows. Although irritating, it piqued my interest. Why is the thought of a (relatively) good looking serial rapist and killer, like a Ted Bundy and now Alcala, intriguing? True crime and the psycho-analysis of the person behind it has always been interesting to me. Even a grotesque John Wayne Gacy or Hannible-like Jeffrey Dahmer makes you wonder about the inner workings of such deranged minds. It always makes me think of the saying that a truly crazy person does not know that they are.
So, the program debuts and we watch. I am sitting with my boyfriend that evening and learning about the now-dubbed Dating Game Killer Alcala. Images of him flash and the footage of the Dating Game show. Why did this face seem hauntingly familiar to me?
They talked about his movements and locations, from California to New York and back, prison stints and releases. Piecing it together, he was a repeat offender that would not or could not stop. Under the guise of a photographer, he lured young girls and women in with a modeling spiel. 100s of photographs were found in a storage locker. Many of the “subjects” still not identified. It is not known how many he killed.
As I watched, an odd feeling welled up in me. Suppressed memories that had not been thought of in over 40 years started to surface. From when I was 15 living in Southern California, Huntington Beach specifically, a location they pinpointed Alcala as being after a prison release in 1977 and prior to the killing of a 12 year old in 1979. He was in Huntington Beach in 1978 they said.Oh my God! My heart sank.
In 1978, at the age of 15 going on 21, I was “innocently wild.” My parents were trusting and let me navigate the waters of Orange County as a new kid, transplant from North Carolina with little steerage. They were trying to establish themselves as well. My Southern Cal friends were many.I think I was an anomaly. The common denominator regulating if you were “cool” or not tended to be if you were into the music scene, partying and where you hung out at the beach. The fact that I played guitar too, helped my cool ranking fer sure!
We would meet at Murdy Park near my house off Beach and Heil, or hang out in my teen suite bonus room above the garage, decked out with waterbed and fooseball table, corner couch and stereo and listen to records, play guitar and smoke cigarettes. It was all total kid stuff, trying to find something to do over the summer. We had the wings/Farrah Faucett hair, Lightning Bolt, OP and Vans to Van Halen, the onset of Punk Rock, hanging with the cool crowd south of the Pier at Lifeguard Station 3, riding my beach cruiser, playing frisbee, smoking pot, going to keggers advertised by flyers at school the Friday before giving cross streets and the name of the next up and coming band that was going to be featured that night.
The music was really the main thing. I have a scrap book with every ticket-stub from every concert and event I have ever attended. It’s pretty amazing to look back and see that my first concert was America in 1975 at the Cumberland County Arena in North Carolina, my older sister somehow got stuck taking me to. My concert-going continued with the big event of Kiss in 1975 and again in 1976 and then really ramped up in 1977 with Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Doobie Brothers and Crosby Stills and Nash. Tickets were around $5.50-$7.50.
My Mom wasn’t a soccer mom but transitioned from a Roller Rink Mom to a Concert Mom. She would drop me and my friend-of-the-moment off at the arena and patiently wait in the parking lot until the concert was over. Maybe go get coffee. But there was always a meeting place after where we would get picked up. Nothing bad ever happened, although it surely easily could have! But it was such a different time, a different world.
I was raised with the “Burden of Trust”, as my Mom would call it. I now know she knew she could not control me and did the best she could. The Burden of Trust did make me think twice most of the time, but not always. Know that she trusted me and that I could call her for any reason, no questions asked, if I needed rescuing, if I had a misstep. I was raised to be cautious and play it safe. I was raised with some street smarts, although I didn’t always use them.
When we moved to California in 1978 it was for a new start for me and my Mom and new retired Army Major Stepdad. I was a handful, spirited, rebellious and had transitioned from Honor Student to Truant going into Jr. High School. Maybe the influence of the Kiss Army was partially to blame?
I did very well in this new West Coast environment. Grades came back up. I loved going to school. I welcomed the opportunity to reinvent myself and learn about this new Cali culture. Every day was like a fashion show. Sometimes I was in…sometimes I wasn’t. But it was always fun to see what everyone else was wearing. I was focusing on playing guitar, which I started in NC (and they offered it as a class in school) and set my sights on being a girl rocker and cool surfer chick with the only real problem was being a brunette!
There was no shortage of friends to be had. I had several BFFs who were able to go to concerts with me with Mom and Major as drivers in the Cougar XR7! Or sometimes a friend with a boyfriend who drove. I remember going to see the Stones at Anaheim Stadium, camping out over night in order to get closest to the stage when the gates opened. I also saw E.L.O. and their big space ship stage there, Pink Floyd Animals Tour with Robin and Eric doing acid, Van Halen’s stadium debut opening for Black Sabbath and Boston where they supposedly parachuted in. It was crazy! I was there!
All of this backstory leads to a fateful evening at the Huntington Beach Pier. A new fast friend I was hanging with was Kim Neusca. She was a waif of a girl, super cute, pixie hair, my same age or just a year older maybe. Either way, neither of us drove. I think she lived nearby. I can’t remember exactly how we met, but between the two of us, we had gotten tickets to see Aerosmith with AC/DC opening (OMG!!!) at the Long Beach Arena. We ended up with three tickets somehow and our mission that evening was to sell the third ticket.
I remember the Huntington Pier at night. Being lit up, the water dark and churning below. An energy, but more salty and unsavory.Walking tentatively up the slats. I do recall feeling uncomfortable. It was so different at night versus during the day, hanging with my school friends at lifeguard stand 3. Kim aka Kimmie started talking to a guy. She wasn’t shy. She probably asked him for a light for her Virginia Slim cigarette. I can’t remember his name, but I remember his hair and face shape. He said he was going to this party in Riverside and had a friend there that would buy the ticket.
I distinctly remember not feeling good about going with this guy. But I was quickly convinced by Kimmie that he was cool, it would be fun, blah, blah. I went along.
If I’m remembering correctly, which I am trying very hard to, but these are memories I suppressed now for 40 years, this was a weekend night before July 4th in 1978. So, a party scenario wasn’t out of the question, but why did we agree to Riverside. Picture this…two young, dumb, 15 year olds, trying to look and act older, sassy, probably stoned. I was new to the area.I didn’t have a clue where or how far Riverside was. It could have been San Bernandino! He could have driven us to Tijuana! Who knows!
Kimmie rode with him in the front seat of a big, Impala-like car. I sat in the back. There was music playing. Air streamed in. I can still feel it on my face and blowing my hair back. I close my eyes. It was a cool, clear night. After some time passed I asked in front how much longer? We’re almost there he assured us. Things seemed up beat, but I still didn’t feel right about it.
He pulled off the Freeway…don’t ask me which one! And ended up on a deserted dirt road. He stopped the car. He pulls out a large knife, announces his plans and proceeds to sexually assault Kimmie and then me. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for me, he preferred her. I’m sure for her childlike body. I don’t remember any physical abuse as far as hitting or grabbing or slapping. I have a vague recollection of standing outside the car. I hope I had enough sense, even then, to get the tag number, but I don’t know what I did!
I may have been too stoned to be as scared as I should have been. He was wielding a very large knife and seemed very off balance. I definitely did not want to say or do anything that would set him off. We were in the middle of no where. No one knew where we were. We could have been easily killed and left for dead.
Instead, after what seemed forever but was probably less than 15 or 20 minutes, we are left standing naked in the middle of a dirt road, up the side of a small mountain in Riverside or San Bernardino. He throws our clothes out the car window as he takes off.
I remember the dress I had on. It was this prairie type skirt and matching peasant blouse. I probably had on these totally Stevie Nicks tan lace up boots with it. Wow! That was an outfit I brought from Fayetteville. I was upset that the Authorities kept it for evidence. When I think back, I can see myself putting on the skirt. Stepping into it in the dirt. I was so thankful to have my clothes back. I was so thankful that he was gone! Shortly after we see headlights cutting through the darkness. Oh no! Was he coming back?
It was a pick up truck with an older couple. They looked like farmers or in the AG business of some sort. I think they were Spanish but as we sobbed and begged trying to explain what had happened, why we were here, they understood and got us to the authorities and the Hospital. We were examined and rape kits collected. Our parents were called and dutifully and in a panic they come to retrieve their violated daughters in the middle of the night.
I think it definitely could have been Rodney Alcala. The hair and face I remember as his. I’m not sure why Kimmie and I were spared. The investigation went as far as the Aerosmith concert, where PIs were seated behind us, looking for the person who would take the third seat, as the third ticket had been left in the glove box of his car.
My sister was coming for a visit the day of my homecoming. My cousin Bobbie was there too, as she lived up the street. She was such a doll and so supportive…all the family was. Being supportive and sympathetic by just not talking about it or acknowledging it happened at all. That was fine by me. I must have been in major denial or so shell shocked that I joined in on the act like it didn’t happen.
My Grandmother was now living with us and my sister was flying in from North Carolina. She was in college at UNC Chapel Hill when we moved and wanted to stay in NC. We hadn’t been in Cali really that long. I asked her what she remembers from this visit and she mentions a party in Huntington I took her to with a local punk band and kegs and then the police helicopter showing up and the party moving to the next house! Which was par for the course. She was aware of what happened, but I think the general consensus was everyone was glad I was ok and so sorry that I had to go thru that, but let’s don’t talk about it.
I remember thinking that I lost my virginity to a Senior at my school when we moved back to NC a few years later. I bled and it hurt like hell. He commented on it but I shrugged it off like I wasn’t a virgin because I was too cool for that for whatever reason, and said I must be just starting my period. I always “thought” I lost my virginity to the kid from school, but then I remember the Rape Kit from 1978. They wouldn’t have done one had I not been raped, would they? Or just as a precaution. There must have been seamen on my dress, that’s why they kept it? I just don’t remember all that happened, but I do remember the Kit.
Another vivid memory is that we were 5th row for the concert. I was a HUGE Aerosmith fan/Steven Tyler fan! And, after all that had happened, our parents still let us go just 2 or 3 weeks after the incident, believe it or not! I guess we had to for the investigation! That was one heck of a show. Think of it! AC/DC in 1978! OPENING for Aerosmith. WTF! With Bon Scott. They were electric! They totally rocked the house! They were in the audience… Angus on Bon’s shoulders. They were so close we could touch them and we did! Aerosmith, on the other hand, were great, but so messed up got blown away by the Aussies! Still love ya Steven T!
Seeing that expose’ on Rodney Alcala gave me such a weird feeling. I do believe it was him. I also believe I am truly blessed. I’ve believed that most of my life. But now, remembering this incident, it re-frames my life. I can only speculate with that feeling in my chest if it was really him, why we were spared, did I lose my virginity then? I tried to look Kimmie up but I couldn’t find her. She’s not in any of my yearbooks from Ocean View or Fountain Valley. I tried Facebook but nothing. I think I would still recognize her. I wonder if her recollections would be similar to mine? I wonder would they still have the evidence in police archives from 1978? I thank God to be alive and well and to have had only a brief encounter with this Devil incarnate here on Earth.
(Alcala on Death Row)