Jim Lange, who died of a heart attack Tuesday at age 81, hosted many game shows during his decades-long career, but it was his work on "The Dating Game" that made him the most famous.
Lange was the first host of this enduring singles' program, and his run lasted from 1965 to 1980.
It was during these years that many single guests appeared on the show who would later go on to be big stars in their own right. And we're not talking Ken Jennings kind of celebrities. These guests were either huge stars before their appearance or after their appearance. And one made news for reasons having nothing to do with show business.
Does the onetime self-proclaimed King of Pop surprise you? Michael Jackson was a guest on "The Dating Game" in 1972 when he was a member of the Jackson 5 and his biggest hit was "Rockin' Robin." Jackson's date, LaTonya Simmons, won tickets to a Jackson 5 concert in New York City. Not exactly ice cream and dancing. But at least in 1972, they wouldn't be hounded by the press. Sadly, Jackson later revealed to Andy Warhol in a 1977 interview, "I've never been on a date outside of 'The Dating Game.' And that was work."
Andy Kaufman was a nationally known comedian, but his "Foreign Man" character was not yet a sensation on the sitcom "Taxi" when he made his 1978 appearance on "The Dating Game." While Kaufman's appearance is outrageously entertaining in its own right, it's almost more fun to watch Lange and the other two bachelors try to understand just what this guy was doing on the show.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilding celebrity, Mr. World, Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia and a business student at UCLA when he appeared on "The Dating Game" in 1973. He's starred in "Hercules in New York," but "Pumping Iron," "The Terminator" and the governorship of California was in his future. Incidentally, Schwarzenegger was in a relationship with English teacher Barbara Outland Baker at the time he appeared on this show. Their relationship lasted from 1969 until 1974, according to the memoir she published years later.
In 1967, "The Dating Game" had a special Father's Day episode featuring Groucho Marx's daughter, Melinda. Groucho himself came on the show and asked questions of the prospective bachelors, as any protective father would. As Groucho told Lange, "Just because a man wears pants doesn't mean he's a gentleman." What's most painful is to see the hopeful, fresh-faced bachelors attempt to outwit one of the wittiest comedians of all time.
Rodney Alcala was described during his 1978 appearance on the show as a successful photographer who enjoyed sky-diving and motorcycling. But most people today know him as "The Dating Game Killer." Chillingly, Alcala was midway through his spree of killings when he made his "Dating Game" appearance. Despite having served time twice (once for assaulting an underage girl), Alcala was permitted as a guest on the show. His answers to the questions knowing his past make this appearance even more disturbing.