The True Crime That Inspired Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Illustration for article titled The True Crime That Inspired Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the "swinging singles" murder that inspired Lacey Fosburgh's book Closing Time: The True Story of the "Goodbar" Murder, which in turn inspired a novel and movie called Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Why did this crime inspire so many popular stories?


Judith Rossner's best-selling novel was adapted into a notorious 1977 film starring Richard Gere and Diane Keaton. And it may have been because the crime behind them seemed like a moral fable about what happened to "nice" girls in the scary new world of casual sex and drugs created by the "Me Generation."

The 1973 death of Roseann Quinn — a 28-year-old New York City teacher who worked with deaf children; she was stabbed to death by John Wayne Wilson after a one-night stand gone awry — became emblematic of the dark side of the city's 70s hookup scene.

In 2011, in a piece recalling the crime, the New York Post reported:

In one way, this old-fashioned girl was a creature of the swinging '70s. She was among the newly liberated who were rejecting marriage and trying to make their own money and live on their own terms.

Like many of these bachelorettes, Quinn spent much of her free time in bars, sipping wine, reading books and looking for love. She had no regular boyfriend, but an acquaintance said she was "the type of girl who would have a guy in if he brought her home."

Wilson, a prison escapee who later hanged himself while awaiting his trial,

was hardly a suitable marriage prospect for a girl of Quinn's caliber, but good enough for a one-night stand, which was part of the culture in the Swinging '70s. Newspapers ran features like, "A Girl's Guide to Guy Chasing," and advised young women to "Mingle, but Stay Single."

It seemed like hip, sexy fun, until the Quinn case gave a stark reminder of the dangers of letting strangers into your bedroom. A day after her body was found, a Daily News feature carried the headline, "Once more, bachelor girls ask: Who's Next?"



The thing that always strikes me about this case is that this sort of thing had been happening forever—to prostitutes and those of reduced circumstances—but that generally didn't raise much of a hue and cry (except for the occasional sensational murder).

But then it starts happening to "respectable" single women (also white and probably at least middle class) and THEN it's a scourge.