November17,1944 – January 2, 1973
The Murder of “Mr. Goodbar” victim: Roseann Quinn
by Mark Langlois
Roseann Quinn was a 28-year-old single woman in Manhattan whowas brutally murdered by a one-night-stand in 1973.
Her life as schoolteacher for deaf students by day andsexually liberated singles bar patron by night became the inspiration for thenovel Looking for Mr. Goodbar and the subsequent 1977 filmadaptation starring Diane Keaton.
At age 11, Roseanne’s Irish-Catholic family moved from theBronx to suburban New Jersey. Roseann was one of 4 children (2 brothers, and asister) with a Bell Labs executive father and housewife mother. The deeplyreligious family rallied around Roseann at age 13 when she became afflicted withpolio and was hospitalized for a year. Roseann overcame the illness but shewalked with a slight limp for the rest of her life. Roseann graduated fromMorris Catholic High School in 1962 and graduated from Newark State TeachersCollege in 1966. Roseann then moved to her first apartment in New York Citywhile teaching special ed in Newark. In 1969, she accepted a position atSt. Joseph’s School for the Deaf in the Bronx, where she taught small classes of8-year-olds.
With her lanky attractive figure, strawberry blonde curly hairand granny glasses, Roseann became a fixture in the singles bars of NY’s UpperWest Side. Friends and neighbors recalled to the press that she often would sitat local bars (The Copper Hatch, W.M. Tweeds) by herself sipping wine andreading books or reading the lips of people across the bar (to strike up aconversation). Her colleagues described her as being “outgoing”and “generous” with a “great sense of humor .”
By December 1972, Roseann was working on her Master’s Degreeat Hunter College and had moved to a studio apartment at the West PierreApartments. Thanks, Chris Wilmore for the pictures.
Roseann chose the 250 sq foot, 1 room with kitchenette becauseof the increased security of the doorman building and its 72nd St/West End Avelocation. She was also across from a favorite singles bar haunt called W.M.Tweeds. The novel and film depict the Roseann character as having a taste forpicking up “rough trade” or working class men beneath her social &educational background. The novel/film portray her fondness for casual sex,recreational drugs, and insulting various bar flies with flippantemasculating insults. In the film, the Roseann character (played by DianeKeaton) meets a shifty thug (Richard Gere) with whom she begins to exploredangerous sex and role-play. He whips out a glow-in-the-dark switchblade in onescene for kicks.
Roseann’s real life neighbors told the press that Roseann”had no regular boyfriend” and “was the type of girl who wouldhave a guy in if he brought her home.” They also recalled incidents ofregular yelling and brawling coming from her studio apt (leading them to assumeshe liked the rough stuff).
Here are recent photos of the West Pierreapt lobby and one oftheir studio apartments (now renting for $1950/month). Roseann’s place wason the 7th floor.
Roseann reportedly spent New Year’s Eve 1972 alone and on thefirst day of 1973 she may have been feeling a familiar restless urge. She wentacross the street to W.M. Tweeds and met a gay accountant named Geary Guest andhis divorced/father of two, bi-sexual, jailbird buddy named John Wayne Wilson(In the novel he’s named Gary Cooper White). Geary Guest and John Wilsonwere lovers and had lived together for almost a year. Wilson turned to hustlingin seedy Times Square after escaping a Florida prison where he was sentenced forrobbing summer cottages. Guest left the bar around 11p.m. leaving Roseann and JohnWilson to hook up and head over to her apartment around 2 a.m. That was the lastanybody saw her alive.
On January 3rd, Roseann’s teacher colleague became concernedwhen Roseann didn’t show up to teach her classes for 2 days. The superintendentof the apt building was called and he and Roseann’s friend entered her 7th floorapartment. They found the mutilated body of Roseann on her sofa bed. The wallswere splattered with blood. She was stabbed 18 times in the abdomen andneck area, and struck in the face with a hollowed sculptured bust of a woman.The attacker also raped her and left a table candle in her vagina.
Roseann’s body was taken to the city morgue and her brotherJohn identified the body. The newspapers rolled out the details of the shockingstory to a stunned city.
Roseann’s wake was held at Bermingham Funeral Home at 249 MainSt, Wharton, NJ.
Her family were photographed at her funeral on January 6thattended by more than 200 mourners and she was buried in St. Mary’s CatholicChurch Cemetery in Dover, NJ.
Police spoke with a hundred witnesses and eventually decidedto post a sketch of one of the men who was last seen with the victim. They gavenewspapers a sketch of accountant Geary Guest – who in turn became scared andcooperated with authorities to turn in his low-life lover for total immunity.
Wilson had confessed to Guest the next day when Wilsonreturned to their apartment. Guest gave him money for a ticket out of town.Guest said later he didn’t think Wilson’s story was true – but decided to comeforward (weeks later) after the story broke and he himself became a suspect orat very least, accessory after the fact.
John W. Wilson was apprehended at his brother’s home inIndiana and brought back to New York. He told his attorney that after he arrivedat Roseann’s apartment and smoked pot, he had trouble getting aroused. After shereportedly mocked him and told him to leave they began to argue. He picked up aknife and threatened her and she reportedly yelled “Kill me!” (In the Goodbar film’s climax Diane Keaton yells “Do It!” andshe is murdered while a strobe light blinks down slower and slower until thescreen goes black.)
John Wayne Wilson confessed to killing Roseann Quinn, thenshowering and wiping away his fingerprints before he left her apartment. The23-year-old career criminal was sent to The Tombs prison where 5 months later inMay 1973 he hanged himself in his cell with bed sheets (reportedly supplied by aprison guard).
After Roseann’s murder, the infamous W.M. Tweeds singles barwas closed for a few weeks by owner Stephen Resnick. It reopened as theAll-State Cafe and stayed open as a popular hangout through October 2007. Localsrecall that John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Darryl Hannah were seen arguing by the phonebooth. The bar is now an Irish pub called P.D. O’Hurley’s and still attracts thesingle ladies. Thank’s again, Chris.
In the 1975 NY Times book review for Looking ForMr. Goodbar, critic Carol Eizen Rinzler has no problem breaking downthe rich and complex character flaws of the Roseann-inspired character”Theresa” and how her early insensitive lovers (namely a bastard of aprofessor) had developed her taste for encounters “in which norejection is possible; all she asks of men is that they want to use herbody.” Rizler writes that the Goodbar female novelist is clearlyshowing that despite the illusion of control, the main character’s life “isone of consummate passivity and emotional impotence.” Rizler adds:”What is ironic and instructive is that at her most passive–dead–shemakes the most happen: the death of her murderer; the disgrace of her name; themisery of her family.” When the film version came out in 1977, filmcritic Roger Ebert noted that compared to the novel the main character of thefilm seems “more of a hedonist than masochist. She’s looking for acombination of good times, good sex, and a father figure, for psychologicalreasons the movie makes all too abundantly clear. But she isn’t looking fordanger, mistreatment, or death. Maybe (director) Richard Brooks thoughtaudiences would find Rossner’s masochistic heroine too hard to understand.”Ebert summarizes the biggest difference from the film and the novel is that “In the book, Theresa might have picked up the guy because she knew he’dbe trouble.”
The $5-million budgeted 1977 film Looking For Mr.Goodbar earned $22 mil at the box-office. It has gone out of print onVHS and as of early 2012 (maybe due to disco music rights and a cheapo studio?)has yet to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray. Diane Keaton received good reviews and wasnominated for a Golden Globe. She won an Oscar that year for her other bigscreen role in Annie Hall. Her Goodbar costars Richard Gere andTom Berenger (as her killer) went on to long film careers.
The film was parodied on SNL in 1977 (season 3, episode13) with Gilda Radner as a little girl in a commercial for the ‘ LOOKING FOR MR.GOODBAR SLEEPYTIME PLAYSET.’ The announcer informs the little girl that shedoesn’t “win” until she “gets killed”- but she decides tomake up her own rules and trashes the playset.