The Pied Piper and Bob Dylan – Context for “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

In May of 1964, a young woman named Alleen Rowe disappeared from her home in Tucson, Arizona. Her mother was convinced that a popular young man known as “Smitty” by the kids in town was connected to Alleen’s death. He was questioned, but never charged.

A year later in August, sisters Gretchen and Wendy Fritz disappeared. Gretchen, the volatile daughter of rich parents, had been dating Smitty for some time. By October, a friend of Smitty’s finally confessed his knowledge of the double murder and led police to the bodies he’d helped Smitty bury in the desert outside of town. Once Smitty and his friends were rounded up, the truth about Alleen Rowe’s death emerged. Charles Schmid, known to the teenagers as “Smitty,” is now one of America’s best known serial killers, the infamous “The Pied Piper of Tucson.”

Schmid was an interesting combination of characteristics. He was short, only 5’3″ or so, but an excellent athlete and gymmast. He was smart but never graduated from high school. He was handsome but created a look for himself of dark pancake makeup, jet black dyed hair, white lips, and a false beauty mark. He stuffed the boots he wore with flattened cans and newspapers to make himself appear taller.


Charles Schmid, the Pied Piper of Tucson.
Photo from the Tucson Citizen, 1965

Writer Don Moser’s profile of Schmid in Life magazine, entitled “The Pied Piper of Tucson,” provided in-depth information about Schmid and the murders he’d committed. Moser’s story and the Bob Dylan song “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” were the impetus for author Joyce Carol Oates to create the story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” The ambiguous tale of Connie and her doomed relationship with Arnold Friend hails back to the events in Tucson in the ’60s and introduces a number of questions that Oates herself has not fully answered. It makes for a disturbing and intriguing read.

A recording of Bob Dylan singing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” from a concert at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England.

In San Francisco in 2004, author Joyce Carol Oates was asked about the connection between the Bob Dylan song and her eventual story. Here is her response:

Student Spencer Mead’s short film “Arnold Friend,” which dramatizes “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

Finally, this is the trailer for the 1985 movie Smooth Talk starring Treat Williams and Laura Dern, which is an adaptation of the story. The movie has a definitive ending–whether it matches what you think happens, well…

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