|Intl. Notebook||Jul 17 2011|
Some people just can't live a quiet life.
Seems like everyone is talking about Joyce McKinney these days, thanks to the newest film from American documentarian Errol Morris. Entitled Tabloid, it opened in the U.S. Friday and has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews as the director revisits an infamous tabloid case from 1978. That incident involved McKinney, a former beauty contest winner, kidnapping the object of her desire, handcuffing him for three days to a bed, and repeatedly raping him in an attempt to get pregnant. At least that’s one version of the story. McKinney’s version is that the kidnappee, Kirk Anderson, came with her willingly, and that a woman raping a man is like “putting a marshmallow in a parking meter.” That comment alone will give you an idea of the unusual personality Morris chose for his film, yet no matter how well Tabloid does, the notoriety it generates for McKinney will never approach the level it reached in 1978, when the U.S., the U.K., and possibly the entire western world were enthralled by her sordid story.
The case would have been a sensation anyway, but the fact that those involved were members of the largely unknown (in 1977) Mormon (or Latter Day Saints) religion gave the tale that much more sizzle. And there was also the addition of an accomplice named Keith May, whose involvement seemed to derive from the fact that he was too smitten by McKinney to refuse her anything—including assistance arranging for sex with another man. In short, the British papers knew great material when they saw it, and they were soon in a race for scoops. The more they dug into McKinney’s past, the more tabloid gold they unearthed.
McKinney was not originally LDS, but had converted to Mormonism after moving to Provo, Utah. Before that she had lived in Wyoming, where, in 1972, she won the Miss Wyoming World beauty contest. Very little gets tabloid editors excited like the phrase “beauty queen,” and the stories on McKinney snowballed as a highly amused British public lapped up the details. These facts were salacious but also undeniably comical. The public learned of the velvet handcuffs used to restrain Anderson. They learned that he had ended up in Britain only because he had begged church elders to send him overseas so he could escape the obsessive McKinney. The papers discovered that before McKinney’s involvement with Anderson she had met but failed to successfully woo Wayne Osmond, of the famous Osmonds musical group. The tabloid Daily Mirror discovered that she had worked as a nude model and soon those photos began to see the light of day.
McKinney’s bail hearing was an event virtually unprecedented in the history of British courts. Before a mob of reporters, the prosecution made its rape claims, and McKinney countered by saying that, due to the fact that his mother had been so domineering, Anderson could only get aroused by being restrained. She said that when she first walked into the bedroom wearing only a see-through nightgown Anderson began “grinning like a monkey.” Her description of Anderson’s specialLDS underwear was a revelation to the court, press and public alike. Every time she opened her mouth she seemed to say something uproarious. Even when she wasn’t speaking she was able to dominate a situation, as seen in the photo above of her displaying a handwritten sign succinctly telling her side of the story. Eventually McKinney and her accused accomplice Keith May were both granted bail, and both promptly traveled to Ireland, and from there fled to Canada using fake passports and disguised as members of a deaf-mute mime troupe.
Once back in the U.S. McKinney started going by her middle name and kept a low profile—or as low as a person like her could manage. But tellingly, her version of low profile included numerous encounters with the law over the next three decades, though these never came to the attention of British authorities. But the list is long. McKinney was charged with passing bad checks, assaulting a public official, burglary, and making threatening statements toward another woman. She was also arrested for harassment against Kirk Anderson after allegedly confronting him near his workplace in Salt Lake City. But perhaps the most notable charge against her is her 2004 arrest for animal cruelty, a brush with the law that is thick with irony because of how McKinney finally reappeared in the public eye.
In 2008 McKinney paid a group of South Korean scientists to clone her dead pit bull Booger. When the procedure succeeded she announced it via press conference and, it’s safe to say, she didn’t get the reactions she was expecting. For while McKinney had gotten into the aforementioned spots of trouble over the years, crucially, nobody in the press ever connected the woman now going by her middle name to the infamous sex criminal from the late 1970s. But after the cloning announcement,people immediately noticed the resemblance between the middle-aged dog lover and the fugitive from British justice. McKinney denied the connection until the evidence became overwhelming, at which point she confessed the truth during a teary call to an AP reporter. She complained bitterly about people dragging up her past, saying, “I don’t want that garbage in with the puppy story,” but of course she had thrust herself willingly back into the limelight.
With the release of Tabloid, the same pattern is repeating itself. McKinney participated in the documentary willingly, but now says she was taken advantage of and never wished to be viewed in a humorous light. Errol Morris says he has made an accurate document of an outsized personality, and that the humor in Tabloid derives from the simple fact that Joyce McKinney is funny. Morris claims to have explained as much to his suddenly reluctant star, telling her, "Joyce, you use certain kinds of language. You must know you are funny. In fact, you're one of the funniest people I've ever met." But McKinney, unimpressed, says she is considering a lawsuit. However it turns out, it’s worth noting that this is the third time during her life that Joyce McKinney has managed to make world headlines. She may not want to admit that she’s funny, but at the very least it’s clear that she isn’t a person who can live a quiet life. And if you can’t stay under the radar, you really don’t have much choice about how people see you.