Joyce McKinney and the Manacled Mormon
The blurb on the back:
She called herself Little Miss Perfect.
I've done a couple of Internet searches for Joyce McKinney, and there's virtually nothing there at all. It's almost like she never existed. And yet for a few months back in the days of Jim Callaghan and Johnny Rotten, she was one of the biggest tabloid stories we'd ever seen. If you were around at the time, then the words 'Joyce McKinney and the Manacled Mormon' should send you hurtling back to your youth, but in case you weren't - or in case you've forgotten the details - let me remind you of the salient points of the story.
Ms McKinney was a brilliantly intelligent, erstwhile Miss Wyoming who came out of the Appalachians to join the Church of the Latter Day Saints (better known as the Mormons) and who, after failing to get off with Wayne Osmond, began a relationship with a certain Kirk Anderson. When he decided he'd had enough, she became seriously infatuated, following him around the country and harrassing him to such an extent that eventually he requested a posting overseas. Which is how he came to be in London in 1977.
But her determination to find him was greater than his ability to escape - she hired a private detective, tracked him down and came to Britain. With her was a friend, Keith May, whose position was always ambiguous, or at least unenviable: he seems to have been besotted with Ms McKinney, but to have accepted that he stood no chance of getting anywhere because of her own obsession with Anderson.
McKinney and May then proceeded to kidnap Anderson, threatening him with replica guns, bundling him into a car and taking him to a rented cottage, where he was held captive for three days. Whilst there ... well, look, this is how the London Evening News of 23 November 1977 reported the committal proceedings at Epsom magistrates court:
That's the essence of the story and you can probably understand the media meltdown that resulted. You've got most of what you need for a decent tabloid sensation right here: an attractive young woman, a serious young man, kinky sex, and a religious group that might as well have been a cult for all the British hacks knew of the Mormons.
A bewigged Joyce McKinney in Bound To Please magazine
But more than that, Ms McKinney herself was sensational. It wasn't just that photographic evidence of her modelling career began to become available - though the pictures of course were eventually printed - but more that when she finally got into the witness-box during a bail hearing, she revealed herself to be a star. She spoke in a Southern drawl that was fabulously exotic in itself and she had no apparent inhibition, absolutely no sense of reticence at all. Twenty-five years later and social standards have changed in Britain, but in 1977 people simply didn't stand up in court - particularly at a bail hearing in a magistrates court, when there was no need to say anything - and explore the intimate details of their and their partner's sex-lives:
And in her most famous phrase, she declared: 'I loved Kirk so much that I would have skied down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my nose.' (p.96)
The 'papers lapped it up. So apparently did the magistrates, who released her on bail and then presumably went home for a quiet lie-down.
We could hardly wait for the real thing, the actual trial, when Ms McKinney would be charged with kidnapping. (The charge of rape could not then brought when the victim was a man, and anyway there wasn't anyone in the country who gave a toss about the alleged victim of the alleged crime: the prevailing opinion then - as it would probably be now - was that he must have enjoyed it. Curious double-standards we sometimes display, no?)
And then Joyce McKinney did a runner. The trial was due to start in May 1978, but she wasn't there - she'd jumped bail, fled the country and arrived in America, via Ireland and Canada. At which stage, the tabloids really went wild. Without the sub judice restrictions, they were able to print all the salacious details they'd acquired of her career in soft-core porn and every last piece of tittle-tattle that had accumulated around this extraordinary woman.
The Daily Mirror led the pack, having built up a far more substantial dossier than their rivals. At a time when The Sun was beginning to take over as the most popular 'paper in the country, the Mirror had a fabulous story with which to fight back. It went to town and back again, even producing this book as an enduring tribute to their coverage. And it's a fantastic read. Really top quality tabloid sensationalism, with the story padded out to fill up a paperback and 16 pages of photos. You don't often see it around, but take my advice: if you do come across it, leap on it and lap it up.
Later - after this book was published - Joyce McKinney was sentenced in her absence to one year's imprisonment. As far as I know, she has never re-emerged, leaving us with just one day's testimony in court and a handful of contacts with journalists. She remains the ultimate tabloid story.
Joyce McKinney and an unknown
assailant in Triumph magazine
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 5/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 5/5