“I loved him so much I would ski down Mount Everest naked with a carnation up my nose for the love of that man.” – Joyce McKinney
The story of Joyce McKinney and the Manacled Mormon sounds like a Quentin Tarantino film or an episode of South Park. It’s almost unbelievable that the story actually happened; that it wasn’t something that was made up by the National Enquirer or the Globe like all those Big Foot sightings or Bat Boy. They say that truth is stranger than fiction and it is certainly true in this bizarre story of one beauty queen’s obsessive love for a pudgy Mormon missionary. In McKinney’s version she was just trying to save the man she loved from the mind-bending control of a religious cult. In Anderson’s more horrific tale, McKinney held him hostage for 3 days in a remote Devon cottage, chained him to a bed and forced him to have sex with her. Thirty-five years later the story continues to baffle and to titillate, most recently in Errol Morris’s latest documentary Tabloid which tries to somehow make sense of this bizarre story.
I vaguely remember reading about this story back when I was a teenager but I had forgotten about until I heard about Tabloid. After watching the film, I’m not sure who to believe. It’s clear that McKinney is bat-shit crazy, and not just because she actually had her dog cloned. Her story goes far beyond just the kidnapping; it involves bondage photos, and the kind of ingenuity that comes straight out of an episode of Mission Impossible or Covert Affairs. McKinney clearly missed her calling. She should have joined the FBI or the CIA, although I doubt she would have passed the psychological exam. On camera, she comes across as a nice, Southern girl who fell in love, only to have her love whisked across the country to keep him from her.
Not long after, Joyce met the man of her dreams, 19 year old janitor’s son Kirk Anderson. Anderson who stood 6 foot four was pudgy, shy and six years younger. According to Joyce, their first meeting was like something out of American Graffiti. Apparently Joyce had an orange corvette while Kirk had a white one. They agreed to race. According to Joyce, it was love at first sight. By their third date they were naming their children. They had a brief affair, losing their virginities, but Kirk was overcome with guilt at breaking the no pre-marital sex rule. Mama Anderson also didn’t approve of this older woman who was hanging around her son. Joyce claimed that she became pregnant but later miscarried. He went for advice to his bishop who arranged for him to go on a mission. While Kirk later admitted that he and Joyce did have a relationship, he denied that they were ever engaged.
Appalled at the Church’s reaction, Joyce turned her back on Mormonism but she was not about to give up on the man of her dreams. The Church moved Anderson to California and then to Oregon, Joyce in hot pursuit. Finally the church sent Anderson overseas to England. Since the church wouldn’t tell Joyce where he was, she would just have to find him herself. However private detectives cost money so Joyce started working as what they jokingly call a ‘glamour’ model, posing for bondage photos, and apparently also working as call girl performing BDSM and oral sex. If a client wanted intercourse, Joyce had an associate, a Russian student named Laura who was available. Looking at photos of Joyce at the time, one can see why she would be a popular model. While not conventionally pretty, she had an outstanding figure, and a sparkling personality. For two years she worked to pay for a private detective agency in England who discovered Anderson working at a church in the Surrey village of Ewell. Joyce set off in hot pursuit with her accomplice, a guy named Keith May who was just as besotted with Joyce as she was with Kirk.
Joyce and Keith flew to England using false passports in the names of Kathie Vaughn-Bare and Paul van Deusen, armed with fake pistols, chloroform, cinnamon flavored rubbing oil, and fur-lined handcuffs. Renting a cottage in Okehampton, Joyce and May drove to Ewell. On September 14, 1977, May engaged Anderson in conversation under the guise of a potential convert. He invited Anderson to join him in his car to point out the way to the local Mormon headquarters. Pulling out the fake gun, May forced Anderson into the back seat where he chloroformed him. At the cottage, McKinney had cooked all of Kirk’s favorite foods, including fried chicken, mashed potatoes and chocolate cake, the bed made up blue silk sheets to match his eyes and his initials. After dinner May chained Anderson to the bed, spread-eagled, with a 10ft chain and left them alone for the night. As a gift Joyce presented Kirk with a £1,000 ring and offered to give him a back rub with the cinnamon oil to relax him. He consented and the next part gets a little dicey.
Joyce claims that she ripped off his sacred Mormon underwear and burned it. “There was only one way to make Kirk get out of Mormonism, and that was to make love to him…..because for a Mormon missionary to have a love affair is totally taboo.” In other words, she planned to eff the Mormon out of him. She claims that she never raped him, believing that it is impossible for a woman to rape a man. In fact, she says that tying him up was to help him overcome his sexual inhibitions. Kirk Anderson admitted in court that he and Joyce had sex more than once during the 3 days that he was incarcerated but he claimed that she forced him by performing oral sex until he was aroused. In Joyce's version, after Kirk promised to marry her, they released him, brought him back to London where they had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. After dinner, Kirk told Joyce that he was going to the Mormon Tabernacle just to assure them that he was okay.
Anderson however claims that he escaped and went to the police on September 17, 1977. Three days after he went to the police, Joyce and May was arrested were in a sting operation (Kirk had arranged to meet Joyce). Joyce later claimed that the cops had been bribed by the Mormons to arrest them. Since Anderson has refused to speak about that time, and was not interviewed by Errol Morris, we only have Joyce’s side of the story. She believes that the Mormons pressured Kirk to claim that he had been kidnapped. Joyce and Keith May were charged with forcible abduction, false imprisonment, assault & possession of imitation firearms with criminal intent.
Joyce was sent to Holloway prison for three months to await trial. At the hearing, Joyce’s lawyer claimed that his client lived in fear of the Mormon Church. Although Joyce wasn’t allowed to testify, she did give an hour long statement in court, giving her side of the story. After claiming it was Kirk’s choice to be tied up since that was the only way he could respond sexually, she told the court that he had strung her along with promises of love and marriage. He was no longer worthy of her “eternal love.” She pleaded with the court to release her to get counseling to help her get over Kirk’s betrayal. While the court decided to prosecute, Joyce was released on bail, for fear of her mental health.
Joyce became the darling of the tabloid press who fell over themselves to write stories about the case once she asked for the court to lift the restrictions on what they could print. Britain at the time was in the middle of a recession, and the story of the buxom blonde obsessional love for a Mormon missionary held audiences enthralled for over a year. Britain hadn’t seen anything like this since the Profumo Affair in the early 1960’s. To some, Joyce was the embodiment of the wronged woman, to others she was a manipulative drama queen, who used men for her own ends, and changed identities at will. Joyce knew how to play to a crowd. In the van on the way to court, she pressed an open bible to the window with a message, “HE HAD SEX WITH ME FOR FOUR DAYS. PELASE GET THE TRUTH TO THE PUBLIC. HE MADE IT LOOK LIKE A KIDNAPPING.” The tabloid press ate it up. She even took out ads in Daily Variety announcing that she was writing a book as well as a screenplay based on her case.
The tabloid press whisked her off to parties where she met members of the Rolling Stones and the Bee Gees. She went to the premieres of Saturday Night Fever and the Joan Collins/Jackie Collins boinkfest The Stud where she managed to upstage the star in a slinky halter dress! It somehow never occurred to her that her hobnobbing with stars and partying might hurt her case. And then, wearing disguises, Joyce and Keith May jumped bail, fleeing to the US via Canada on false passports, pretending to be deaf-mutes. “I left, I didn’t flee,” she insists. Joyce was tried in absentia and given a one-year prison sentence. However, no effort was made to extradite her back to the UK. The aborted trial ended up costing the UK £100,000.
Not content to be out of the public eye, Joyce decided to sell her story to a British tabloid, The Daily Express for £40,000 which was about $80,000 at the time. The journalist who was sent to meet her described in Tabloid how Joyce and Keith May wore various disguises to meet with him, including dressing up as a Native American. Joyce represented her story as that of a Princess going to great lengths to rescue her Prince. Unfortunately for Joyce, the Daily Mirror dredged up the bondage photos and adverts that revealed her past as a ‘glamour’ model and call girl. They did discover that she managed to confine her sexual exploits to oral sex. When the story was made public, Joyce denied the story. To this day, she claims that the pictures were fabricated. Despite these revelations, Joyce never gave up on her pursuit of Kirk Anderson. She was arrested in 1984 for stalking him. Police allegedly found chains and handcuffs in the trunk of her car, suggesting that she was going to make another attempt at kidnapping. Anderson, who works as either a real estate or a travel agent, prefers to forget that those 3 days ever happened. Apparently his story is used as a cautionary tale for Mormon males as to what can happen if they get caught up with a predatory female.
Since then Joyce made headlines in 2007 when it was revealed that she had gone to South Korea and spent $25,000 to clone her dog Booger. At first, she insisted that she wasn’t Joyce McKinney but Bernann McKinney. Eventually she admitted the truth. How she has supported herself over the eyars is also a mystery. Now in her sixties, she seems never to have held a job, and the memoir that she claims to be writing has never been published. She’s never married, a part of her still pining for Kirk Anderson and what might have been. At one point in the film Tabloid, she compares herself to Anderson’s wife, claiming that they found him a ‘fat wife.’ According to some, she lives off her elderly father. Despite cooperating willingly with Errol Morris for his film, she now claims that she has been exploited and is suing Morris and the producer. That didn’t stop her from turning up at screenings all across the country, where she heckled the screen. In some cases, she showed up in disguise, only to reveal herself when the lights came up.
If reality TV had existed in the 1970’s, Joyce could have parlayed her 15 minutes of fame into a lucrative career as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother. She might have had a clothing line or even a fragrance, made millions from a sex tape, although Calvin Klein already owns the right to the name ‘Obsession.’ Instead she comes across as a rather sad and delusional figure convinced that she once lived the great American love story.
Crimes of Passion: The Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson, Carlton Books, London, England, 2006