There have been many weird stories and odd people during the 127 years of Wyoming’s history.
For example, there was the guy who parachuted onto the top of Devil’s Tower in 1941.
Or the wild outdoorsman dubbed the Tarzan of the Tetons, Earl Durand, in 1939, who killed four pursuers before he was gunned down while robbing a Powell bank.
But in 1977, Wyoming became notorious because of a former Miss Wyoming-World, Joyce McKinney, for her antics in kidnapping an LDS missionary in England.
And a few years ago, she was back in the news again. This time as a film subject.
Her life has been so crazy that the country’s most famous documentary film maker, Errol Morris, featured her in a movie called “Tabloid,” which details how the British press covered these events. The documentary debuted at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival a few years ago. McKinney subsequently sued Morris over the film.
Her story goes something like this.
The vivacious and statuesque McKinney grows up in a small town in North Carolina and moves to Utah. She is awarded the title Miss Wyoming-World, the rights to which are controlled by a gal she meets in Salt Lake City. This is not to be confused with the legitimate Miss Wyoming contest, which features outstanding young women each year.
After losing in the Miss World pageant in New York, McKinney stays in Utah and falls in love with a strapping young man named Kirk Anderson. She claimed he asked her to marry him.
Anderson is a member of the LDS faith and, probably because his family already discerned Joyce to be incident-prone, he starts a two-year religious mission to Great Britain.
Joyce is stunned when she finds out that Kirk is gone. She moves to Los Angeles and does some acting to raise money to hire investigators to find Kirk.
They discover he is in England, so she goes there to “rescue” him. He does not want to be rescued. She and accomplices kidnap him.
This is where it gets off the wall.
The 6-5, 245-pound victim later escapes and tells British authorities he was kidnapped and raped. Raped by a 112-pound woman.
She is arrested, and the case goes to trial.
And the British tabloids go berserk.
If you have ever seen British tabloid newspaper in action, well, it is awesome. The National Enquirer is a piker compared to these publications for their raw excesses and flagrant sensationalist style.
Thus, the basis of the Morris documentary.
It comes out during the trial that British law has no provision for “a woman committing rape on a man.”
Joyce is a sensation during a bail hearing when she tells her colorful story to a rapt audience. Tabloids from one end of the country to the other headline her story but when the trial date arrives Joyce is gone.
Throughout all this news coverage, she is referred to as “Miss Wyoming,” despite the fact that she may have never stepped foot in the state in her life.
The Associated Press published the following: “McKinney made headlines throughout the world in 1977 when she was accused of knocking Anderson out with chloroform, handcuffing him with fur-lined manacles to a bed in a remote cottage for three days and forcing him to be intimate with her.”
Of course, Morris’ documentary received worldwide attention and “Miss Wyoming” was again used to describe McKinney.
The website The Playlist offered its review of the documentary: “The film employs interviews with animated montages and archival footage, but the real star is the story itself. Intoxicatingly entertaining and outrageously wild, Hollywood’s top writers could never have dreamed up something like this. It’s certainly unlike any other documentary. The film ranks among Morris’ best.”
The story does not end here.
Joyce McKinney was again notorious a few years ago when she surfaced in South Korea reportedly having her favorite dog, Booger, cloned, into five puppies. Again, she was referred to in the tabloids as “the former Miss Wyoming.”
And then finally, Internet news reports say she turned up 13 years ago in Tennessee accused of allegedly hiring a young man to burglarize a house to raise money to pay for an artificial leg for a three-legged horse. Incredible.
Certainly in our state’s history, a lot of people have done worse things but, based on these antics, she has to rank as one of our state’s most enduring nut cases during the last forty years.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books, which are available at fine stores. His latest is Wyoming at 125. His books are also available at wyomingwonders.com.