Tabloid

Recommended, particularly for those with harmless fantasy delusions.

TabloidImagine for a moment that instead of being the put upon step-sister of the “ella” family, Cinderella was actually a sex addicted stalker with a penchant for bondage. Imagine further that instead of pursuing her after finding her errant slipper, Prince Charming followed his instincts and fled to the perceived safety of his royal family. Finally, assume that when the Prince didn’t come aknocking, that Cinderella, fearing that he was held hostage by his maniacal family, engages confederates to drug and kidnap him, spiriting him away to a love shack where she ties him to a bed and proceeds to have sex with him for what she perceives to be a blissful three days.

And there, my friends, you have an outline of the story on display in the Academy Award winning (The Fog of War [2003]) Errol Morris’ delightfully quirky and sinfully enjoyable documentary Tabloid. During the 1970’s, the British tabloids went nuts over the story of Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming charged with abducting and raping her Mormon missionary lover, an event she claims was totally consensual. The press simply couldn’t get enough of this scandal. Was she barking mad or was her “Manacled Mormon” lover trying to cover up his consensual but regrettable transgressions in order to again gain the good graces of his Mormon supervisors?

Told through the eyes of contemporary interviews with Ms. McKinney, one of her doofus associates in this Keystone Kops caper and two tabloid reporters who covered the story, you are left with the clear impression that Ms. McKinney is cheerfully insane. As a young woman in the 1970’s, she was as socially clueless as she was without guile. Devoid of defense mechanisms, it is apparent that she genuinely felt that she had found her true love in the form of a young Mormon she began dating in Utah.

However, after his unexplained disappearance, she discovered through a private investigator that he had gone to London under what she perceived to be sinister circumstances. Equating the Mormon church to a cult, she proceeded to put into effect an idiotic plan to travel to London where she would rescue her true love from the clutches of his religious abductors.

What follows is life played out as farce. Abducted or not, it is clear that Ms. McKinney and her Mormon beau associated freely for a short time after his alleged kidnaping until his return to his friends. What is also clear is that there was soon a warrant out for her arrest, and she was taken into custody to the everlasting delight of Britain’s salacious tabloids.

Eventually released on bond, she and an associate soon fled in disguise to Canada, where she eventually surfaced proclaiming her innocence. While you get the feeling that Ms. McKinney is far more vamp than victim, she is at all times sublimely entertaining. My favorite moment was when she expressed incredulity at the claims of her lover being forced to have sex over three days, responding to the camera, “That would be like trying to squeeze a marshmallow into a parking meter.” Yes, she may be deranged, but you gotta love her!

As the two tabloid reporters continued to dig into Ms. McKinney’s background, two different stories emerged. One credibly painted her as an innocent woman trying to free her lover from bondage, while the other uncovered evidence that she had long been involved in bondage of another sort. Regardless of the truth, it was no wonder that the public was fascinated with the story of lurid tales involving sex, abduction, handcuffs and a beautiful young woman.

While Tabloid is great fun from beginning to end, it does drag a bit as it describes Ms. McKinney’s life after London. While she never married, there was no quit in the old girl, as reflected by her decision to have her dead dog, affectionately known as Booger, cloned by a crazed South Korean scientist. Eventually adopting the cloned offspring of her beloved pet, I am happy to inform you that this misadventure did not involve the kidnaping of anyone in Asia.

To this day Ms. McKinney still fervently believes that her one true love was brainwashed and stolen from her. But at least she has five “little cloned Boogers” to console her as she lives out her life.