Tabloid is a delicious piece of voyeuristic trash. In it, acclaimed documentarian Errol Morris (The Fog of War, Gates of Heaven, The Thin Red Line) turns his lens toward Joyce McKinney, a femme fatale of British tabloids in the 1970s. But don't expect a full examination of celebrity or journalism. This is junk of the highest order. Tabloid's checklist includes cinnamon oil backrubs, fried chicken, chloroform, handcuffs, the Mormon Church and copious amounts of sex.
"It's not a porno story," said the bleach blonde McKinney. "It's a love story. I would never do anything to hurt him." Her narration is regularly punctuated with creepy giggles.
"Him" is Kirk Anderson, the most unlikely object of affection that you will see on the big screen this year. Anderson, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, met McKinney in Salt Lake City and had a brief flirtation. That was his first mistake.
"When I met him, it was like it was in the movies," said McKinney. Sure, if you think Fatal Attraction was a rom-com.
What followed when Anderson disappeared has become the stuff of tabloid legend.
"He vanished," said McKinney. "I mean he evaporated. So I did what any American girl would do." Right. McKinney then hired a private eye, hunted Anderson to the United Kingdom (where he was serving his LDS mission), kidnapped him at gunpoint, held him captive at a secluded cottage (he said she used chains, she said she used ropes), and plied him with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and sex, sex, sex.
"I was his little wife, almost," she snorted. "I wanted to give him lots of babies in my tummy."
The Fleet Street newspapers of London had the story of the year.
"Mormon Kidnapped," said the Times. "Manacled Mormon," said the more ribald Daily Express. "Love in Chains," said the no-shame Mirror. By the time McKinney was caught by no less than Scotland Yard, her infamy was well rooted. By the time of her bail hearing in December 1977, the world's press, or at least the tabloids, were drooling. She ended up spending three months at Holloway Prison, London's famous women's lock-up while she awaited her trail.
The headlines kept coming: "Beauty Queen Kidnaps Mormon," "Chained Spread Eagle." McKinney became a celeb in England, and soon she was partying with John Travolta, Joan Collins, the Bee Gees and the Who.
Her escape from Britain was even more dramatic. McKinney used an elaborate disguise and posed as a mute deaf to befuddle customs agents. To this day, she was never extradited back to face full charges.
Don't worry. This isn't a spoiler. Her wacko behavior and bizarre story don't end there.
Tabloid is a blast. It neither qualifies celebrity nor examines our obsession with it. Instead, it shows it for the daily freak show that it is.
Move over, Lindsay Lohan. You have nothing on Joyce McKinney.