Most relationships develop slowly over time, but on rare occasions, couples will meet in rom-com-worthy scenarios, connect on a physical level, and, by the third date, start talkin’ baby names and wedding details. It’s true—sometimes, romance just clicks. Joyce McKinney’s 1970s romance started out that way… before everything changed.
Caught up in a devoutly religious lifestyle, the former beauty queen and her partner committed sins and mistakes that would end up leading one of them out of Utah and to the other end of the world. Then, as the distance between the couple grew, trouble began to brew…
Joyce McKinney had a knack for putting on an unforgettable show. After wowing the judges and winning Miss Wyoming World in 1974, she sought an MFA in theater from Brigham Young University, determined to hone her acting skills. That’s when her life changed…
At BYU, Joyce—a recently converted Mormon—met 19-year-old Kirk Anderson. Though he was eight years her junior, that didn’t stop the couple from embarking on a torrid love affair.
The young lovers became swept up in their feelings for each other, and their relationship led to premarital sex—a big no-no in the Mormon community. Devastated by guilt, Kirk visited his church’s bishop to confess to his sins.
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The bishop had a relatively simple solution: Kirk needed to leave town on his mission. He had to get far, far away from Joyce. He was also told that he needed to re-devote himself to his Mormon faith.
Shortly after, on the bishop’s advice, Kirk boarded a plane to California. Joyce was heartbroken and confused, and she tracked him down. The church then moved him to Oregon… and she found him there, too. For a third time, the church had Kirk pack his bags for his mission. This time, Joyce couldn’t find him. But that wouldn’t stop her from trying…
Joyce had become concerned for Kirk. In her mind, her lover had become so infatuated with the church that he was denying himself what he truly wanted. Finding Kirk became her own rescue mission—one she’d go any length to complete.
The issue was that she still couldn’t find her beloved. So Joyce found work as a “glamor model,” posing for risqué photos and doing call girl work. After two years, she finally had enough money to pay a private investigator to locate Kirk.
It didn’t take the investigator long to report that Kirk was in England on a Mormon mission. Joyce boarded a flight there with the hopes of reuniting with her lover. This time, she came up with a plan, for which she needed the help of her friend, Keith May.
The two located Kirk at a church in England, and they enacted Joyce’s plan. Keith posed as someone debating whether to convert to Mormonism. Once he gained Kirk’s trust, Keith asked Kirk to follow him to his car.
The story that followed changed depending on who was asked. For instance, Joyce insisted that Kirk had followed Keith out to the car, where he saw his former love—her—waiting for him.
According to Joyce’s story, Kirk swept her off of her feet, ready to admit his love. Keith drove the couple to a cottage in the English countryside, where Joyce cooked Kirk his favorite dishes—fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cake.
From there, Joyce claimed that she laid Kirk down on blue, silk sheets, where they tried to celebrate their love. However, when Kirk couldn’t perform, she handcuffed him to the bed, hoping that spicing things up a little would do the trick…
It was then, according to Joyce’s version of the story, that Kirk agreed he’d marry her. Kirk’s take on the events, on the other hand, was a bit different. For instance, back at the church, he claimed that Keith had been a bit more… aggressive.
According to Kirk, Keith had actually pulled out a gun and directed him to a parked car outside. There, Joyce—who was wearing a wig—helped Keith knock out her lover with chloroform, throw him in the car, and drive him to a secluded cottage.
Kirk said Joyce then handcuffed him to the bed—the cuffs were lined with pink fur—and, as she later put it, “there was only one way to make Kirk get out of Mormonism.” She then, according to his story, repeatedly raped him until, three days later, under duress, he agreed to marry her.
Joyce freed Kirk once he agreed, but he went straight to the police behind her back. After that, he and the authorities set up a sting: Kirk told Joyce of a place they could get married. Except, when she showed up, police slapped the cuffs on her.
In jail, Joyce explained that she believed the Mormon church was after her, trying to frame her and tear her down. Not only that, but she said Kirk had been stringing her along with promises of a ring. Despite the serious charges against her, Joyce was freed on bail.
Soon after, she became the most polarizing woman in Britain, with the tabloids dubbing her “Madam Mayhem.” Was she a wronged woman escaping an overbearing church? Was she a liar? A manipulator?
One thing was certain: Joyce knew how to work a crowd. In between photographs at night clubs with the likes of John Travolta and the Rolling Stones, Joyce tearfully held up a sign—written on the pages of a Bible—while in the back seat of an escort to court.
It read: “Kirk left with me willingly. He fears excommunication for leaving his mission and made up this ‘kidnap-rape’ story.” Evidently, though, this life of notoriety grew tiresome for her and she and her friend Keith fled on a plane to Canada…
Naturally, they were dressed as nuns. The duo had used fake passports to get into Canada, and used them again to enter the United States. Then, when Britain didn’t bother to pay the money to extradite her, Joyce and Keith were, effectively, off the hook. That is, until 1984…
By the mid-1980s, Kirk had moved back to America to work at an airport in Utah. Ever vigilant, Joyce eventually found out and began waiting outside the airport with a notebook full of Kirk’s day-to-day activities. She also carried chains and handcuffs.
Kirk noticed, and police eventually intervened at his behest. Astoundingly, while waiting trial, Joyce disappeared once again. This time for decades. It wasn’t until 2008 that she resurfaced in the public eye. How’d she get caught? She’d attempted to go to South Korea to have her dead dog cloned…
So was Joyce, as she put it, truly trying to “de-program” someone she thought had been brainwashed by the church? The victim of a smear campaign? Or was she an attention-starved liar with a loose grip on morality—and reality?
While we may never know the full truth to this story, one thing was for certain: whether she intended to or not, Joyce McKinney once again had put on a show no one could forget…
Now that was an unbelievable love story—if you can call it that! The ending to this strange romance just proves that obsession always has consequences.
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