Her hair was bright yellow and damaged. It was eleven at night, a Tuesday in October.
I found Joyce McKinney in Washington Square Park with one of her famous cloned Rottweilers. She sat in an electric wheelchair and was dressed in a fringed neon pink suit jacket with a matching skirt that hung loose over her knees. Her hair was bright yellow and damaged. It was eleven at night, a Tuesday in October.
I am a huge Errol Morris fan. Three of my friends and I had just gotten out of the New York premiere of Morris’s latest film, Tabloid, which was showing at DocFest. Tabloid told the true story of Joyce McKinney, the quirky tabloid star of the 1970s, through interviews and archival footage. When Joyce made a surprise appearance from the back of the theater at the end of the screening, it was surreal enough. But then Joyce took the stage. She spewed negative comments about the media and Morris. The audience looked on, aghast. My friends and I had to get burgers afterward to decompress. We couldn’t believe what had just happened.
Afterwards, on our walk to the subway, my friends and I saw Joyce again. She was sitting alone, watching her dog run in Washington Square Park. We couldn’t resist approaching her and starting up a conversation. We asked her about her life and what she had thought of the movie. In reality, we found Joyce to be just as the film had portrayed her: paranoid, eccentric, and endearing.
Joyce chatted with us in the park for an hour before we suggested escorting her back to her hotel. Mostly, Joyce was so sweet that when she rambled on about conspiracy theories it was hard not to want to believe her. That night Joyce had carried disorganized stacks of her old glamour shots in her briefcase. She showed them to us in the lobby of Washington Square Hotel. Joyce is old now, but the pictures showed the Joyce of yesteryear, the Joyce my friends and I are all too young to remember: the former Miss Wyoming World, the obsessed lover, the accused kidnapper, and the mixed-up tabloid queen.