Two freelance writers -- both forty-something women -- were glued to their seats all week at the Johnson County courthouse during the alleged serial killer's preliminary hearing, taking notes and mingling with the media as they each angled to, yes, make a killing on Robinson by writing books on his life and times. And for one of the writers, the Hollywood-based widow of entertainer Gene Kelly, Robinson's story seems to beg for the box office.
But Patricia Ward Kelly, who says she is a native of western Kansas, didn't want to talk about her writing project when Pitch Weekly requested an interview with her on February 8, although she certainly seemed to enjoy her return to the Sunflower State. The tall, spike-haired blonde was hard to miss. She chatted openly with local reporters covering the hearing and appeared attentive and prolific when logging details into her notepad during testimony. Apparently, Kelly is ready to give Robinson the literary treatment she couldn't give her late husband.
In 1985, she met Gene Kelly and was clueless about the identity of the Singin' in the Rain star. She was 26. He was 73. Later, Gene asked Patricia to help him write his autobiography. "We worked together and fell in love," Patricia said last year during a Gene Kelly Awards ceremony in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his hometown. Patricia married Gene Kelly in 1990, six years before he died with her at his bedside in Hollywood Hills, California.
Despite Patricia's efforts to write Gene's autobiography, it is yet to be published. According to one Gene Kelly Web page, the performer was working on his autobiography when it was destroyed by fire in 1983. "However, it is believed that his wife, writer Patricia Ward Kelly, will eventually complete his work and publish it," the page says.
Patricia Ward Kelly's Hollywood presence during the Robinson hearing almost overshadowed the other female freelancer digging for details -- although one could say Elizabeth E. Taylor has a slightly more recognizable Hollywood name.
Taylor, a longtime Topeka resident and self-proclaimed business leader, says she met John Robinson in 1995 through a personal ad. Taylor says Robinson contacted her after she sought companionship via the Pitch's women-seeking-men personals section. Taylor's ad, which appeared in the fall that year, read: "Masterful, successful, entrepreneurial -- SWM, 35-50, sought by successful, Rubenesque beauty."
John Robinson, she says, bit on the bait and called her. And thus began her six-month sexual relationship with Robinson, a man charged with killing six women over a span of fifteen years and suspected in the disappearances of two others. Taylor says their dating practices involved the bondage, domination and sadomasochistic lifestyle (BDSM). Robinson was a master, Taylor submissive. Witnesses at the hearing testified that Robinson had other similar relationships.
Taylor says she didn't trust her lover. Robinson -- who is married -- told Taylor that she was the only woman in his life and that he wanted to marry her. Suspicious, Taylor pored over personal ads, searching for solicitations that matched Robinson's style. She circled ones mentioning "successful businessman" and "perks" for women. She made calls until she identified Robinson's voice and name (he often referred to himself as J.R.).
"Why do you still have an ad in the Pitch if I'm the only one?" she asked him.
The 43-year-old Taylor, who claims to have been involved with twenty men ("not all involving sex") in the BDSM community over the years, says she stopped seeing Robinson in 1996. When Robinson was arrested last year, Taylor -- an inexperienced would-be author -- thought writing a book about Robinson might be a good way to exorcise some personal demons. Her mother died in 1980. Taylor suspects she was poisoned by a "con man," though no one was convicted in the death.
"I couldn't prove her death was by malicious means," Taylor says. "I want to write about a man who preys on women and seeks love. John Robinson was seeking that same thing in me."
Johnson County prosecutors focused on Robinson's bondage-and-domination activities all week. A Kansas City-area woman testified she answered one of Robinson's ads in the Pitch in the fall of 1997, which led to a two-year sexual relationship with Robinson in which he promised to pay her $2,000 a month but delivered much less. The woman said she and Robinson basically had "normal sex" -- including oral sex ("me to him, but never the other way") -- but there was a point when he started asking her to wear nipple clips, a leather collar and wrist restraints. He also wanted to have anal sex with her.
"The subject [of BDSM] came up, but it was not going to happen," the woman testified.
Taylor says her book on Robinson likely will detail Robinson's sexual side. (In the BDSM society, Taylor uses the name Chloe; Robinson went by Slavemaster.) "[Robinson's alleged victims] were so vulnerable and so needy for love," Taylor says, "like my mother."
Taylor says she is working on landing a book deal, but sources close to the Robinson case say neither the prosecution nor the defense ever considered Taylor for a witness at the hearing.
After the hearing date was set, Taylor e-mailed news releases to the print media introducing herself as a retired lobbyist and writer covering the event for a book and unspecified "newsmagazines."
In part, Taylor's press release stated: "After dating Mr. Robinson for several months, he pursued a continual dating relationship [with me] until the time of his arrest. While the large number of other women who dated Mr. Robinson seem unwilling to tell their stories, I have always been very independent and am convinced that the story has great value being told from one who was on the inside of the personal aspect of this horrifying man."
Her mother would be proud.
"She would be so happy to see me doing this," says Taylor. "She would say, 'Thank God, you have the balls to do it.' She would be so happy to see me stand up and tell a story [no matter how] ugly it might get."