Tiger King: How The Subjects Of Netflix's Documentary Series Have Reacted
Blessing our screens at a time when the world needed it most, Netflix’s latest cultural phenomenon Tiger King introduced us to a smorgasbord of wild characters.
The show, which follows the weird and wacky world of big cat collectors, has already found celebrity fans ranging from Cardi B -- who is adamant about having the show’s main man, the pistol-packing polygamist Joe Exotic ( real name Joe Maldonado-Passage) freed from prison -- to Kim Kardashian and Sam Smith.
The bizarre documentary series has captivated us all, with memes about Joe, his penchant for straight men and his palpable hatred for his nemesis, Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin, quickly inspiring a tidal wave of material across social media.
With the series having taken place over five years -- culminating with the news Joe Exotic would be serving time in a federal prison -- we decided to explore what the rest of the eccentric cast are up to these days, and what they thought of the series.
After going to trial in March 2019 charged with attempting to arrange a murder for hire and animal abuse, in January 2020 the 58-year-old was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment.
Recently, People discovered that the tiger enthusiast has filed a federal lawsuit against various government agencies, as well as his former business partner, for $94 million for allegedly violating his civil rights as well as having an “animal rights agenda”.
When it comes to his depiction in the Netflix series, however, Joe couldn’t be happier with being suddenly shot into the spotlight, with directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin saying that he’s 'loving' his new found notoriety.
“Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks,” Goode revealed.
“One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous. He’s absolutely thrilled.”
Chalkin added: “You can hardly talk to him without him mentioning the amount of press he’s getting. 'He’s over the moon. Having kept in pretty close touch with him while he’s been in a horrible county prison, this has raised his spirits.”
One person who certainly isn’t happy with their less-than-stellar portrayal on the series is Florida’s Big Cat Rescue owner and arch nnemesis to Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin.
So much so, that she penned a blog entry on her website, refuting the alleged “misinformation” put forward by the show in regards to the mysterious disappearance of her husband Don Lewis in 1997, who Joe Exotic alleges she either “fed to her tigers” or dumped his remains “in a septic tank”.
In the message, Baskin said that the docuseries "has a segment devoted to suggesting, with lies and innuendos from people who are not credible, that I had a role in the disappearance of my husband Don 21 years ago.
"The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims.
"They did not care about truth. The unsavoury lies are better for getting viewers."
She went on to say that "the most ludicrous of all the lies" included the allegation she may fed Don’s body through a meat grinder before feeding him to the cats -- and she even includes a picture of a meat grinder to demonstrate that surely her husband could not fit through such a thing.
"The idea that a human body and skeleton could be put through it is idiotic. But the Netflix directors did not care. They just showed a bigger grinder."
Carole continues to run Big Cat Rescue alongside husband Howard Baskin.
Bhagavan “Doc” Antle
Antle, who runs The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, T.I.G.E.R.S. in South Carolina and who had been Joe Exotic’s mentor, shocked viewers after the documentary depicted his wildlife park as running somewhat of a bizarre cult, in which each of the young women who worked at the park were one of his several “wives”.
After the show was released, Doc came out slamming the insinuation that he was a polygamist, saying:
“I’m not married and I certainly don’t have wives, I certainly am a single guy and I live in a house by myself,” Antle told Oxygen. “I do not have a harem. I’m what they call ‘OFG’ these days: old, fat and grey. I embrace that character and I am not chasing down women. Twenty years ago I was more of a dashing fellow but even then I was ultra-conservative.”
The park also released a statement on social media that said: “We are very disappointed that our facility was mentioned in the new Netflix series. We can only assume it is because Doc Antle has been such a high profile wildlife personality.”
Jeff, along with his wife Lauren, continue to run the Greater Wynnewood Zoo, with the duo planning to open a new zoo in Oklahoma in "Summer 2020" according to his Instagram.
He also recently posted a photo showing off his “hot nanny” alongside his wife, who we only imagine is gritting her teeth behind her forced smile wondering how she ever got into this batsh*t situation… So there’s that too, I guess.
After the three-way wedding between Joe, John and Travis, things quickly soured between Joe and John, and in August 2014, John attacked Joe, and was arrested for assault and battery.
John later revealed to Texas Monthly that Joe had been obsessive and controlling in their marriage and that Joe had "ruined his life." He is now working as a welder and is married to a woman named Stormey.
Not happy about his depiction in the show, he has since set up a Facebook page called "The Truth About John Finlay," which criticises Tiger King for being “all about the ratings [for them], not the people they hurt.”
His biggest grievance, however? That footage of his smile transformation didn't make the cut on the series, despite being filmed.
He also told TMZ that the cause of his missing teeth was not from drug use as the series inferred -- he said he hasn’t used any in six years -- but rather, a result of genetics.
Following the death of his beloved husband Travis Maldonado, Joe went on to marry Dillon Passage, but with Joe in prison for what may likely be the rest of his life, many fans of the series have been wanting to know if he and the eccentric tiger king were still together.
"I’m still married to Joe but my social media platform isn’t used for any Joe things," Passage wrote in the comments of a photo posted to Instagram in response to a fan. Other than that, he seems like a regular dude who likes animals and EDM festivals, so there you go.
Dillon also doesn’t seem to be too fazed over the attention following the Netflix series, after one fan who commented: "Can you ask Joe for more info about Carole and the disappearance of her husband? We want to uncover the truth for JUSTICE," to which Dillon responded, "The doc series explains pretty much everything about that situation. Keep the publicity going for it tho!"
Rick Kirkham was the producer who was filming Joe Exotic's reality web series, until all footage “mysteriously” burned down in a fire. These days, Kirkham lives in Norway with his wife, and apparently still works as a freelance reporter.
In a weird coincidence, six months after the first fire, Kirkhan’s house in Texas burnt down, nearly killing him.