Hey all you cool cats and kittens! Netflix’s Tiger King has taken our lives by storm, and the thunder is still rumbling. Wacky and disturbing new details continue emerging about what really went on behind the scenes. How badly did Joe Exotic mistreat his tigers? What’s the new Jeff Lowe conspiracy? And for the love of our orange and black striped friends, did Carole Baskin actually kill her husband? It’s time to plunge into the depths of one of television’s bizarrest worlds yet.
The Tiger King universe was filled to the brim with multiple polarizing characters, and Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was no exception. Founder of his own 50-acre wildlife preserve in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Antle was depicted as having multiple wives on the documentary, a controversial issue that many viewers found to be more than a bit icky.
However, he has since refuted that unsettling claim in an interview with podcaster Theo Von, where Antle said: “I’m a single guy. I was married 25 years ago, but I’m a single guy, I’ve got girlfriends. It can’t be unique that I have girlfriends — it’s just that it got put on a screen.”
Throughout the entire documentary, Joe Exotic’s former employees talk in great detail about disturbing things they witnessed while working for him. However, they rarely talk about how they actually felt about Exotic himself on a personal level. It was later revealed that many considered him to be a massive bully and extremely hostile to be around.
Kelci “Saff” Saffery and John Reinke, both former employees of Exotic, later stated that the only reason they stuck around for so long was for the animals. Saff claimed that he was “outraged” by the things he witnessed Exotic doing, such as killing tigers and making excuses for it.
G.W. Zoo employees Saff Saffery and John Reinke explained that Joe Exotic would usually tell them that the tigers were ill, and therefore they needed to be euthanized. However, they were well aware of the fact that quite often this was just a cover-up for something a lot more hauntingly trivial.
In a follow-up interview with Netflix, Saff said that Exotic would kill a tiger simply because he needed cage space. When Saff was asked why he didn’t protest, he explained that Exotic was the boss, and there was nothing he could do about it. But one of the most heartbreaking stories came from another employee who appeared in the Tiger King documentary.
Rick Kirkham, a filmmaker who worked with Joe Exotic on his television show, revealed a maniacal story after the Netflix documentary came out. While Kirkham was living in the park, a teary old woman approached Exotic, and asked him if he could care for her horse who had become too ill for her to handle.
Exotic told Kirkham to run the camera, before hugging the lady and telling her he would do just that. When the woman left, and once the camera was turned off, Joe Exotic brought the horse to the back, killed it, and fed it to his tigers. This was all witnessed by a disgusted Kirkham, who was all too glad to be away from that place once and for all.
Many people have wondered why the employees didn’t speak out about what was going on at Joe Exotic’s wildlife park. The truth is that they simply couldn’t, legally, because they had each signed a disclosure agreement worth a million dollars upon getting employed by Exotic.
The fact that Exotic felt the need to set up an agreement worth so much money just goes to show his awareness of his own misdeeds, and his desire to be in control. But the craziest part is that more stories are continuing to come out of the woodworks with every passing day. It seems as though with Exotic in prison, previous agreements are null and void.
Many people who have attempted to follow up on the Tiger King cast members are aware that filmmaker Rick Kirkham is currently living in Norway. However, not everyone is aware that Kirkham was forced to leave his home in Dallas — after it burned down.
His house went up in flames not long after he had left Joe Exotic’s zoo in Oklahoma, where there had also been a fire destroying incriminating evidence. Is it possible that Exotic had something to do with Kirkham’s house catching flames? Is this all just a major, ridiculous coincidence? The craziest part is, the catastrophic fires didn’t even stop there.
It’s crazy to think about, but beyond the G.W. Zoo fire and Rick Kirkham’s house fire, there were two other occurrences of houses that burned down, both belonging to people who had negative interactions with Joe Exotic and Jeff Lowe. One of them belonged to Jeff Johnson, who threatened to expose their crimes online.
The other victim was Joe Barth, who filed a lawsuit against Exotic and Lowe for feeling cheated in a financial transaction. A day after the lawsuit was filed, Barth’s house was burned down as well. Though nothing can be for certain, this pattern does not look good for Joe and Jeff.
No one gets a free pass when it comes to their crimes, but sometimes even the most heinous criminals have a tragic backstory. The truth is that Joe Exotic went through some terrible traumas as a child, most particularly when he was sexually abused.
Robert Moor, a journalist who has known Exotic for years and who interviewed multiple members of the Tiger King cast, explained his theory behind it. Though Joe’s actions ought not to be excused, Moor believes that Exotic’s entire life is based around him being in control, perhaps as a solution to the horrors that befell him as a child without having had any ability to stop them.
Another big theme of the Tiger King documentary was Joe Exotic’s apparent music career, evidenced by the frequent music videos that we’d see playing out before us on screen. From “Here Kitty Kitty” to “I Saw A Tiger,” it was pretty shocking to hear that deep, rumbling, yet smooth country voice seemingly coming from his mouth.
Hold on to your cowboy hats: it’s time to burst that bubble. Recent accounts from multiple sources claim that no, it is not actually Joe Exotic crooning out these catchy tunes. While it’s certainly him on camera, and while he may have been the one to write the lyrics, he’s actually lip-syncing to the voice of a professional hired singer.
A big character in Tiger King was Josh Dial, who worked as Joe Exotic’s campaign manager throughout Exotic’s run for U.S. president and governor of Oklahoma. When we first see Dial, he explains that Exotic simply approached him at Walmart and offered him a job. However, there was actually a previous story he left out.
Journalist Robert Moor recalls a story from back in 2015 when he and Exotic were walking through Walmart, and they were approached by a “portly, bespectacled, young gay guy.” The young man, who was obviously Dial, thanked Exotic on the spot for being the only “out and proud gay man for many miles.”
Similar to Doc Antle, Joe Exotic wasn’t averse to having multiple partners. One of the most prominently-featured on the show was his former husband John Finlay. Gap-toothed and shirtless, Finlay’s appearance on the show was unforgettable, but in a later interview he claimed that he wasn’t portrayed accurately.
Drug addiction was a minor component of the Tiger King saga, but Finlay had beef with the series for making it look as though he was still taking meth, which he claims he’s been clean of for years, ever since becoming a father. He’s had his teeth fixed since filming, yet two interviews with his new teeth somehow didn’t make the final cut. However, Finlay says not wearing a shirt was his decision, to show off his tattoos.
It’s high time to talk about Carole Baskin, the Tiger Queen, if you will, and arch-nemesis of Joe Exotic if there ever was one. So much of Tiger King is predicated around her claim that Joe Exotic mistreats his animals (besides, of course, killing them), but strangely, it doesn’t go so much into detail about why that’s true.
On her Big Cat Rescue website, Baskin recently divulged exactly why her tigers are much better cared for than Exotic’s. She explained that her tigers are medically treated by real veterinarians, while Exotic treated his animals on his own. She pointed out that she feeds her tigers fresh meat, as opposed to the leftover supermarket meat which Exotic fed his tigers with. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Even with all of these claims, many who viewed Tiger King couldn’t help but ask: “Is Carole’s sanctuary really that special?” The documentary didn’t make her Big Cat Rescue preserve seem very large, and her tigers seemed just as caged as Exotic’s own animals. But Baskin had a lot to say about that.
She explained, “Our smallest enclosure is the size of a small house, and our largest is over two acres — all in a natural setting full of foliage. In contrast, many of Joe’s tigers live in small, barren prison cells on pebbles.” This is enlightening to consider, though unfortunately for her, Carole Baskin was in hot water in the series for other reasons.
Perhaps the most talked about question in the Tiger King series: did Carole Baskin actually kill her disappeared ex-husband, Don Lewis? Multiple sources, including Joe Exotic, Jeff Lowe, and Doc Antle, are convinced that she certainly did. However, Baskin recently revealed other information to hopefully prove her innocence.
She first brought to light Lewis’ evolving bipolar disorder, something Tiger King doesn’t talk about, which she hoped would explain his strange actions leading up to his vanishing. She also claims that the real reason Lewis filed for a restraining order was actually to prevent her from removing his excess junk from their land. But Baskin had another big piece of information she hoped would convince people that she wasn’t a murderess.
The elephant in the room is the fact that Carole Baskin inherited a large fortune from Don Lewis, which has helped viewers believe that she killed him. But on her website, Baskin reasoned that she was actually responsible for much of Lewis’ wealth in the first place. The documentary depicts Lewis as being a millionaire upon meeting Baskin, but she says this wasn’t the case.
“Everyone repeats the lie that Don was a millionaire when I met him,” protested Baskin. She claimed that Lewis couldn’t read well, and that she helped Lewis with crucial documents that had helped him thrive in the real estate world to begin with. Her overall point was that she was just as entitled to that fortune as he was. Convinced?
As much evidence as Carole Baskin brings forward to clear her name, there always seems to be something that makes her look just a tad shady. In this case, it was a story that recently came out stating she had another former boyfriend who’d filed for a restraining order against her.
His name was Jay Baykal, and she dated him after Don Lewis vanished, but before she married her now-husband Howard Baskin. On the restraining order document, which was filed back in 2002, Baykal wrote, “I honestly fear I am in danger of death or serious bodily injury.” This does not bode well for her track record — and neither does the following opinion.
Bruce Durham, a psychologist and body language expert, was watching Carole Baskin closely during Tiger King — and made some bold claims about her case. He explained that a good way to tell if someone’s hiding something is if they press their lips closely together, and Durham notes that Baskin does this when she’s asked about rumors that she threatened Lewis.
Durham stated outright in a YouTube video, “She’s stopping herself saying something there! What were you thinking there, Carole? Tell us a bit more.” Durham was also suspicious of the fact that when Baskin is asked why she never had a memorial service for Lewis, “she looks straight ahead at the interviewer.” According to him, people tend to look down while searching for emotional memories of the past, something Baskin doesn’t do in those interviews.
Even though many people testified to Joe Exotic’s foul play when it comes to attempts on Carole Baskin’s life (including himself, repeating on his own television show that he wanted to kill her), recently revealed evidence really takes the cake. Journalist Robert Moor posted on his Twitter account a document from a phone conversation Exotic had with James Garretson, and it doesn’t look pretty.
In the phone conversation, Exotic tells Garretson the “plan” — that Jeff Lowe and hitman Allen Glover are going to buy go-phones, but that Lowe will trick the authorities into believing his phone is actually in Vegas. Exotic then tells Garretson that if the feds catch Glover red-handed, he and Lowe will simply pretend that they fired him, and that “he just went off the deep end.” Seems there was indeed a mission he was aware of.
In a follow-up Netflix episode, Rick Kirkham gave some information about Joe Exotic that goes directly against what he would have us believe. Kirkham said that Exotic is actually terrified of big cats — which certainly may seem perplexing for someone who has centered his life and livelihood around them.
So how do we explain the countless scenes in the documentary where Exotic is seen lounging around with big tigers? Kirkham said that in these scenes, the tiger was either blind or under a tranquilizer. But that wasn’t the only appalling thing about Joe Exotic to be revealed since the documentary hit the airwaves.
There may never be a shortage of outrageous things Joe Exotic has done in the public eye. Robert Moor recently unearthed another crazy part of Exotic’s legacy: that he told the world he was dying from prostate and bone marrow cancer. According to Moor, Exotic appealed to the sympathies of his Facebook following by posting a picture of himself lying on a sickbed.
It turns out that he wasn’t lying about being sick, but he certainly didn’t have cancer. The funds that were subsequently raised out of sympathy allegedly helped pay for the handful of illnesses Exotic did have, which, according to Moor, were “a contaminated prostate, dehydration, and a foul outbreak of herpes.”
No one wants to be portrayed in a negative light, and Jeff Lowe believed that he received that kind of treatment on Tiger King. Lowe was initially shown to be Joe Exotic’s savior, but later framed as a liar and a criminal as well. In a later Netflix interview, Lowe said that the editing was a bit too far-fetched, reasoning that every story needs a villain.
However, there were others who felt quite the opposite — that Lowe was actually portrayed too positively! Josh Dial, Exotic’s ex-campaign manager, thought they were pretty accurate with their portrayal of Lowe. And when Dial was asked what he thought of Lowe’s less-than-pleased reaction to what he saw, Dial quipped, “Well, the truth hurts.”
The beauty of the Tiger King popularity is that fans have analyzed this twisted story to the moon and back. But recently a handful of fans noticed something that started trending extremely fast: the notion that Jeff Lowe bears more than a passing resemblance to Carole Baskin’s first husband, Michael Murdock.
Could something like this possibly be true? Other than their strong resemblance, these theorizing fans have noted another pattern: just as Baskin’s first husband was abusive towards her, Lowe was allegedly abusive toward his ex-wife as well. It may be a stretch, but when it comes to the myriad of endless Tiger King twists, nothing would surprise us at this point!
Josh Dial was also interviewed in depth about the horrific tragedy that took place right in front of him. Travis Maldonado, one of Joe Exotic’s husbands, took his own life right in front of Dial, presumably by accident. However, some people wondered whether or not it was actually done on purpose, something that Dial swiftly refuted.
Dial recalled, “I could see the surprise and the fear in his eyes.” Dial also described how he tried to get mental health counseling after witnessing this traumatic event, but that it was easier said than done, saying: “I never was able to get counseling because Joe didn’t help me and neither did Jeff Lowe.”
Yet another one of Joe Exotic’s husbands we meet in Tiger King is the 24-year-old Dillon Passage. He’s the one character throughout the entire story who seems genuinely supportive of Exotic through thick and thin (John Finlay and Travis Maldonado both left Exotic at a certain point).
But now that Exotic is behind bars for what seems to be the next 22 years, some might expect Passage to find someone new. However, as Passage recently told celebrity interviewer Andy Cohen, Exotic “doesn’t want me to be alone, but he also doesn’t want me to move on.” That sounds like a paradox that Passage will have to work through on his own.
On Tiger King, we watched as Joe Exotic embarked on some monumentally lofty goals, including trying to become the U.S. President. Eventually he settled for running to be governor of Oklahoma, something that people in the state perceived as comical. But Josh Dial said that Exotic’s public image in his local state is actually worse than we thought.
In a recent Netflix interview, Dial maintained, “People in Oklahoma hate Joe Exotic. He’s gay — this is a very red state, and us gay folk, we’re almost an endangered species here. But other reasons too, animal violations and stuff like that.” And yet, if that’s true, it’s interesting that Exotic is as famous as he’s ever been.
Indeed, Tiger King has evolved into one of the most popular documentaries of all time, and naturally script-writing sharks in Hollywood were bound to come hunting eventually to see what else they could wring out of it. It’s been recently announced that a Tiger King scripted series is going to be made, and that it’ll be based around Carole Baskin.
So which actress is going to be playing the Queen of the Big Cats? None other than Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon. As she’s one of the funniest people in show business today, this suggests that the series will have a more comic flair than originally anticipated. But how do the other Tiger King cast members feel about it?
Although Kate McKinnon has been cast as Carole Baskin in the upcoming spin-off series, not many other decisions about the casting have been made yet. As a result, many of the Tiger King cast have recently been asked which famous actors they’d want to play them if they had the choice. The results were certainly enlightening!
When filmmaker Rick Kirkham was asked who he’d want to portray him, he suggested Billy Bob Thornton (not a bad idea!). John Reinke requested to be played by Matthew McConaughey, although many fans actually have suggested that McConaughey is actually perfect for Joe Exotic himself, along with Danny McBride or Reno 911!‘s Thomas Lennon. Other fans have suggested that David Spade is the right fit for Exotic, to which Spade countered that Woody Harrelson would actually be a much better choice.
Sources: Big Cat Rescue, Screen Rant, Elite Daily