Sometimes, a story comes out that just seems too bizarre to be true. Not unlike Don’t F*** With Cats (okay, not much like it at all, but there are cats, weird men and murder plots,) Netflix’s Tiger King has caused a massive stir, not to mention an influx of memes. While there are several episodes that include amusing and somewhat sinister footage, Netflix missed out on a few facts from the strange tale.
Disturbing and baffling, the true-crime docuseries tells the bewildering story of Joe Exotic (real name Joe Maldonado-Passage,) owner of G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma. A war begins between Exotic and animal rights activist Carol Baskin, culminating in a murder-for-hire plot.
The Real Musicians Behind ‘I Saw A Tiger’
One of the more comical aspects was footage from some of Exotic’s many music videos. Indeed, Joe Exotic considered himself a man of many talents: in the series, he can be seen strumming away and singing his murderous little heart out. However, the recordings had little input from Joe Exotic himself. According to Carol Baskin (the arch-enemy, if you weren’t following,) “Joe Exotic only lip-synced to songs written and recorded by Vince Johnson and Danny Clinton.”
Exotic’s CDs were available to buy at the zoo’s gift shop. Authentic or not, they’re certainly comical. Baskin claims she has email evidence from the real musicians as proof.
Liger, Liger, Burning Bright
The documentary focuses mostly on the characters. When your main protagonist is as eccentric as Joe Exotic, it is admittedly hard to zoom out to the wider picture. With all the polygamy, presidential campaigns, singing-songwriting and murder-plotting, it can be a little distracting.
Thus, the miniseries delves little into the legalities and animal welfare issues which hum in the background—notably, the ethics of the “ligers” at the zoo. According to Luke Hunter, a big-cat scientist, speaking to National Geographic, “In the wild, lion-tiger hybrids such as ligers and tigons don’t exist. In fact, the lions and tigers live in separate parts of the world. Cross-breeding species can cause genetic defects and health problems.”
It’s not only the “ligers” that are slightly concerning. The “petting-zoo” nature of the Oklahoma park caused a ruckus amongst animal rights activists across the globe. Exotic spoke about his ‘sanctuary’; however, according to the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, “a true sanctuary exists to provide lifetime care to animals that have been abused, neglected, discarded, or are otherwise in need of help.” Furthermore, a real sanctuary strictly does not allow hands-on petting or touching of animals.
Joe Exotic Was A Prolific Polygamist
Yes, this was covered in the show. But the true extent of Exotic’s romantic life was not included. According to DigitalSpy, Exotic’s first husband was a man named Brian Rhyne, whom he married in the late eighties before same-sex marriage was legal.
Having met in a gay cowboy bar in the area, it was actually Brian with whom Exotic first started collecting big cats. Apparently, the first two were named Tess and Tickles and had been found abandoned in a back yard. Brian, unfortunately, died from HIV-related complications in 2001. Shortly after, Exotic met his second husband JC Hartpence (also not discussed in the documentary.)
It was only after these two initial relationships that Joe met and married Travis and John. They were married in a joint ceremony, wearing matching raspberry shirts with Exotic in a black cowboy hat.
Other relationships of Exotics are outlined in the documentary, and his lovers appeared to be tarred with exceptionally bad luck. Travis ended up accidentally shooting himself, a horrific event witnessed by another zoo staff member.
So, while Tiger King tells a discombobulating tale with an abundance of eccentric characters (not to mention cats,) it’s fair to say they missed out a few of the important bits!
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