Here’s the real story behind the Tiger King
The story of Joe Exotic and his G.W. Zoo has wrapped much of the world in fascination — we can’t help but binge the series start to finish. But there’s more to the story than many know. Here we some hidden facts.
Joe didn’t sing that
Many of us recognized almost immediately that Joe Exotic had a beautiful voice. Okay, maybe not. His raspy vocal tonation in combination with his wispy blonde mullet made it exceptionally strange when he claimed to have recorded a country album.
The album, as many of us quickly surmised, is not the result of Mr. Exotic’s masterful voice. Rather, it’s the result of another artist, called the Clinton Johnson Band, doing songs for Joe. Little did they know he would eventually claim them as his own.
Both John and Travis — the two to which Joe eventually got married — turned out to be straight. But they (and yes this might shock you) were not the only straight men that Joe has been married to.
Earlier in his life, Joe married a man named Jeffrey Hartpence. While we’re not sure why the relationship ended, we are sure that Hartpence isn’t the best of characters. He is currently serving life in prison for first degree murder (and not that of Carole Baskin).
A man with many jobs
Joe Exotic has been investigated by the local police many times. And in one particular case, he was investigated by Brion Gordon. Oddly enough, it appeared that Gordon had Joe’s back, on one occasion telling him he had reporters asking about him.
When asked why, Joe responded that the police officer was also his limo driver. Yes, that’s weird. What’s even weirder is that Mr. Gordon is also now serving jail time for some unspeakable offenses. What an odd group of characters.
After Tiger King was released on Netflix, many have become more aware of the big cat industry and just how deep its roots lie. And here, we see how those roots helped support the 2001 VMA performance by none other than Britney Spears.
While not supported by the Tiger King himself, this act was encouraged by Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, another supplier of big cats. He was able to help the VMAs use live tigers during Spears’ performance. While it’s true that the tigers added an extra element to the show, some now find the decision controversial.
Joe’s past life
If you’re anything like most of us, you wondered what sort of life it takes to get into the big cat business. Well, Joe’s life probably isn’t the typical route. But to be honest, we’re not sure what is. Anyway, Joe had some interesting jobs before he got into the business.
In his early twenties, for instance, Joe worked as an EMT. Later, he worked as a police officer. You think the positions might have better equipped him to take care of animals and to abide by the law. It turns out this is not the case.
The origins of Josh Dial, the campaign manager
Joe and his campaign manager, Josh Dial, met under some interesting circumstances. While Joe and a reporter, Robert Moor, walked their way through Walmart (a typical afternoon), a man ran up to tell Joe something.
What the man told him was that he found Joe inspirational for being the only out-and-open gay man in the Oklahoma area. This man turned out to be Josh Dial, who would later be asked to manage Joe’s political campaigns.
Sylvester Stallone, while not having visited the G.W. Zoo per se, has definitely not shied away from the show’s growing popularity. Recently, for example, he felt it’d be fun to dress as Jeff from the show, the man who eventually took (and still has) ownership of Joe’s zoo.
Stallone and his daughter mimicked some of the shows most popular characters for a couple of Instagram posts. While we don’t know if Stallone has visited the zoo, it’s clear he has been kicked up in the same fan fervor as all of us. We just wish we could pull off those looks as well …
Good to know
While the Tiger King documentary was exceptional in many ways, one of the flaws in the film is its inaccurate portrayal of one of the characters. Saff, the park worker whose arm was torn off by the tiger, was repeatedly called “Kelci” and referred to as a girl.
Saff is trans, and uses the him/he pronouns. This means the documentarians could have done a better job. You don’t want to disrespect somebody who was mauled by a tiger. That’s just bad form.
John’s new pearly whites
Many people found John, Joe’s first romantic partner on the show, to be an interesting man. Having showed up to each interview with no shirt and a handful of missing teeth, the man is difficult not to pay attention to.
But what many people don’t know is that after the whole Joe saga, the man decided to get himself a new set of teeth! They look, and we’re not afraid to say it, much better than before. Way to go, John.
More than just big cats, many of these now notorious tiger trainers has other wildlife attractions as well. Doc Antle, for instance, owns the extremely popular Myrtle Beach Safari, which hosts the likes of everything from Chimpanzees to exotic bird species. One day, the park had a visit from Beyoncé.
Here, we see the park joyfully reminiscing on the star’s appearance. She seems to be joyful as well. We get it — hanging out with our closest living ancestor is enough to induce a smile in the most calloused of human. Beyoncé likely didn’t know the Safari would soon be embroiled in controversy.
A bad way to raise funds
Joe Exotic was no stranger to fundraising. He created merchandise, rallied for support, and engaged in many other tactics in an attempt to gain money. This tactic, however, was outrageously terrible.
For many years, Joe had convinced his followers that he was dying of prostate cancer. He showed people a horrifying photo as evidence. In reality, however, Joe really just had a disgustingly infected prostate and a particularly bad outbreak of herpes. Yuck.
During a handful of interviews, James Garretson, the man who went undercover to report on Joe and his dealings at the park, was filmed at a warehouse apparently used to sell various merchandise. This store is actually one he owned.
The shop was called Tiger Liquidation, a fitting name considering his affiliation with the documentary. While we’re not certain if he still owns the store, we are certain that you could have purchased a handful of trinkets from it. Whether you would want those trinkets is another story altogether.
Rick Kirkham: Part I
Rick Kirkham is the man who started filming the original docu-series about the Tiger King (and the man who gave him the title). And, as you probably could have guessed, Kirkham is quite the character on his own.
He had filmed, for instance, over 30 years of material, documenting his life as a reporter for Inside Edition and life at home. Seven years of this life, however, involved an addiction to crack cocaine. His documentary shows it all, from his growing addiction to eventual rehab.
Most of us have a fascination with big cats in some way or another. And most of us satisfy this fascination by either going to the zoo or watching a Planet Earth documentary. Some of us, however, like famous basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, went one step further and visited with the now infamous Tiger King.
While the 7″1′ tall man visited Mr. Joe Exotic — the so-called “Tiger King” — before his recently acquired documentary fame, that doesn’t mean he’s off the hook with many of his fans. Many were offended to learn he visited the mullet-wielding man. But hey, did he really know all that was going on?
Evidence against Carole Baskin
Carole Baskin is one of the primary big cat people in Tiger King, hosting her own sanctuary in which people can come and pose next to tigers. She was also painted as a suspect in the disappearance of her ex-husband, Don Lewis.
But did you know that she dated another man before her current husband, Howard? This man had filed a restraining order against Baskin in 2002, claiming that she was dangerous. It lends credence to the suspicions about Carole that make you rethink her involvement with her husband’s disappearance.
An upcoming show
While many of us know that spinoffs are likely to follow suit — I mean, just look at how popular Joe Exotic became — many of us didn’t expect that they’d come so soon. One surprising fact is that Wondery Media is in the middle of constructing a miniseries right now.
The series is being created for Universal and is set to star Kate McKinnon, popular from Saturday Night Live and the recent remake of Ghostbusters, as Carole Baskin. We don’t yet know the other characters being cast.
while Michael Jackson didn’t necessarily visit the G.W. Zoo, he is purported to have been affiliated with it (even if that affiliation was created posthumously). After Jackson passed away in 2009, the animals of his estate were apparently transferred ownership to Joe Exotic’s zoo.
The animals he is purported to have gained were his alligators and crocodile. Sadly, these animals were destroyed in the fire that took Joe’s studio. Now, whoever blazed that fire will remain a mystery. Still, we mourn for the loss of the beautiful animal life.
Another hit man
In the documentary, we are introduced to one man who eventually becomes the “hit man” for Joe Exotic. His aim? To take down Carole Baskin. While he never performed the deed, he was the final piece of the puzzle for putting Joe behind bars.
But there was another hit man in the story that many of us don’t know about. This hitman, known in Joe’s phone as “Mike Hit,” wasn’t necessarily hired to help Joe with any shady business. Rather, he was hired to help Joe open a zoo in Dallas. You can listen to this recording to hear some interesting evidence.
What happened to the G.W. Zoo?
Many wonder what happened to the zoo in the wake of the show. Had it been closed in the months after Joe’s prosecution? Did the new owners sell the tigers and leave? The answer to both of these is “no.”
After Joe’s incarceration, the new owner, Jeff Lowe, continued to own and operate the zoo. Called the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, the park is still open and in operation today. If you wanted, you could stop by and check it out.
There are many interesting and lesser-known facts about Joe Exotic. Thus far, we’ve gone over many — he never sang those country songs, he had previously straight male lovers, and the list goes on. But did you know that he was also ordained?
Because Joe decided it might be nice to be able to perform weddings at the zoo, he decided that he might as well get himself ordained as a minister. That way, he could get people married right in front of the tigers. A brilliant market ploy, really.
Post Malone has quickly skyrocketed to become one of the most famous modern musicians around. His hit song “Circles” became so widespread that you have to have heard it. And beyond his music, he’s even gone on to star alongside Mark Wahlberg in the movie Spenser Confidential.
And, like many others, Malone has a strong fascination with the giant majestic cats of this world. To get up close and personal with them, he decided to give Doc Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari a visit. And this is where we have him, holding the likes of a cute Siberian white tiger cub.
The latest episode of the Joe Exotic saga is not the only installment that exists. In 2011, for instance, the mullet-clad man was visited by a very famous documentarian, Louis Theroux. Theroux included in him in a show entitled America’s Most Dangerous Pets.
If you’re looking to see more of the craziness behind Joe Exotic, then this show might be the show for you. There’s also a handful of other podcasts about the man, one of which is simply titled: Joe Exotic: Tiger King.
A raid on Doc Antle
Doc Antle is the other main “tiger king” in the series that shares that name. The man has his own zoo operation, called the Myrtle Beach Safari, where you can also get up close and personal with tigers, elephants, and different species of primate.
Apparently the zoo got raided.
On Wednesday December 9, many police arrived at the establishment, serving papers that informed employees that the police could search and inspect. Apparently three of Doc’s tigers were part of an investigation. While it’s not clear why, it could be that they were related to other tigers at another zoo that had tragically been abused.
Rick Kirkham: Part II
We already mentioned Rick Kirkham — the man with a beautiful voice who’s gotten himself into some interesting predicaments. After working through many years at Inside Edition, he struggled through joblessness and employment. Eventually, he moved to Norway.
But the reason? Apparently his house had been burned down. How? Nobody knows. But the man has taken refuge in the northern lands of Norway. Perhaps it’s here where he’ll find happiness. At least it’s away from the Tiger King.
No more meat
At one point more recently, the zoo had to contend with a new problem that many people don’t know about. While the zoo was constantly supplied with meat from Walmart (old meat, mind you) to feed the tigers and — yikes! — guests at the park, the meat wouldn’t always keep coming.
In 2019, Walmart stopped donating the meat. As a result, many of the tigers and employees at the park begin to suffer. While we’re not sure how the park resolved the problem, we do know that the halted shipments caused many problems for the big cats.
Doc Antle, having performed as an animal trainer on many famous shows and movies like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, has given him lots of credit in the animal world. So much so, in fact, that he has been invited on late night talk shows with many famous celebrities.
One of these was Jay Leno. The chin-wielding man had Doc and one his ligers (yes, the tiger-lion half-breed) on the show. The giant beast was fed from a squirting milk bottle. While very cute, we wonder the thoughts of terror that might have passed through Leno’s mind.
Where do tigers go when they die?
Many of us have asked the question: Is there a tiger heaven? This question became especially salient in Tiger King, where certain majestic cats were subjected to less-than-ideal conditions. For Joe, however, there was no big cat heaven.
There was something else.
Where Joe sent his cats when they died was a bone museum — called the Skeleton Museum of Osteology. While it’s interesting that these bones went on to serve a purpose once they were no longer used, it’s also strange that they were being sold…
Privately owned by Joe Exotic
If you’ve watched Tiger King, it will not have been lost on you that John, Joe’s lover without the teeth, took many of his interviews shirtless. What you might have missed is the tattoo the directors might have been trying to show off.
Tattooed on his body is the phrase “Privately Owned Joe Exotic.” Another thing you likely did not know is that John is not the first of Joe’s romantic partners to have received a tattoo saying such things. There have been others!
It seems inevitable that working around big cats all day will at some point get you attacked. While this apparently hasn’t been the case at places like the Myrtle Beach Safari, it has been at the GW Zoo. But did you know that Joe was attacked?
While the documentary at one point shows a tiger grabbing Joe’s foot, that’s not the attack we’re talking about. While it wasn’t filmed, Joe was at one point bitten by a tiger named “Chainsaw.” The tiger’s tooth apparently broke off in Joe’s thigh. Ouch.
The WWE is an interesting enterprise. Having produced the likes of the Rock, now an extremely famous actor, other wrestlers are similarly getting recognition. For example, The Undertaker, who is among the most recognizable and celebrated legends of wrestling.
Here, we see the “deadman” himself posing with his wife alongside one of the smaller additions to Antle’s team — a baby cub. Perhaps it just goes to show that even one of the scariest hearts in wrestling can be tamed by the soothing presence of a baby cub.