With everyone cooped up indoors as a result of the current British lockdown, just about everyone seems to have turned to one streaming choice — Netflix true crime saga Tiger King. The twisted tale of big cat impresario Joe Exotic, his feud with animal rights advocate Carole Baskin and the assorted colourful characters around them has captured the attention of the world.
The seven-part series is a twisty odyssey through the dark underworld of the exotic pet community, with perhaps even more outlandish turns than other Netflix crime series like Making a Murderer, Evil Genius and Don’t F*** With Cats.
Naturally, given that level of narrative chaos, there were some details that just didn’t fit in the documentary. And also, with several of the key players left unsatisfied by the way they were depicted in the series, it’s little surprise to learn that the story didn’t end once Joe Exotic was locked up behind bars.
Here are just a handful of the new details that have been unearthed since the series debuted.
Michael Jackson owned the alligators
Everyone knows that Michael Jackson loved exotic pets. Most famously, of course, he owned a chimpanzee called Bubbles, but he also had a pair of tigers named Thriller and Sabu among his famous menagerie. In fact, those tigers were ultimately adopted by The Birds actor and animal rights activist Tippi Hedren, who housed them in a sanctuary in California.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jackson was in the orbit of Joe Exotic. In fact, seven alligators and a crocodile owned by Exotic were formerly owned by Jackson and lived at Neverland Ranch before it closed. These were the reptiles killed in the mysterious fire that destroyed Exotic’s TV studio in 2015, as shown in Tiger King.
Doc Antle has shared a stage with Britney Spears
One of the oddest characters shown in Tiger King is Doc Antle, whom the documentary seems to accuse of running a cult at his 50-acre wildlife park in South Carolina. Antle is, in fact, something of a tiger provider to the stars, with professional wrestling couple The Undertaker and Michelle McCool recently spending a day at his park.
Antle’s most prominent celebrity endorsement, though, was at the Video Music Awards in 2001, when the tiger enthusiast shared the stage with Britney Spears during her iconic performance of I’m a Slave 4 U at the event — alongside an enormous albino python. There was also a tiger involved in the performance, which was being handled by Doc Antle himself, who can be glimpsed behind the pop princess.
Joe Exotic is in coronavirus isolation
The colourful leading man of Tiger King is Joe Exotic, who speaks his mind even when he almost certainly shouldn’t and could never be accused of hiding his eccentricities. He’s currently serving a 22-year jail term after being convicted of paying a hitman to murder his rival, Carole Baskin. In an interview with Sirius XM, Exotic’s current husband Dillon Passage revealed that Exotic is currently in a prison medical centre as part of a coronavirus quarantine.
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Passage stated that he doesn’t believe Exotic has actually caught the coronavirus, but that he is merely being quarantined for 14 days as a precaution after he was moved to a federal prison in Texas from a county jail in Oklahoma. He also said that Exotic is “enjoying the attention” he has been getting since the documentary. Now there’s a surprise.
Florida cops want Carole Baskin tips
One of the most eye-catching aspects of Tiger King was the suggestion that Carole Baskin — arch-enemy of Joe Exotic — may have been responsible for the death of her former husband Don Lewis, who mysteriously disappeared in 1997. There’s even an allegation, mostly put forward by Exotic in musical form, that she fed his body to her lions and tigers. Baskin, unsurprisingly, wholeheartedly refutes these allegations.
The case, however, has been unearthed and resuscitated as a result of the show, with Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister tweeting in the hope that anyone with information on the disappearance will come forward. Chronister told CNN he is currently receiving half a dozen tips every day, though he stressed that none have been credible so far.
Cardi B and O.J. Simpson have taken Joe Exotic's side
One of the reasons Joe Exotic loves Tiger King so much is that it’s actually fairly sympathetic towards him, despite the fact he’s currently in prison for organising a murder. This has attracted some celebrity affection towards Exotic, with Cardi B stating in a series of tweets that many of the people involved in the story “did Joe so dirty over and over again”. She even pledged to open a GoFundMe to raise money to support him, but back-tracked upon learning that supporting violent criminals was against the site’s rules.
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Meanwhile, O.J. Simpson has also waded in with a social media video in which he ranted that the characters should “leave the animals alone” and said there was “not a shred of doubt in my mind” that Carole Baskin fed her husband to tigers. In terms of celebrity endorsements, it’s not the greatest one to secure.
Jeff Lowe was once sued by Prince
Jeff Lowe is positioned as something of an antagonist in Tiger King, with the suggestion put forward by several interviewees that he essentially used Exotic’s weak financial position to con him out of his zoo. Regardless of the truth of that, Lowe himself is a controversial figure with something of a criminal past.
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Not mentioned in the documentary is the fact that Lowe was sued by representatives for the music legend Prince back in 2007, as Lowe was selling apparel bearing the star’s trademarked Love Symbol. The suit was settled out of court, but Lowe claimed on his website that he had worked with Prince. According to the South Carolina lawyer who represented Prince in that suit, Lowe and the star never worked together.
That’s not Joe Exotic’s singing voice
The musical output of Joe Exotic is peppered liberally throughout Tiger King, whether it’s the soulful ballad I Saw a Tiger or the almost certainly defamatory Here Kitty Kitty. One thing the documentary makers never really question is whether the country vocals featured over Exotic’s lip-syncing in the videos actually belong to the man himself. Well, according to Vanity Fair, the musicians who were actually behind Exotic’s country crooning were Vince Johnson and vocalist Danny Clinton.
Exotic’s long-time TV producer Rick Kirkham, who features extensively in the series, told Vanity Fair that Exotic would swear it really was him singing, even after they got him drunk and discovered he couldn’t hold a tune. If ever there was a man who believed his own myth, it’s Joe Exotic.
Joe Exotic was involved with pro wrestling
— NWA (@nwa) March 29, 2020
At times, it feels as if the characters of Tiger King are ticking off a list of Southern stereotypes. With that in mind, it’s not surprising to learn that professional wrestling was one of Joe Exotic’s many business ventures. According to wrestling news site Fightful, Exotic was one of the promoters behind NWA Texoma Wrestling and even held some of their shows at his zoo. As well as working behind the scenes, he would provide commentary for the matches, which then aired online.
This was a fairly credible wrestling promotion, featuring future WWE superstar Erik of the Viking Raiders and NWA wrestler Tim Storm as well as former WWE performer Charlie Haas. There’s no evidence that Exotic ever got in the ring himself, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if a video emerged tomorrow.
There will probably be a season two
Given the runaway success of Tiger King on Netflix, it’s no surprise that directing duo Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin have their eye on potentially putting together a follow-up season. With Joe continuing to protest his innocence and Lowe working on a new wildlife park in Oklahoma, away from Joe’s former location, this story isn’t even close to being at an end.
Chaiklin told EW that a new series would be “just as dramatic and just as colourful as what has unfolded these past few years” and that there’s plenty of story “still unfolding”. Netflix has shown form for revisiting its true crime series with Making a Murderer, so there’s definitely precedent for Goode and Chaiklin to return to the world of Tiger King.