Who could forget? It was the stranger-than-fiction Netflix documentary that became a lockdown hit in early 2020. Later in 2021, will pick up the true crime series where the original left off.
In the meantime, here’s a reminder of Tiger King’s tangled web of larger-than-life characters. Where are they now?
The owner of the zoo wound up in a cage. Animal breeder, YouTube loudmouth, country “singer” and gay polygamist at the center of the madness, Joseph Maldonado-Passage ignited a bitter feud with fellow big cat lover Carole Baskin that led to his downfall. In January 2020 he was sentenced to 22 years in prison, which was later reduced to 17 years. He’s serving time in Texas, where he has launched a lawsuit against the government and sought a presidential pardon from both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. According to the documentary’s directors, he’s delighted with his newfound notoriety.
Carole Baskin continues to run the Big Cat Rescue animal sanctuary in Tampa, Florida, with her husband Howard Baskin. She also appeared on Dancing with the Stars, dancing to (what else) Eye of the Tiger. Baskin now regrets her cooperation with the Netflix documentary: On March 29, Baskin released a blog post describing the Netflix series as “salacious and sensational,” rebutting many of the suggestions and implications made by those interviewed. She put her side of the story to documentarian Louis Theroux in the BBC film Shooting Joe Exotic, after Theroux filmed Exotic years previously. Meanwhile, police have used the popularity of the series to appeal for information on the cold case of the disappearance of Carole Baskin’s husband Don Lewis.
Joe Exotic’s former husband now works as a welder in Oklahoma with his wife, and is the proud owner of some new teeth. His relationship with Joe ended after Joe had him arrested for assault, but he later ran Joe’s Safari bar near the zoo. On a Facebook page promising “the truth about John Finlay,” he says he’s six years sober and has talked to numerous news stations and producers about interviews and possibly even a biography.
The laid-back, long-haired Erik Cowie was head zookeeper at Joe Exotic’s establishment. He died in New York this month, aged 53.
Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle
The supplier of big cats to Hollywood productions is also the man behind The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He denies allegations he euthanized big cats. According to CNN, he put the show’s success down to the fact that audiences were “trapped on their couch and this train wreck of an adventure into magical wildlife land has somehow just caught everybody’s attention.” In October 2020 he was indicted on several charges of animal cruelty and wildlife trafficking.
It must be strange for TV producer Kirkham to see the success of the Netflix documentary, knowing he was prevented from making his own show on the subject. Before Tiger King, he made the 2006 film TV Junkie showing how he juggled addiction and a career as a news journalist. Now, according to Kirkham’s Facebook page, he lives in Norway and is working on a documentary about a “guy living an exciting double life.”
After taking over the Greater Wynnewood Zoo, Jeff Lowe and his wife Lauren were planning to open a new zoo this summer (with their hot nanny). Lowe initially cooperated with law enforcement in Exotic’s case.
Plucked from a job in Walmart’s ammo section to run Joe Exotic’s presidential campaign, Joshua Dial now lives in Oklahoma. In an interview with Oxygen, he said he doesn’t like to work in offices after witnessing Travis Maldonado, Joe’s husband, shooting himself in the head while sitting in the zoo’s office. He maintains that Joe’s conviction was entrapment, and he has no intention of watching the documentary. Dial appears alongside John Reinke and Barb Fisher in a live show called Uncaged Tiger King in which they share their stories from the zoo.
On his Instagram, Passage told fans he and Joe are getting divorced. He’s in a new relationship and there are no pictures of Joe on his Instagram, although there was a video of Passage riding an elephant with Doc Antle. His Insta bio reads “Animals are cooler than people.”
Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode
Behind the camera, the documentary’s director, Eric Goode, is every bit as colorful as the people in the show. Goode was a New York nightclub owner, restaurateur and hotelier who once dated Naomi Campbell, and also runs a turtle sanctuary. Chaiklin and Goode remained in contact with Joe Exotic in prison, and they will now direct and produce the sequel, Tiger King 2.