Suspicious fires and racism: All the things Netflix's Tiger King left out about Joe Exotic.


The story of Netflix’s Tiger King is straight up bonkers.

From Joe Exotic to Carole Baskin to that drug pin who put drugs in snakes and barely made it into 10 minutes of the series, there’s a lot going on throughout the seven episodes.

To keep it… simple, Tiger King shows the rise and fall of Joseph Schreibvogel, a.k.a. Joe Exotic, the owner of an exotic animal park in Oklahoma. But he’s more than just that: You see, he’s a polygamist, wannabe politician with a passion for explosives who was found guilty of hiring a man to murder his enemy.

See, so simple.

Watch The Tiger King trailer here. Post continues below video.

Video via Netflix

Even with seven hours worth of content, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness doesn’t fit in everything about the Joe Exotic and his friends/enemies/friends-turned-enemies story. Here are some more details that didn’t make it into the show.

Joe is “a racist”.

Within the documentary series, there were some scenes that simply couldn’t be included.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the show’s creator, Rebecca Chaiklin, shared that a rant from Joe Exotic about not being allowed to use the N-word wasn’t included in the show.


“Joe is a racist, I would say categorically,” she said.

“He said things when we were filming that were very unsettling.”

When asked why these scenes weren’t included in the series, Chaiklin responded: “They didn’t have context in the story, but he has a lot to learn. I think most of it was ignorance and not having a lot of exposure, and I think he even evolved over the course of the time that we filmed.”

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Image: Netflix.

Co-director John Goode chimed in, adding: "I would say it's very important for people to know this, that there seems to be an overwhelming amount of empathy for [Joe's current husband] Dillon.

"We had empathy for Joe, but Joe did a lot of horrible things. Joe committed some really serious crimes and Joe was not only cruel and inhumane to his animals, he was cruel to the people around him. I think it’s very important for people to understand that Joe is an actor and he tells people what they want to hear.

"As much as we have some empathy for Joe and found Joe to be such an incredible character — this mullet-wearing country singer in Oklahoma — he did a lot of horrible things."

Joe had more husbands.

Ah, Joe - the lover of tigers, guns and having legally-questionable marriages with multiple men at once.

During the series, we saw Joe's simultaneous marriages to John Finlay and Travis Maldonado and relationship with Dillon Passage after Maldonado's death and splitting with Finlay, but that's not the entirety of Joe's relationships.

A 2019 article in Intelligencer by Robert Moor, who created a podcast on Joe, shared that in the late '80s Joe got a job as a security guard at a gay cowboy bar called the Round-up Saloon, and met his first husband, 19-year-old Brian Rhyne.

They married in the bar they met - not that same-sex marriage was legal then, but they didn't care.


Rhyne was around when Joe's older brother Garold died in 1997, and when Joe opened the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in his memory. Rhyne died in 2001 in Joe's arms, from HIV-related illness.

Later, Joe met his next husband, a 20-something events manager called J.C. Hartpence, at another bar. The relationship was reportedly volatile and violent. Hartpence is now serving life in prison for a murder he committed after they broke up.

joe exotic now
Joe's marriage to Travis and John. Image: Netflix.

In 2003, Joe met John Finlay, who did not identify as gay. While together, Joe met a quiet and withdrawn young man known only as Paul.

According to Moor, the three of them all slept together in one big bed.

After Paul left, Joe found Travis Maldonado - another young, straight man - and married both him and John at the same time in 2013.

In 2014, John left after attacking Joe in the zoo's parking lot. He was arrested and charged with assault and battery. As we saw in the show, he'd been in a relationship with the park's secretary and gotten her pregnant.

John is now a welder and has a new set of teeth.

Joe and Travis eventually re-married as a couple and got an official marriage license in 2015, but Travis died accidentally in 2017 while playing around with a gun.

Two months after Travis' death, Joe married Dillon Passage.

Um, that's not really Joe singing.

This is pretty devastating because Joe's songs were... weirdly catchy.

Vanity Fair investigated Joe's music and concluded the musicians responsible for Joe's... interesting songs are Vince Johnson and vocalist Danny Clinton. Both are listed in Tiger King's credits.

"It was absolutely ridiculous," Rick Kirkham, the director of Joe's prospective reality TV show, told the magazine.

"One time Joe got a little bit drunk and high, and we actually coaxed him into singing part of one of the songs. He couldn’t even hold a tune. It was just so ludicrous. It was a big joke within the crew and staff that it wasn’t him [singing in the videos] - but he was damned insistent to anyone and everyone, including us and my studio crew, that that was him."


Joe's magic career was... not exactly magical.

As touched on in Tiger King, Joe tried his hand at performing magic acts with animals involved, but it didn't go very well.

Aaron Stone, who was Joe's magician assistant, was a guest on podcast Joe Exotic: Tiger King and explained how one big trick went down.

The trick was to make a tiger appear in a previously empty cage. It involved noisy explosions and pyrotechnics as a distraction, but they also badly frightened to tiger, who would show up in the cage - terrified and huddled at the back.

tiger king netflix
Image: Netflix.

A distressed tiger was hardly entertaining, so Joe decided he'd swap out a real tiger for a sheep spray-painted in black and orange stripes.

Firstly, absolutely no audience member was duped into believing the sheep was a tiger and secondly, the sheep was also scared.

Stone said he had to go into the cage and cuddle the poor animal for the duration of the trick.

Rick Kirkham's stuff was burned in a fire for the second time.

Kirkham lost all the footage he'd filmed for Joe's reality show when an unknown arsonist (implied to be Joe himself) burned down his studio, destroying hours and hours worth of footage that could have been incriminating.

tiger king
Image: Netflix.

But what's not shown in the Netflix series is that about six months later, after Kirkham left Oklahoma and moved to Dallas, Texas, his house burned down in the middle of the night while he was inside. Kirkham escaped, but his dog died in the blaze.

He then moved to Norway, where he currently lives with his wife.

Joe faked a cancer diagnosis.

After the TV studio fire, Joe claimed to be dying of prostate and bone-marrow cancer.

One night at a Mexican restaurant, he announced that he expected his doctor to tell him he had two months left to live and had purchased an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that he would use to kill Carole Baskin.

Joe never had cancer.


Carole's ex-boyfriend filed a restraining order against her.

After Carole's husband Don Lewis vanished, but before Carole married Howard, she dated a guy named Jay Baykal.

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Carole Baskin in Tiger King. Image: Netflix.

In 2002, Jay filed a restraining order against Carole, in which he said he feared he was in "danger of death of serious bodily injury".

"One day she said to me when I asked her 'What happens if your husband shows up now?', her response was 'Dead body[sic] can not talk,'" he wrote.

His restraining order was denied as there was "no facts of violence or specific credible threat of imminent fear".

Secret taped conversations were played at Joe's trial.

One conclusion that can be drawn from Tiger King is that Joe was framed for murder-by-hire, but the show did not play the phone conversations that were played during his trial.


In the transcript, he also incriminates Jeff Lowe who was not charged (and is set to open his new zoo later this year).

There was ANOTHER suspicious fire.

Former reptile dealer Jeff Johnson used to be a friend of Joe, but after a falling out he started an online campaign to expose Jeff Lowe and Joe as frauds.

Lowe and Joe both threatened Johnson online, but he refused to back down. Not long after, Johnson's house burned down in a mysterious fire.

So... there you have it.

We weren't sure if it was possible, but the story of Tiger King is even crazier than we thought.

Feature Images: Netflix.

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