If you’re looking for a new show to take your mind off the coronavirus, perhaps tune into this: A seven-part docuseries about a mercurial big-cats collector with a vengeful murder-for-hire plot.
How’s that for something different?
On Friday, Netflix will release its docuseries “Tiger King,” a true-crime journey into the world of feline wildlife held in captivity and bred for profit. The true story centers on the one woman trying to tame the men behind it all.
Of course the story ends with an attempted murder — ordered by a character known as Joe Exotic no less.
Here’s a taste of what else goes down in this savage tale of the tigers.
Who is Joe Exotic?
Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel, now known as Joe “Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, grew up in Kansas. As a kid, he loved animals and was a member of the agricultural youth organization 4H Club.
In the late 1990s, he bought an old horse farm in Oklahoma after the death of his brother Garold. Also an animal lover, Garold had a longstanding desire to see them in the wild. In honor of his sibling, Joe turned the horse farm into a roadside zoo full of jungle-worthy creatures — emphasizing big cats such as lions, tigers and ligers (a mix of tigers and lions).
Named for his brother, the place was called Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park. An important feature: baby lions and tigers that visitors were encouraged to pet and handle. Joe Exotic was as wild as his animals and, for a time, just as beloved.
What will the Netflix show cover?
“Tiger King” is a documentary, co-directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin. It delves into the world of people who are obsessed with big cats and, most importantly, on a long-running feud between Carole Baskin and Joe. She wants him to stop breeding big cats. He wants to see her killed.
What’s the beef between Carole and Joe?
Baskin and her husband own Big Cat Rescue. It is a sanctuary for unwanted lions and tigers. But, more importantly, it’s also a nonprofit organization that tries to stop people from breeding big cats.
“We’d like to put ourselves out of business,” Baskin told The Post. In other words, she wants the breeding to stop so that she no longer has to rally against the practice.
Through social media, Baskin goes after a number of people who own roadside zoos where patrons can pet cubs. Joe’s operation happens to fall into that category. They wind up in an imbroglio that ends with a lawsuit and attempted murder.
What is Carole Baskin doing now?
With husband Howard, she continues to run Big Cat Rescue. Undaunted by violence that had been aimed in her direction, she remains steadfast on her mission to end the captive breeding of lion and tiger cubs.
When was Joe’s arrest and what happened in his trial?
In 2018, Joe retreated to Gulf Breeze, Florida, after being pushed out of his zoo. He got a job washing dishes in a local bar and hoped to live a quiet life. Less than three months after arriving, however, he was arrested by federal agents. They charged him with playing a role in an attempted murder. In April 2019, jurors in an Oklahoma City federal court found him guilty on 19 counts — including twice hiring hitmen to kill Baskin, illegally killing tigers and falsifying documents related to big-cat sales.
Dare we ask, is Joe . . . single?
The love life of Joe Exotic could be its own show. He once had two husbands simultaneously: Travis Maldonado and John Finlay. Admittedly, the marriage was more of a show-ceremony than a legal bonding. Never one to do things in small measures, Joe had other unofficial marriages. An early one was to Brian Rhyne, who was just 19 when he started dating Joe, according to New York magazine.
The relationships were tumultuous and, at times, tragic. Maldonado shot himself in the head with a gun that he thought would not fire. He was just 23.
Soon after, Joe got together with another young man, Dillon Passage. After a courtship of fewer than two months, they too were married. Dillon was with Joe in Florida when Joe got arrested. Joe still carries his husband’s last name.
Who is Eric Goode?
The curious, straw-hatted guy you see in the series is actually a hipster New Yorker. He owned Area, the city’s happening nightclub of the 1980s. Later, he opened Bowery Bar and Bowery Hotel, two ongoing bastions for the well to do and stylish. Along the way, he got involved in preserving turtles and founded Turtle Conservancy. Through the course of running it, Goode came across the world of big cats and became fascinated with the people who own them. He decided to make a movie about the subculture and teamed with Chaiklin to do so.
Where is Joe now?
Behind bars. Earlier this year he was sentenced to a 22-year prison term for the above charges.