As social distancing pulls us apart, we need something, someone to bring us together. But who would have foreseen Netflix’s newest hit documentary, “Tiger King,” and its star Joe Exotic as the thing to unite us?
“Tiger King” is ostensibly about Joe Exotic, the one-time owner of the GW Zoo in Oklahoma. As the documentary unfolds, however, you are pulled into a web of madness worthy of H.P. Lovecraft, with each character somehow stranger than the last.
A definitive power ranking under these circumstances is practically impossible. Notable people left off the list include Kelci Saffery, a GW Zoo employee whose arm was amputated due to a mauling and returned to work five days later. Then there’s Erik Cowie, the head zookeeper who found the job on Craigslist and filled gas tanks while smoking. And, of course, Mario Tabraue, the inspiration for “Scarface” who served 12 years in prison on drug charges.
Clearing the bar to make seven requires a truly special level of crazy. So if you are ready, let’s take the plunge. Warning: Spoilers!
7. James Garretson
Described by many as a “human Chuckie doll,” this strip club owner and shady businessman was a real dark horse for the power rankings. James certainly comes off as one the sleeziest characters in the show, but far more mentally stable than the rest of the cast.
The decision to include James in the rankings is given a huge boost by his choice of B-roll footage for his character. James decided the footage the documentary needed was himself riding a jet ski, giving birth to many glorious memes and video clips.
His choice is certainly odd because, although riding a jet ski is certainly fun, it’s almost impossible not to look weird doing it, especially when you look like you might pop out of the life vest at any time. Just ask Mitt Romney.
More importantly, James managed to get on the wrong side of both Joe Exotic and Jeff Lowe, who also appear on this list. Neither of these men is above making your life dangerous if you cross them. Let’s just hope James’ jet ski trips don’t take an unfortunate turn.
Craziest Moment: Going into business with Jeff Lowe.
6. Dr. Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle
In another, saner universe, a whole documentary could have been made about Doc Antle and his tiger sex cult. The charismatic leader of another big cat sanctuary in South Carolina certainly provides enough material for it.
We get a sense of Doc’s cult practices when he took the mantle of Bhagavan, a term meaning “the blessed or fortunate one” in Hinduism. Doc also almost exclusively hires attractive women, whom he forces to work long hours for little pay, employing classic cult tactics to prevent them from leaving.
Doc also uses these women in promotional material, going as far as giving them not only new names but new breasts. In the case of Barbara “Bala” Fisher, she claimed she was enthusiastic about getting the implants, as it meant she could finally take a few days off of work.
Doc isn’t the only person to use the tigers to obtain sex, but his elevation of himself into a cult leader certainly suggests he has a few screws loose. Doc also may be facing legal trouble for allegedly euthanizing tigers.
Craziest Moment: Starting a tiger cult.
5. Jeff Lowe
Speaking of using tigers to obtain sex: Jeff Lowe is the former business partner of Joe Exotic and current CEO of the GW Zoo. Jeff claims to be the grandson of the founder of Robbins Brothers Circus, and his life certainly resembles one.
When not spending his time at the zoo, Jeff and his wife are often in Vegas living the swinger lifestyle. His investment in the GW Zoo seems to have less to do with his desire to save cats or turn a profit, and more for using the tigers in Vegas in order to swing.
Jeff is seen carrying tiger cubs in suitcases to Vegas. While in Vegas, he even tried to set up a limo service, complete with tiger cubs. Jeff also openly talks in front of his pregnant wife about hiring a “hot” nanny, on a show where a husband was probably fed to tigers. More on that later.
Craziest Moment: Continuing to employ Allen Glover.
4. John Finlay
Anyone crazy enough to be married to Joe Exotic certainly belongs on this list. But marrying Joe Exotic despite not being gay takes things to another level.
It’s revealed that Joe kept his husbands (Joe was also married to Travis Maldonado, another straight man) by providing them meth. This would be a far more surprising reveal if John didn’t have a case of meth mouth and could have easily been an extra on “Breaking Bad.”
Outside of the copious meth use, John’s crazier moments include getting another park employee pregnant while still being married to Joe, having his “property of Joe Exotic” tattoo covered by a bull tattoo that fails to cover up his Joe tattoo, and for some reason doing all his interviews shirtless.
Craziest Moment: Marrying Joe Exotic despite not being gay.
3. Carole Baskin
Hey, all you cool cats and kittens, let’s get one thing straight: Carole Baskin definitely had a part in her second husband, Don’s, disappearance. It’s less clear whether Carole actually fed Don to the tigers she keeps at her own animal sanctuary, but America certainly thinks so.
So how does a woman who allegedly murdered her husband not rank higher? Let’s investigate. Carole was fighting with Don over breeding tigers. Don was also cheating on her and, she suspected, was leaving her, along with his millions of dollars.
While allegedly feeding your husband to tigers is certainly crazy behavior, people have murdered for a lot less. What moves Carole’s crazy from “murder my husband because he was going to leave me crazy” to “Tiger King”-level crazy is that she is allergic to cats. She also convinced her third husband, who is probably one of the saner people on the show despite marrying an alleged murderer, to take this photo at their wedding.
Craziest Moment: Allegedly feeding her husband to the tigers.
2. Allen Glover
Who could steal the number two spot from Carole? This onetime and perhaps still employee of Lowe was in prison at age 17 for assault and sports a teardrop tattoo. During employment, he allegedly takes $3,000 from Joe Exotic to kill Baskin.
But instead of going down to Florida to do Carole in, he claims he instead went to South Carolina, where he spent the money on cocaine and strippers. The details are difficult for Allen to remember due to the various substances he was on at the time.
Allen crosses the line from a quirky type of crazy shown by many people on the show into a far more dangerous kind of crazy, although he does conduct an interview while getting into a bathtub. Allen is by far the member of the “Tiger King” cast you would least like to meet in a dark alley. Rick James said it best: cocaine is a hell of a drug.
Craziest Moment: Accepting money to kill Carole Baskin and spending it on drugs.
1. Joe Exotic
Who else could number one be but the infamous Tiger King? Joe Exotic, birth name Joseph Schreibvogel, is introduced with a tragic tale of trying to commit suicide as a young man because his father would not accept his homosexuality. Joe then finds purpose in saving exotic tigers.
Joe‘s story ends with him in prison for 22 years—but not before convincing not one, but two men into marrying him for access to meth, finishing third in the Libertarian primary for Oklahoma, and allegedly hiring the previously mentioned Glover to kill Baskin to get out of a million-dollar judgement she won in a copyright infringement suit. It also appears that his story about trying to commit suicide was as fake as his bleached hair.
This is only a sampling of the madness brought to the world by Joe Exotic. Other notable examples include running a web-based show where he repeatedly threatened to kill Carole. Or starring in a litany of country music videos where he only lip synched, including “Here Kitty Kitty,” where a Carole look-alike feeds her husband to the tigers.
Joe also starred in a reality show but allegedly (notice a pattern) burned the warehouse where the footage was kept because it contained incriminating material.
In truth, there are dozens of articles to write about Joe’s antics proving why the self-proclaimed Tiger King is a clear number one in the power rankings. But ending the show locked up in prison has not ended his antics.
As “Tiger King” concludes, Joe is shown teaming up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—a group whose tactics are worthy of their own craziness power rankings—to blow the whistle on his fellow exotic cat breeders. Joe has also filed a $94 million lawsuit and has asked President Trump for a pardon. If 2020 keeps up this level of craziness, he just might get it.
Craziest Moment: All of them.