At a time when one specific topic is all we can think, talk, read, or write about, one documentary came into our lives to save the day. Now, the sensation known as Tiger King has taken America by storm and definitely harmed our already bruised reputation worldwide. It is, quite possibly, the most important thing available to stream right now.
By all means, don’t read on if you have not completed the journey through the Netflix documentary. Spoilers abound. The following is my opinion and not the opinion of the Fancy Boys at large. In fact, most of the staff has no interest in watching Tiger King. Yours truly bit that bullet for you and loved every minute of it. Please, if you have any problems with my rankings, kiss my ass. I have 224 motherfucking tigers.
26. Cheryl Maldonado
If you are invited to your son’s widower’s wedding a few months after his death and the widower is older than you and you’re obviously just there as a prop for him to make it okay to remarry so fast that it would and should be suspicious… that’s on you.
25. Dillon Passage
He’s far back on this list largely because of his extremely late entry. For what its worth, it appears Joe married someone who is actually gay for a change. Dillon is loyal and seems like a genuinely nice kid. Its kind of a shame that Joe is just going to exploit him for whatever shenanigans he comes up with next, if the situation arises.
24. Joshua Dial
Joshua could really, really use a hug. When we are first introduced to the flannel-clad libertarian, he says “Working for Joe Exotic was the worst experience of my life.” We laugh because Joe is a big ol’ goofball. What we find out later was that yes, we can all agree that working for Joe was the worst experience of Joshua’s life, at least for his sake we hope so.
23. Shirley Schreibvogel
Joe’s mother was, unfortunately, just a pawn in her son’s game. He drained her dry and still came back for more. Her only reasoning for not ending higher on the page is that she 1) had the means to assist in this mess and 2) appeared to genuinely be one of the few nice people on the show.
22. Marc Thompson
Joe’s bodyguard refused to perform the hit. It was a great business decision, and he fortunately got away from this mess without, you know, all of the troubles that come along with being associated with Joe.
21. Travis Maldonado
The tragic story of Travis is played out just off camera in one of the saddest and most shocking moments of the show. Joe manipulated him into a gay marriage and drove him to the point that he checked the chamber of a gun against his head. Was it intentional? Was it an accident? No matter, Travis was just another stepping stone for the black heart of Joe Exotic.
20. Howard Baskin
At one point, we see the gentleman Baskin literally on a leash held by his wife, Carole. It is a beautiful metaphor for their relationship. He’s clearly always been beaten down and played for a fool, and now he’s aligned himself with the most powerful woman in semi-legal zoology. At times, it is almost as if he has a spine of his own. Then Carole corrects him. Be careful, Howard. Tigers stay hungry.
19. Gladys Lewis Cross
Ah, damn it, Gladys. I really feel for you. Your husband runs off with a woman several years your junior and then she probably, definitely kills him. You raised your daughters well and they’re probably strong-willed and independent like you. I wish you only the best.
18. Erik Cowie
The head keeper at GW Zoo is quite the character. He resembles the prototypical surfer burnout that was probably pretty nice to you in school, but you just knew he was going to end up offering to wash cars on the bad side of town with some newspaper because he knows that is the way to dry a windshield without leaving smudges. Erik is loyal and kind, almost to a fault. He also could not give a shit how many wives Doc Antle has.
17. John Finlay
When we meet him, he’s referred to as Joe’s husband. By the end of the doc, we see John has not only moved on, but with a woman. Aside from his teeth (now fixed) he’s a relatively handsome dude. John doesn’t wear a shirt because his heart of gold causes him to overheat easily. The tattoo cover-up job though. Can we talk about that? The guy didn’t even cover up all of the text! Well, I guess if your ink is as haphazard and garish as John’s, you just might not care.
16. Tim Stark
Our token Hoosier is a man of intention. He is a gross, wrinkly piece of leather left out in the sun for what seems to be decades. I’m not sure both of his eyes are real. He gets hosed by one schemer after another. Tim just wants to buy and show off some wild animals, man. He’s got the means, he’s got the drive. If only he could find a partner who wasn’t a lazy, self-centered piece of shit.
15. Lauren Lowe
The allegedly, dare I say reluctantly bisexual wife of Jeff. She is just as much of a wheeler and dealer as her husband, without the infamy. By the time the credits roll, she’s super pregnant. Our last impression of Lauren is her meekly agreeing with Jeff that their nanny should be hot. I’m not crying “poor Lauren” though. She knows EXACTLY what she’s doing, even if it seems as though she’s just the point guard to Jeff’s stripper harem.
14. Barbara Fisher
She survived Doc Antle’s tiger cult to tell the story from distant, safe Iowa. She seems sweet, but at a moment’s notice will bring down the hammer on Antle faster than he can spell his name. Barbara tells the tale of how absolutely fucked it is to work for Antle and how he coerces barely legal girls into joining his
sex cult animal park sex cult. I wish she had more time on screen, but this isn’t the Doc Antle show, though a spinoff would be nice.
13. Larry Rhodes
How many ways can you tell me you have nothing? The Gavin County Sheriff tries his damndest to bring about a little justice in this town, and for his best efforts, he’s left with nothing but the solace of knowing he’s probably on the right side of this. Bless his heart for trying though. He put the fear of God into some of our heroes, maybe, once.
12. Allen Glover
Great Value Michael Chiklis really got himself in a pickle, didn’t he? I mean who takes three grand down payment to go to Florida to kill someone? Apparently, Allen Glover does, kinda. He’s aligned with Jeff Lowe, which is neither the best nor worst place to find yourself in this trainwreck. It’s entirely possible that his purpose for going to the sunshine state was only to give more credibility to the foil that Joe actually put the hit on Carole. Nonetheless, you will be shocked to find out that Allen Glover is not dead yet.
11. Sylvia Corkill
The News 9 reporter (and sometimes actress) covered the Joe Exotic trial and really stokes the flames of the conspiracy. She provides details that push the story to its climax and in the end comes out clean and slightly more notable. She gets close to the fire but never gets burned. Without her, the whole thing feels made up.
10. John Reinke
The GW Zoo’s manager, mounted on his two carbon-fiber legs, is a sympathetic figure. He holds our hand along the pathway of unrighteousness and tells the tale of Joe Exotic from the closest perspective outside of Joe’s own head. To be honest, I’d believe John over just about every character above or below him. He’s just a hard-working man who genuinely cares about the cats. His peglegs are pretty neat, too.
9. Rick Kirkham
The man just wants to make captivating reality TV. He has a plan to make Joe Exotic a star, and cons him into a contract that basically strips Joe of the rights to his own identity. The price he pays? Everything short of his life. All of his equipment, all of the tapes, everything he had worked on night and day, GONE. In spite of this, he is a man of great resolve and plays his part in the downfall of Joe. The entire time he was on screen, all I could picture was Billy Drago’s ‘Black Hand Kelly’ from Tremors 4.
8. Jeff Lowe
Imagine the worst person you’ve ever met. What are they wearing? How do they talk? Is everything they say and do a fraudulent rung on a ladder to self-destruction? Jeff Lowe dresses like a wanna be frat hound from 2006. Jeff Lowe legitimately only cares about appearing to have a large penis. Jeff Lowe gambles with his own well-being so much that he would make Howard Ratner blush. Still, for the time being, he’s come out of this in the clear. The problem is, Jeff Lowe will always keep pushing his limits and his debt ceiling. Someday, the bell will toll for thee.
7. Amanda Green
She’s the federal prosecutor with the mind as sharp as her haircut. Of course she’s coming out of this around the top. I get the vibe from her that there has never been a mountain too tall to chop down, and when Joe Exotic’s case fell on her desk, there was but one choice. Bring the fuckin’ hammer down on his ass. Amanda ranks pretty high for being a fourth-tier character, but her impact and influence rippled throughout the big cat universe.
6. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle
Cult leader or benevolent, charismatic head of…. okay he’s a cult leader. Anytime someone tells you “you’re free to leave at any time” they’re either going to convince you to drink some poison or you’ve just brought wine coolers to unintentionally hang out with Chris Hansen. Doc is the former, and his penchant for seducing assistants into becoming members of his harem is impressive, but I mean not really in a good way. He’s our ponytail-flaunting, flavor-savor touting mastermind pulling the strings behind the Exotic-Baskin feud, Phantom Menacing the situation, as it were.
5. Don Lewis
He’s dead, probably either buried under a septic tank, long-passed through the digestive tracts of some bigass cats, or took a nice belly flop into the Gulf of Mexico. No matter, he is the catalyst for this whole confrontation. If Don doesn’t propose that Carole hold a gun to him while they talk in his truck, everyone’s lives are different, and there’s just a documentary out there about reptile dealing in Florida which is probably still fascinating, but not timelessly so like this.
4. James Garretson
Ooh, he’s a snake alright. Yeah he kinda looks like if John Gruden had stayed in Tampa and retired as the owner/operator of a strip club that gets investigated early and often for giving tuggers to senators. Yeah he risked it all for a chance to get his lemur charges wiped. But you know what? It worked. In the end, our everlasting image of James is on a jet ski, flaunting his freedom like the American hero he truly is.
3. Kelci “Saff” Saffery
Kelci lost half of his arm and went back to work a few days later. He talks shit but never oversteps his own frame of reference. Saff is probably the ‘chaotic good’ of this show, a charming and lovable character who reminds us that we should not, under any circumstances, stick our arm in a tiger cage. I really can’t believe we saw a person lose an arm on this show and THAT wasn’t the wildest thing, even in that episode.
2. Joseph “Joe Exotic” Schreibvogel-Maldonado-Passage
As far as gay, gun-toting, big-cat-breeding, polygamous, libertarian country singers go, he’s in a world all his own. Okay sure he sang one of his own songs at his husband’s funeral and lies about just about everything. Sure, he underpays and overworks his employees and exploits people at the absolute end of their rope. And okay, he probably did blow up his own studio and all those crocadillians. I’ll concede that he lured two straight men into a polygamous gay marriage on the promise of providing them meth. But you know what, he’s still the best James Bond villian of the last 20 years. I don’t think he actually put a hit out on Carole, but the optics, man. The optics are just not good. He may be the titular Tiger King, but he’s not our #1 for one reason…
1. Carole Baskin
…he’s in prison, and Carole isn’t. Yes, the true Tiger King is the wannabe hippie who probably, actually killed and fed her second husband to some tigers. She runs pretty much the same operation as Joe, but doesn’t have to pay employees. She married Harold Baskin, a pushover who she uses as a human shield against her enemies, and he adores her for it. She’s just as exploitative as Joe but has PETA backing. She uses her resources to overpower her foes in a manner that would impress Montgomery Burns. She’s the American Dream draped in a black cloak. She’s insufferably unlikable. Long live the King.