The Truth About Joe Exotic's Music Career

The Netflix true crime documentary series Tiger King has washed over the American public like a cultural tsunami, leaving behind a social media zeitgeist and a lucidity-shaped hole in the heart of public discourse. The show's star player is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage né Schreibvogel, better known as Joe Exotic. He's a man who can only be described with the sort of run-on sentence usually reserved for over-caffeinated, highly enthusiastic first-semester improv students throwing out scene suggestions: a disabled, Kansas-born gay polyamorous ex-presidential candidate tiger owner who sings country songs about women feeding their husbands to animals.

Viewers of the series likely walked away with several unanswered questions, like "does a property with 200 tigers smell the same as a cat hoarder's house but worse?" More pressingly, they might have been left to wonder why, in the age of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, Joe's musical career received so little attention. Surely the highly-produced music videos displayed on the program had a story behind them? Some decades-long creative feud between bandmates? A reconciliation at the eleventh hour fueled by a shared love of jamming and fan appreciation?

Nah, it turns out it was all pretty fake. Allegedly.

A lot of tigers and a little bull

This is going to be a roller coaster of a sentence for some, but it turns out that the private zoo operator convicted of gunning down endangered big cats and attempted murder for hire might have fudged the facts a little about his music career.

According to Vanity Fair, Joe enlisted the help of musicians Vince Johnson and Danny Clinton to turn him into a country star. After hearing a song that they were commissioned to write about an unhappy customer's experience at Meineke, Joe reportedly told the musicians that he wanted their talents for his upcoming reality show. He couldn't pay them, he said, but could offer that pot of gold at the end of every skeezy manager's rainbow: exposure.

Johnson said of the experience "I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs...I was on YouTube one night and just happened to look up Joe Exotic. And there he was, lip-syncing and acting like the ghost of Elvis." The producer on the videos also mentioned that Joe, pictured above holding down one string on two different frets, didn't actually know how to play the guitar.

In the end, there's a lot that didn't make it into Tiger King. You can only tell so much story in seven 45-minute episodes. By way of example, People reports that the alligators which burned to death in his studio once belonged to Michael Jackson. Look out for season two is all we're saying.