Tiger King may have wrapped up its seven episode run (minus an alleged special on the horizon), but the saga shows no signs of slowing down as the Netflix docuseries continues to dominate headlines and social media. In a new interview with People, friends and colleagues of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a. Joe Exotic, talk about what it was like to watch his obsession with Carole Baskin spiral out of control and eventually land him in prison on a murder-for-hire charge.
“Carole was the first thing on his mind every morning and the last thing on his mind every night,” said Kelci “Saff” Saffery, a former staffer at Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park. Others echoed the same concern as they watched Exotic launch an all-consuming war against Baskin in which he suffered a crippling financial loss after she successfully sued him for copyright infringement.
“When I first met Joe, he was all about the animals, and he was one of the most kindhearted, lovable, smartest guys in the industry,” says Maldonado-Passage’s friend Tim Stark, a former zoo owner. “When he started doing battle with Carole, I told him he was going to get his ass kicked. He just kept going on. He didn’t listen.”
“Joe wanted to be the big cat and he wanted to show Carole Baskin,” Stark adds.
While those close to Exotic have blunt words for People about watching the Tiger King star take a dark turn that ultimately landed him behind bars, Baskin doesn’t exactly come off smelling like roses either. Both she and Exotic are accused of losing sight of the animals while focusing on their feud.
Saffery mirrors that sentiment, saying both Maldonado-Passage and Baskin began their feud as animal lovers “standing up for what they believed was right. “But it started to not be about the animals. I don’t think that it was only about egos, but I do think they started to focus more on Carole and Joe and less on the bigger picture. And nothing came out of it. It’s the worst kind of love story.”
If all of this sounds like the backdrop for an insane drama filled with ego clashes and murder, well, there’s a reason why Tiger King is now one of Netflix’s biggest hit. In just its first 10 days, the docuseries already came within striking distance of Stranger Things 3, the streaming service’s current reigning champ. Of course, that’s based on Netflix’s unofficial numbers, but based on Tiger King‘s viral success, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s drawing viewers in by the droves.