Inside the Bizarre History of ‘Tiger King’ Director Eric Goode

Netflix’s seven-part docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, was a massive success. Director, Eric Goode, is no stranger to the spotlight. In fact, his life beyond Tiger King is just as fascinating — maybe even controversial. Here’s a little background on the Tiger King creator.

Who is ‘Tiger King’ director Eric Goode?

Eric Goode
Eric Goode | Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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Tiger King revealed a behind-the-scenes look at an alleged murder-for-hire plot and the exotic cat business. The series captivated viewers everywhere for its eye-opening, albeit strange portrayal of small exotic zoos in Oklahoma.

Entrepreneur and conservationist, Eric Goode, has a whole history of interesting tidbits that came long before Tiger King’s inception. Goode also owns a number of hotels in downtown Manhattan such as the Bowery, the Maritime, and The Jane. He’s also a restauranteur with stakes in B Bar and Grill and the Waverly Inn.

From 1983-1987, Goode (along with his brother and friends) created an art gallery/nightclub, Area. The club featured the work of notable artists of the decade, like Andy Warhol. The venue even had a shark-infested aquarium, according to Paper.

At the time, “Sex and the City” columnist (and TV show), Candace Bushnell, regularly featured B Bar and Grill.

“If I had to characterize who was there, I’d say everybody. Because it was the place of the moment,” Goode previously told the New York Times. “It was Russell Simmons at one booth, Naomi Campbell at another, Ian Schrager at another. And Candace was part of that posse with Jay McInerney and Morgan.”

Area’s themes changed every six months. According to the New York Times, included “skulls, monster trucks, a drag racer, a skateboard ramp with live skaters, a strobe-lighted electric chair and a speedboat in the swimming pool with a giant gargoyle driving it.”

Writer, Glen O’Brien, recalled seeing, “Matt Dillon watching a pack of real outlaw bikers swarming around a completely nude biker chick, maybe calculating his odds of moving in.” He added, “there was a film loop of the exploding-head scenes from Scanners that night, too, and in the bathroom a scale model of a bowling alley and a beauty parlor populated by real cockroaches.” 

“We approached it more like a limited run show on Broadway,” Goode said of Area. “It was a place to meet and hang out for all kinds of reasons, obviously sex and drugs and all that, but also a forum to experiment with whatever you were working on. The second it became formulaic and predictable we closed. But up until that point I think it was pretty magical.”

Goode moved on to direct two music videos for Nine Inch Nails. He also sued Donald Trump for violating the Constitution, according to CNN, and he founded the Turtle Conservancy, which aims to “preserve protect natural ecosystems, focusing on turtles and tortoises and their habitats.”

“I guess you could say I’m a closeted animal person because a lot of my life I did it in secrecy,” he previously told the Los Angeles Times. “I was always fascinated with exotic animals, particularly reptiles, from the age of 6 when I got a pet tortoise.”

Goode’s thoughts on ‘Tiger King’

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As far as how Tiger King came about, it’s clear Goode already had a passion for animals. But, it goes further than that.

“I’ve always been fascinated by these hidden subcultures that exist in America, and with passions that border on pathological,” Goode told Towne and Country.

With his use of animals throughout his past endeavors, Goode has a different opinion on things like the exotic pet trade world now.

“We definitely used live animals and other things that I would not do today,” Goode said. “I knew a notorious reptile dealer who would send me animals for Area and I regret that. The landlord had wolves and an arctic fox upstairs and quite possibly a tiger.”

As for how his past experience translated into Tiger King, Goode told GQ it’s a parallel world.

“The most important thing about this world, this subculture in America, is that it’s not exclusively these eccentric people in the cat world. They’re in the monkey world, the reptile world, the bird world,” he said.

“It parallels back to my nightclub Area, where we would chronicle themes like “Carnival” or “Suburbia” or “Obsessions” or even “Gnarly”. Those themes were exposés of Americana subcultures, and showing that side of America, especially in the context of a city like New York City, was fun to do. Interesting to do.”

Goode wasn’t as scared of filming around the exotic animals. He claimed to fear individuals more.

“There would be times when I’d be driving up to a place wondering if they’d let me in again – if they’d seen something or googled me,” he said. “It was hard to get access to Mario Tabraue’s place, for example. He had a net worth of over $90 million. He has a formidable reputation. It was definitely scary to some degree.”

The director laid off staff at one of his restaurants amid COVID-19

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Tiger King succeeded but, Goode’s restaurants have suffered losses amid the coronavirus pandemic. Goode laid off some of his staff, due to the economic impacts.

Goode previously sold an interest in B Bar, and profited nearly $60 million, according to multiple outlets. However, COVID-19 changed things when 70 waiters and cooks were laid off and B Bar closed indefinitely. That said, Goode had not paid those employees any sort of stipend to survive at that time.

“We made him a lot of money,” veteran employee at B Bar, Arturo Vasquez, told Buzzfeed. “I was always there. I never missed it. At the least, leave me with compensation or something to help with this problem we have.”

Former floor manager, Luis Lugo, shared his thoughts saying Goode had the means to help out his former employees.

“They have families, they have children, they have mortgages to pay, and they spent a lot of their life working for B Bar,” he said. “You’re the director of Tiger King and you own the Jane Hotel and you’re not a small mom-and-pop shop that’s struggling. You’re someone that has the financial resources to make a difference.”

Goode did pay his former staff a month after the previous story ran under the following conditions: “all hourly employees who had worked at the restaurant for more than a year would be given one week of averaged pay. Staff who had been there more than five years would be given two weeks’ worth.”

While it’s a start, some feared it’s too late.

“This amount of money would have been helpful the week after B Bar closed,” a server added. “I don’t know why it took two months.”

The server said it was “upsetting to see him conduct interviews about Tiger King while we waited in earnest for him to pay us paid time off because of the COVID-19 crisis.”

In a letter given to employees (as reported by Buzzfeed), Goode “will continue to evaluate all programs to aid future employee assistance.”

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness is available to stream on Netflix.