‘Tiger King’: Why Doesn’t Netflix Cover Joe Exotic’s Tragic Relationship With Brian Rhyne? Here’s What We Know

The Netflix smash docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness put a lot of emphasis on Joseph Maldonado-Passage’s (aka Joe Exotic) three husbands — John Finlay, Travis Maldonado, and Dillon Passage. That said, Maldonado-Passage’s first marriage isn’t explored much. Here’s what we know about that relationship, and why it ended.

Three of ‘Joe Exotic’s’ husbands were allegedly straight

Tiger King
Tiger King | Netflix

Tiger King doesn’t shy away from much — especially when it comes to the inner-workings of “Joe Exotic’s” wild romantic life. The seven-part series featured openly gay Maldonado-Passage’s relationship timeline as he owned and operated the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.

Three of the men — Finlay, Maldonado, and Passage — are shown throughout. Each said they identified as “straight” but fell in love with Maldonado-Passage anyway.

As viewers know, Maldonado’s shocking death is a part of the series when he pulled the trigger on a gun he didn’t believe would fire, killing him in front of Maldonado-Passage’s former campaign manager, Joshua Dial. The accidental suicide sent Maldonado-Passage into the depths of despair. As some mentioned in the series, he was never the same since.

Finlay began a relationship with a fellow employee — a woman named Stormey — after breaking things off with Maldonado-Passage. The two are now married and have a child together.

66 days after Maldonado’s death, Maldonado-Passage married Dillon Passage and the two are still together today. However, Tiger King left out a big chunk of Maldonado-Passage’s life, including his first marriage with Brian Rhyne.

All about Maldonado-Passage’s relationship with Rhyne

One aspect of Maldonado-Passage’s love life that Netflix left out, is his time as a security guard at a bar in Texas, according to NY Mag. This is where and when “Joe Exotic” met Brian Rhyne.

At the time, gay marriage was illegal. The couple lived by way of “common law” marriage, as husband and husband. Their wedding ceremony happened at the bar they first met.

Together, Maldonado-Passage and Rhyne dreamed up the G.W. Zoo. However great things were, their relationship ended tragically. In 2001, Rhyne, who was HIV-positive, experienced complications from the disease. His health declined, leaving Maldonado-Passage to keep Rhyne comfortable until the very end.

Part of this, as discussed briefly in Tiger King, was the process of moving Rhyne back to their house so he could die peacefully, surrounded by the place they built their love on. Rhyne died during the drive. Maldonado-Passage was changed forever.

Rhyne’s death may have been the turning point in which Maldonado-Passage became ‘Joe Exotic’

Viewers have various opinions about Tiger King and the way each “character” is represented. But, as shown in the docuseries, Joseph Schreibvogel morphed into “Joe Exotic” only after losing his first husband, Rhyne.

That transformation comes with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of which is seen in the docuseries, but much of it has only come out since Tiger King dropped.

Maldonado-Passage is now serving a 22-year prison sentence for animal abuse violations and an alleged murder-for-hire plot against longtime rival, Carole Baskin. It’s hard to say if any of this wouldn’t have happened if Rhyne had survived.

One thing is clear: it’s impossible to get all the important details of someone into seven hours of footage — especially when there are too many bizarre details to dissect.

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