‘Tiger King’: How Many Times Has Joe Exotic Been Married?
There are plenty of wild documentaries on Netflix, but few offer an inside look into the world of private zoos and big cat owners. Tiger King follows the life and business of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic.
Maldonado-Passage owned the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, and the documentary follows his business practices, adoration for tigers, and hatred for Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin. The documentary also goes into Maldonado-Passage’s personal relationships with his husbands, many of whom viewers see in the footage. So, how many times has Maldonado-Passage been married? Here’s what we know.
[Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s Tiger King.]
‘Tiger King’ follows Joe Exotic’s relationship with John Finlay
Maldonado-Passage had multiple husbands, and the first viewers meet in Tiger King is John Finlay. Women’s Health notes Finlay was hired to help with the zoo at just 19 years old back in 2003. He later married Maldonado-Passage during a three-way ceremony with Travis Maldonado.
Finlay describes Maldonado-Passage’s true essence throughout Tiger King. He notes Maldonado-Passage is controlling in nature — and he decides to leave the relationship and pursue romance with women afterward.
“Nothing was ever the same. Nothing was ever quiet, nobody ever was the same every day,” Finlay told Entertainment Tonight about life on the zoo. “Something was always off about some people or something was just not right. When you’re around the animals like that and the atmosphere changes, you tend to notice a lot more.”
Finlay doesn’t love the way he was portrayed in Tiger King, too. He’s shown shirtless with a grin that’s missing many teeth. While his decision to stay shirtless was allegedly his choice, he eventually got his teeth fixed, though the documentary chose not to show this. He also told Entertainment Tonight that they made him “look like a drugged-out hillbilly” and that producers “they never showed the new and improved me.”
The Netflix series detailed the death of Joe Exotic’s husband, Travis Maldonado
Aside from Finlay, there was another relationship that viewers saw — and that was Maldonado-Passage’s relationship with Travis Maldonado.
Maldonado was just 19 years old when he wed Maldonado-Passage, and like Finlay, he also worked on the zoo property, Mirror.co.uk notes. He had an addiction to meth that was documented heavily in Tiger King. The documentary also notes that Maldonado wasn’t gay when he first met Maldonado-Passage, but Maldonado-Passage also knew this. Nevertheless, Maldonado stuck by his husband’s side, though he did express dissatisfaction in the relationship.
Unfortunately, those who’ve seen Tiger King know Maldonado died by an accidental suicide while in the zoo gift shop. On Oct. 6, 2017, Maldonado was allegedly messing with a Ruger pistol that had the magazine removed. He noted that the pistol wouldn’t shoot without the magazine, so he put it to his head to prove it. But the pistol did shoot, resulting in his death.
How many times has the ‘Tiger King’ been married?
While Finlay and Maldonado were heavily focused on in the docuseries, Maldonado-Passage was actually married five times total, Women’s Health notes. Maldonado-Passage was first married in the 1980s to a man named Brian Rhyne who was also just 19 at the time. But Rhyne died by HIV complications in 2001.
Maldonado-Passage’s second husband was 24-year-old Jeffrey Charles “J.C.” Hartpence who helped create the traveling tiger and magic show. Hartpence is now serving life in prison.
It looks like Maldonado-Passage is still with Dillon Passage, though. Viewers met Passage toward the end of Tiger King. The two wed just two months after Maldonado’s death after only dating for about two weeks.
“I do love Joe, he’s been there for me through my darkest times and I’m not just going to dip out and abandon him when he needs me most,” Passage told Andy Cohen during an interview, E! News notes.
“I am very loyal to Joe,” Passage added. “He doesn’t want me to be alone, you know. But he also doesn’t want me to move on, if that makes sense. He doesn’t want me to leave, that’s his thing. But I’ve assured him that I’m not.”
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