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Here Kitty Kitty and More
If you’ve watched Tiger King, you know that some of the most memorable footage included in the documentary wasn’t captured by directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin and their crew, but by “Tiger King” Joseph Maldonado-Passage himself. Before his conviction for attempted murder for hire landed him a decades-long prison sentence, Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, spent his down time starring in his own online talk show and recording songs and their accompanying music videos. And while Maldonado-Passage may be in prison, many of his greatest hits remain immortalized on the internet.
The JoeExoticTV YouTube account, which boasts hundreds of videos and 68,000 followers, is still online, offering glimpses of Maldonado-Passage’s life at his G.W. Zoo, including everything from animal feedings, to videos of the presidential and gubernatorial candidate’s stump speeches, to archives of his lengthy live broadcasts, which have a thoroughly public access feel.
But when it comes to his artistic endeavors, “Here Kitty Kitty” is pretty hard to top. The 2015 song and music video was designed to needle Maldonado-Passage’s rival, big cat sanctuary owner Carole Baskin, who spearheaded an effort to put his zoo, which bred tiger cubs in order to charge the public for petting and playing with them, out of business.
Back in 1997, Baskin’s wealthy then-husband, Tampa businessman Don Lewis, disappeared mysteriously. In “Here Kitty Kitty,” Maldonado-Passage sings a country ballad that accuses Baskin of murdering her husband and feeding him to her cats. In the video, which finds Maldonado-Passage dressed like a priest for some inexplicable reason, he sings about Lewis’ disappearance while a Baskin look-alike mimes feeding model body parts to a caged lion.
If that’s a little dark and defamatory for you, Maldonado-Passage has got plenty of other songs. There’s also “I Saw a Tiger,” an inspirational ode to tiger love. Still, he makes time to complain about the haters, musing that “the law wants to ban me, can you tell me who’s wrong?” He later goes onto compare the killing of big cats—something he’d later be convicted of doing at his facility—to the Holocaust.
And there’s plenty more. In “Pretty Woman Lover,” Maldonado-Passage, a self-described “gay, gun-toting cowboy with a mullet,” sings of being irresistible to the ladies, while “How Was I to Know” is a tribute to his husband Travis Maldonado, who died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. The video is largely composed of clips of Travis riding ATVs. And that’s just scratching the surface of the Maldonado-Passage oeuvre. If Tiger King’s seven episodes left you hankering from more, there’s enough Joe Exotic content on YouTube that you could spend a good chunk of his prison sentence watching it all.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.