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Where John Finlay From ‘Tiger King’ is Now
In Netflix’s surreal new docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, there’s no shortage of surreal characters and storylines. Over the course of seven episodes, there are murder allegations, an assassination plot, a tiger mauling, a presidential run, and polygamous marriages. And that’s an abbreviated list. Most of this revolves around a man named Joe Exotic who purported to have the largest collection of large cats in America. Within that orbit is a man named John Finlay, who Joe met and married in the 2000s.
Finlay’s marriage to Joe Exotic is one of the main narratives of the bizarre documentary. Though his union to the tiger zoo owner ended in 2014, their marriage is a wild addition in a collection of truly unusual tales. But since the docuseries has premiered, Finlay has alleged that Netflix and the documentarian chose what to include and discard about his part of the Joe Exotic story, which began in 2003.
The Story of John Finlay and Joe Exotic
According to the documentary, Finlay and Joe Exotic met just after Finlay graduated from high school in 2003. Exotic, who had already been in two long-term relationships before Finlay hired the then 19-year-old Finlay as an employee on the Greater Wynnewood (GW) Exotic Animal Park. At the time, Exotic’s relationship with a man named J.C. Hartpence was falling apart, according to Texas Monthly.
Within a month of being hired, Finlay had moved in with Exotic. The two remained in a relationship for nearly a decade. Finlay got a tattoo above his groin that said “Private Property of Joe Exotic.” During that time, the couple had toyed with the idea of opening up their relationship, officially doing so in 2013 when the pair entered into a throuple with Travis Maldonado, a 19-year-old from California. According to a piece from New York Magazine, the throuple allegedly also briefly had a fourth member named Paul.
John’s Involvement In the GW Zoo
During their relationship, Joe made a habit of “showering” his husbands with gifts. In the documentary, Finlay explains that Joe purchased him a number of trucks during their marriage. During their marriage, Finlay took over as president of the GW Zoo, and, as he says in the documentary, was embroiled in a number of lawsuits filed by Carole Baskin, an animal sanctuary owner and figure also heavily featured in Tiger King.
Later in the marriage, Finlay explains that he had participated in a fair amount of meth use. In that time he says that he got pretty “fucked up in the head” and suggests that he still suffers a bit from the meth use. As his relationship with Exotic began to deteriorate, allegations that Exotic was planning a hit on Carole Baskin came to light, though when asked about it in the documentary, Finlay only said, “I just took it as jokes.”
When It Fell Apart
Soon after the 2013 marriage, Finlay and Exotic’s relationship began to fall apart. According to the 2019 Texas Monthly profile, Finlay began to feel that Exotic was becoming “manipulative and controlling.” That all led to an alleged physical altercation in August of 2014, when Finlay attacked Exotic in the parking lot of the GW Park. While Texas Monthly reports that Finlay was charged with assault and battery, Oxygen reached out to the Garvin County Sheriff’s office who denied that Finlay was charged.
One of the more surprising parts of the documentary is that as it turned out, Finally wasn’t actually gay. In fact, Finlay was sleeping with a number of women in the park. Eventually, he impregnated one of the women and eventually left the park for good. According to Texas Monthly, Finlay briefly reentered Exotic’s life after Travis Maldonado died of suicide. Though the two were estranged, Finlay was still local, working at a local bar. He allegedly comforted Exotic in the difficult time.
Where John Is Now
In the 2019 profile, Finlay was said to be living in a Motel 6. Since leaving the GW Park, he has found work as a welder. Though he spoke kindly of Exotic through most of the documentary, he makes it clear in Tiger King that he and Exotic are not on good terms.
Finlay has created a Facebook fan page following the release of Tiger King, alleging that much of the information in the documentary is skewed and inaccurate. He is not alone in those claims—both Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic have publicly expressed dismay at how the documentary approaches a number of topics in the series. According to the Facebook fan page, Finlay writes, “Yes I have my teeth fixed. The producers of the Netflix series had video and pictures of this, but chose not to show it. It’s all about the ratings for them, not the people they hurt.”
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.