Joe Exotic’s Friend Just Spilled The Tea About What You Didn’t See In ‘Tiger King’

Blink and you could miss his quick cameo in Netflix’s documentary Tiger King, but JP Wilson worked closely with Joseph Maldonado-Passage (a.k.a. Joe Exotic) for many years. These days, he’s a restaurant owner and magician performing for NBA halftime shows. Wilson previously toured with Joe’s show and worked with the GW Zoo, and he’s since stayed in touch with Joe via Facebook messages.

After watching the docuseries, he told Women’s Health, “nothing’s really surprised me. I’ve known Joe for a little over 16 years now and I’ve been at the park hundreds of times, donated to the park, donated equipment, supplies. Joe and his entire crew would come to my warehouse and office all the time.”

“As far as everything with Joe and Carole and that whole saga, it was definitely true to the story,” he says. ” I felt like the whole thing overall was a pretty good diagnosis of the entire story, everything that happened, and the way everything went down.”

ICYWW, yes, he totally knows how wild it all seems. “A lot of people were portrayed looking pretty crazy but I have to say, it’s pretty accurate depictions of the way everyone was,” says Wilson. “The documentary did a really good job of showing who Joe is right now.”

He’s pleased with how his appearance played out, as well. “I wanted to make sure that somebody was in it that had known Joe from the beginning and would actually tell the truth,” says Wilson. His interview took around three hours, but only a few minutes are in the first episode.

If you’re saying, what is he talking about? Peep the Tiger King trailer below for a preview:

Joe Exotic started out with ‘good intentions.’

The Tiger King documentary condensed years into a few hours, so not everything made the cut. Wilson says the documentary skipped over key points in Joe’s early years. “I don’t think the documentary truly showed the beginning of Joe, with so many great ideas and good intentions,” Wilson says. “In the beginning, Joe was definitely very different, in his demeanor and personality. He became more wild, more exotic over the years.” It also glossed over “how Joe ended up going down this path even to begin with.”

Soon after Wilson first met Joe around age 14 (he notes he was a bit older than the documentary says), they worked together on magic shows and toured to raise money for the zoo. “Joe in those times was so much more normal than he is today,” he says. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. But he was definitely more of a normal guy. He definitely wasn’t a polygamist or anything else.”

Joe’s main focus was helping the animals, at least in the beginning, according to Wilson. “Every animal in the park he had rescued from bad situations,” he says. “There were monkeys at the park that literally grew up in somebody’s closet.” Wilson says Joe would get a phone call and would head out to pick up the animals in need of rescue at a moment’s notice.

Joe Exotic needed money to fund his rescues.

That willingness to help didn’t come without its challenges, though. “I think that the park grew so much from all of the animals Joe was rescuing that he just truly didn’t have the funds to continue supporting it,” says Wilson. “He had to financially support it some way, and I think that’s what started his breeding process. He just had no choice and then it grew out of control. Now, you see where it led to today.”

Even when the zoo expanded to house hundreds of animals, Joe knew what each one needed by memory. “Joe could say, ‘He loves the strawberries, be sure to put those in there. You didn’t get enough peppers, but you have to put that in there,'” Wilson says. “He knew every animal’s diet, like the back of his hands.”

Wilson knew about some of the below-board dealings, as well. “I remember there were several prominent zoos around the country that would call Joe wanting to buy these tigers,” says Wilson. “Everybody from all over the country, came to buy them from Joe and, I just thought it was something zoos did. I never knew until I watched the documentary that buying a cub was illegal.”

One of the animals Joe helped was a lion who lived in his front yard. The lion lived peacefully with a few dachshunds, becoming something of a Youtube sensation on the Joe Exotic channel.

Joe was also active in the community.

Joe didn’t just lend a helping hand to animals in need, he was also active in the community. He offered jobs and meals to those less fortunate wherever he went, according to Wilson. “All through the time over all the years that I knew Joe, he’d always have a big Thanksgiving dinner,” says Wilson. “He’d invite everyone in and feed everyone. And if anyone needed anything, Joe would be there to help.” He would also do Make A Wish trips.

On the road, if they came across someone in need of a job, Joe would jump into action to help a random stranger. “The guy would literally hop on the semi-tractor, and he was now employed at the GW Zoo,” Wilson says. “Joe would give them a job, a place to live, food, and an opportunity to prove themselves. There’s a lot of people that he definitely helped get back on their feet.”

It’s these moments and memories that didn’t make it into Tiger King, and he wishes Netflix viewers could have seen the softer side of Joe Exotic. “I personally don’t believe Joe belongs in prison,” says Wilson. “I think he’s made mistakes along the way, and I think he understands that.”

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