Best known by his stage name Joe Exotic, Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage has been labelled as one of the most prolific breeders of tigers in the United States. Netflix’s ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness‘ centers upon his life and how he lost the ownership of G.W. Zoo after being charged with 17 federal charges, including two counts of murder for hire for plotting to kill Big Cat Rescue CEO, Carole Baskin. The hit series also talks about three of his five marriages, but we have got you covered about the rest of them. Here is everything you need to know about all the partners of Joe Exotic and the interesting history he has with them!
Joe Exotic: Previous Relationships and Son
Joe Exotic had humble beginnings as a security guard at a gay cowboy bar in Texas called the Round-up Saloon. This is where he met his first husband, Brian Rhyne, who was merely 19 years of age at that time. The two shared amazing chemistry and even started to resemble each other with similar-looking mustaches. In 1999, Joe opened Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma with Brian. Unfortunately, his husband died of complications from HIV in 2001.
In 2002, Joe met Jeffrey Charles “J.C.” Hartpence, a 24-year-old event producer who supported Joe’s dream of starting his very own traveling tiger show. However, the two followed different routes professionally, and the separation was not mutual or uneventful. Only a year into their union, Joe reportedly threatened to feed J.C. off to his big cats. Later, J.C. put two guns on Joe’s head while he was asleep and tried to coerce Joe into letting him leave the zoo. After calming him down, the ‘Tiger King’ star called the police and got him arrested. J.C. is now serving life in prison for cases unrelated to Joe. He is a convicted pedophile and is also serving a sentence for first-degree murder.
Joe’s third husband, John Finlay, and his below the belt tattoo (now covered-up) “PRIVATELY OWNED BY JOE EXOTIC” make a cameo in the thrilling murder docuseries. When Travis Michael Maldonado entered Joe’s life in 2013, the zookeeper was already romantically involved with Finlay. Soon, the trio began a polygamous relationship, and in early-2014, Joe wed Finlay and Travis in an unofficial three-way ceremony. But the Joe’s domineering nature got too much for Finlay, so he decided to call it quits. Finlay eventually began dating a woman and had a child with her.
Joe’s second partner from the trio, Travis, was in a committed relationship with Joe Exotic throughout his life which he accidentally ended in 2017. Standing at the zoo’s gift shop, Maldonado killed himself with a bullet from his gun during a childish whim to prove that his Ruger pistol would not fire without the magazine. Joe had grown sincerely fond of him and misses him to date. But this does not mean he did not move on in his life. In addition to forming homosexual relationships, he also fathered a son, Brandon Chappell, with his girlfriend, Kim.
Joe Exotic’s Husband
Joe’s constant need for a companion led him to his current husband, Dillon Passage, through a dating app. The duo got married on December 11, 2017, i.e., within two months of Travis’ demise. In 2019, Joe was sentenced to 22 years of federal prison, after which his husband has given a couple of interviews to tell the world about their story. He currently resides in Florida, where the pair had moved together to enjoy their marital bliss.
The two got married after knowing each other for only two weeks as Joe helped him come out of a dark place and gradually fell for him while pulling him out of depression and helping him heal. Dillon appreciated his honest effort and began to adore Joe’s caring heart and, most importantly, his love of animals. He is only in his 20s but has made the selfless choice of staying married to Joe despite the latter being behind bars for an unforeseen future.
That being said, Joe does not want or expect his husband to wait for him, and he would even support his decision to be with someone else to fill the empty void left because of his absence. At the moment, Dillon cannot bring himself to imagine anyone other than his husband and is whole-heartedly sticking by his side through this difficult time.
Read More: All Tiger King Characters, Explained