Big cats and an even bigger love life.
Tiger King breakout star Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, detailed his wild past romances with ex Brian Rhyne, former husband Travis Maldonado, and lovers JC Hartpence and John Finlay during the first season of the megahit Netflix docuseries, as well as at the time current marriage to Dillon Passage (the two later separated in spring 2021).
Now that Tiger King 2 has launched, fans are getting more of a view into Exotic’s past — including his romance with ex-fiancée Kimberly Craft, whom he first met Kimberly at age 19 when he was serving as the youngest chief of police in Texas.
“He had a magnet that said ‘police’ that he put on the side of his squad car,” Craft explains in the first episode of Season 2. “He was very good looking and he ended up asking me out on a date, so we started dating.”
She continues, “Joe and I dated for quite a while, I was at a point in my life where I had two children and no husband. My ex-husband beat me on a regular basis. Joe was the one who got the warrant for his arrest.”
Before the two had consummated the relationship, Exotic proposed to the single mother on Christmas Day. “It really made me feel special that Joe was a gentleman and wanted to wait to have sex,” Craft shares. “I will admit, I’m naive, OK? So I guess when someone says something like that you really want to believe it.”
Soon after Exotic popped the question, Craft heard rumors that her fiancée had been visiting local gay bars at night. “Everybody had been telling me he was gay, I didn’t want to believe it but he was,” she admits. “After I found out, he and I broke off the engagement.”
At the same time, Craft realized that Exotic was “stripping for the mayor and all her friends,” which Exotic still maintains was to raise funds for a new fire truck. “Later in life, I found that kind of hilarious,” Craft laughs. “It was pretty funny, but I never looked at the bigger picture with Joe.”
From a jail cell, as the former big cat breeder serves his 22-year prison sentence for attempting to hire someone to murder rival Carole Baskin, Exotic jokes that his relationship with Craft is a jaw-dropping story in itself.
“I was dating the fire chief’s daughter and lived with her for several years,” he quips. “Never had sex one time.”
Tiger King, Season 2, Now Streaming, Netflix