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‘Tiger King’ Star Joe Exotic Actually Isn’t The Person Singing Those Bizarre Songs

We’re all handling this epic quarantine in different ways, but it’s clear we all have one thing in common: Everyone’s watching Tiger King, Netflix’s latest true crime doc-series spectacular. Twisty, wild, and weird, the show has made a viral star out of its own star: Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, the zoo owner-turned-presidential candidate-turned-prisoner, who’s currently serving a 22-year sentence for animal abuse and murder-for-hire. He’s also a musician! Strange music videos, featuring songs that are already being covered, are peppered through the show, featuring Joe’s own brand of country music, on the subject of cats. Alas, that’s one thing too strange to be totally true.

After some “light research,” Vanity Fair reporters concluded that the songs are performed by Vince Johnson and vocalist Danny Clinton — two struggling musicians hired by Joe to write some cat songs. They did it for free, because Joe told them it was for a TV show hungrily sought by Animal Planet, Discovery, and National Geographic. They recorded songs for him, assuming he’d re-record them himself. He did not.

“I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs,” Johnson told Vanity Fair by email. He continued:

“It was a couple of months and two or three songs [into the collaboration] when I was on YouTube one night and just happened to look up Joe Exotic. And there he was, lip-syncing and acting like the ghost of Elvis [in these music videos]. I called him up, I was hot…And he bamboozled me about his reality show—that it was coming soon and he would make everything right as rain. I just wanted the proper credit.”

The two went along with it for a while, hoping the music would at least make it to television. Instead it only went so far as Joe’s YouTube channel.

“When it finally ended, I told him they could have filmed Gone With the Wind for all I cared—let alone a crummy reality show starring a jerk-off con man kook,” Johnson added.

Johnson and Clinton’s songs were eventually heard by many, once Tiger King made it to Netflix. The two are listed in the film’s credits, but Joe himself wanted to keep his ruse under wraps. Rick Kirkham gave Vanity Fair the skinny:

“It was absolutely ridiculous … One time,” he said, “Joe got a little bit drunk and high, and we actually coaxed him into singing part of one of the songs. He couldn’t even hold a tune. It was just so ludicrous. It was a big joke within the crew and staff that it wasn’t him [singing in the videos]—but he was damned insistent to anyone and everyone, including us and my studio crew, that that was him.”

Anyway, weird world.

(Via Vanity Fair)