The “Tiger King” surprises just keep on coming.
Eagle-eyed fans of the Netflix docu-series have discovered that one of the animal handlers on the show, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, appeared onstage with Britney Spears during her memorable performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U” at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards.
In addition to dancing with a yellow Burmese python draped over her shoulders for the routine, Spears emerged from a rotating cage containing Antle and one of his tigers.
Antle discussed the experience in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone.
“She was a golden child for that,” he said of Spears. “She had to climb into a cage and dance with a big, adult tiger. Big adult tiger’s in there. It’s just an arms-width wide cage.”
The animal handler added that only an extra-fierce tiger could hold its own next to Spears.
“We’re in there, spinning around. Ten thousand people are screaming and dancing, and the tiger’s just Mr. Cool,” he said. “A tiger that’s Mr. Cool like that is a big, macho, male tiger that believes he owns the world already, and he lets you be in it.”
“Tiger King,” a seven-episode true-crime series (now streaming) explores the life of Joe Exotic (born Joseph Schreibvogel), a man with an affinity for big cats, blond mullets, guns and explosives. The show examines Exotic’s life at Oklahoma’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (referred to as the G.W. Zoo) and his hatred for Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. Exotic deemed Baskin a threat to his livelihood through her advocacy of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which aims to abolish ownership of big cats as pets and the practice of cub petting.
Spoiler alert for those still planning to watching the show: Exotic was arrested in 2018 and found guilty of 19 counts, including attempted murder for hire, killing five tigers and the selling of lion and tiger cubs. In January 2020, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
In “Tiger King,” Exotic cites Antle as one of his inspirations.
Contributing: Erin Jensen