culture

Wait, Was the Tiger King Cast at the 2001 VMAs?

Photo: Getty Images, Netflix

Tiger King has been a hot topic for many of us who have been spending more time indoors these past few weeks. The Netflix docu-series follows the lives and antics of several colorful, big cat–loving characters, and if you haven’t seen it, just know it earns its tagline: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness.

And just when we thought this series couldn’t get any more baffling, it seems that several of its characters may have been present at a very important VMAs performance. The performance in question is Britney Spears’s iconic 2001 show, in which she famously strutted across the stage wearing a banana python as a scarf.

The medley, which was vaguely jungle-themed, began with Spears singing from a cage with a live tiger and its beefy-looking trainer. And it turns out that the trainer, who was previously unidentified, was none other than Bhagavan “Doc” Antle:

In a cast of morally reprehensible characters, Doc Antle is definitely up there among the worst. A zookeeper and polygamist, he pays a group of women — some of whom are referred to as wives, sexual partners, or “long-time girlfriend partners” — $100 a week to run his wildlife preserve in South Carolina. It’s ostensibly a cult, although Antle only uses that word jokingly; in a now-deleted Instagram post, he his portrayal in the documentary.

And on Twitter, some people speculated that Doc Antle may not have been the only Tiger King cast member to make an appearance at the VMAs that night. In another photo of Spears from the same evening, she is flanked by a woman who bears some resemblance to a second Tiger King character, Carole Baskin:

Baskin is an animal-rights advocate who is known for the suspicious disappearance of her millionaire husband, a man 22 years her senior who vanished without a trace in the ’90s (she denies any involvement or wrongdoing in the show). It’s not clear whether the woman in the photo is actually Baskin, although she definitely owns several similar tops. Plus, Baskin and Doc Antle are mortal enemies, so it seems unlikely that they were hanging out at the VMAs. That said, almost anything is possible in the Tiger King universe.

Wait, Was the Tiger King Cast at the 2001 VMAs?