Bhagavan "Doc" Antle is featured prominently in the new docuseries

By Aurelie Corinthios
March 30, 2020 01:05 PM
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Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

What does Britney Spears have in common with one of the stars of Netflix’s Tiger King? They were both on stage during the pop star’s iconic show at the 2001 VMAs.

Yup, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle — who is featured prominently in the jaw-dropping, seven-part docuseries that has captivated viewers this month — was the animal handler during Spears’ performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U.”

Spears, 38, opened the song inside a cage with Antle and the liger (a hybrid of a tiger mother and lion father), then stormed the stage to dance with a live python.

Credit: Kevin Kane/WireImage
Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

You can catch a glimpse of Antle in the video below — he appears around the 0:23 mark.

Antle runs The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, T.I.G.E.R.S., in South Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. According to the Myrtle Beach Safari website, he also worked as an animal handler on movies including Ace Ventura, Dr. Doolittle, Mighty Joe Young and The Jungle Book.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which hit Netflix on March 20, dives into the long-standing, increasingly bitter rivalry between Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, the now-imprisoned founder of an exotic animal park in Oklahoma, and Carole Baskin, an animal activist and big-cat lover who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Florida.

The show also explores Antle’s relationship as a mentor to Joe Exotic. Antle has been called out by Baskin and PETA for exploiting animals, with Baskin alleging in the series that Antle is the most notorious big-cat cub breeder. Antle also made waves in the documentary for having multiple girlfriends, whom others called his “wives.”

He denied being a polygamist to Oxygen.com. “Sure I’ve had girlfriends and there’s girls I have had relationships with that have come and gone over the decades,” he said. “I am absolutely not married nor have I been since my wife died over 20 years ago now. I’m not married and I certainly don’t have wives. I certainly am a single guy and I live in a house by myself.”

In Tiger King, an ex-employee named Barbara Fisher alleged that Antle ran his business like a cult, expecting sexual favors from the under-paid, over-worked, mostly female staff and forcing her to get breast augmentation. Antle denied this to Oxygen.com, saying, “The cultiest thing about us is that I totally believe that yoga has helped me stay limber and strong and made my life a better thing.”

He added of Fisher: “This is the ramblings of a crazy child who has a lot of, in my opinion, issues and somehow those have boiled up.”

Antle also released a statement about the series on Facebook, saying his facility is “very disappointed” to have been featured and calling the film “sensationalized entertainment.”

“Tiger King is the bizarre story of Joe and Carole and their feud. These characters are not representative of experts in the wildlife sector or world class facilities like ours here in Myrtle Beach,” he said.

Spears isn’t the only celebrity to have been associated with Antle; a slideshow posted on Instagram last year documented Beyoncé‘s visit to his facility.

“Throwback to when @beyonce visited us! Feeding tiger cubs with the help of @docantle & Vali the Chimp,” the post was captioned.