Meet Tiger King Director Eric Goode, a Turtle Conservationist and New York Night-Life Mogul
Eric Goode built several popular establishments in downtown Manhattan — and reportedly used to date Naomi Campbell
Tiger King, the latest true crime sensation aptly subtitled Murder, Mayhem and Madness, is about as engrossing a docuseries as they come.
The seven-part series about rival exotic cat businesses — which culminates in an alleged murder-for-hire plot — premiered on Netflix on March 20. It has captivated viewers, understandably so given the mind-boggling nature of its twists and turns.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the man behind the camera is just as interesting. Eric Goode, who directed and wrote the series with Rebecca Chaiklin, is an entrepreneur and conservationist with a fascinating background.
He’s a New York night-life impresario.
Goode, 62, has built a number of trendy and well-known hotels in downtown Manhattan, including the Bowery, the Maritime and the Jane, as well as popular restaurants such as B Bar and Grill and the Waverly Inn.
He was also one of the creators of Area, a hugely notable but short-lived art gallery/nightclub from the 1980s. Goode founded the club with his brother and two friends. Its theme would change every six months, featuring work from renowned artists like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Hockney.
Inside, according to Paper magazine, there “was an enormous aquarium with live sharks, and a coed bathroom that soon became a VIP room without a velvet rope or guest list.”
According to a New York Times article from 2006, “Area suggested a brilliant future, where night life and art would merge. And they did, for a moment, with reckless abandon.”
He’s no stranger to the celebrity world, clearly.
He’s also friends with Candace Bushnell, whose “Sex and the City” column in the New York Observer inspired the hugely popular HBO series of the same name. Goode’s restaurant the Bowery Bar was often featured in Bushnell’s columns.
“If I had to characterize who was there, I’d say everybody,” Goode told the New York Times in 2018 of the establishment at that time. “Because it was the place of the moment. It was Russell Simmons at one booth, Naomi Campbell at another, Ian Schrager at another. And Candace was part of that posse with Jay McInerney and Morgan [Entrekin].”
And he really loves turtles.
Goode is the founder of the Turtle Conservancy, a global conservation organization whose mission is to preserve and protect natural ecosystems, focusing on turtles and tortoises and their habitats. In 2005, he created a five-acre conservation center and retreat in Ojai, California, devoted to the care and breeding of the endangered animals.
He’s also the publisher and co-editor of The Tortoise magazine, an annual conservation publication. Oh, and he created the Turtle Ball, an annual fundraising event that aims to shine a light on the global turtle extinction crisis.
“I guess you could say I’m a closeted animal person, because a lot of my life I did it in secrecy,” he recently told the Los Angeles Times. “I was always fascinated with exotic animals, particularly reptiles, from the age of 6 when I got a pet tortoise.”
As for whether he anticipated the success of Tiger King?
“It underscores that reality is stranger than fiction,” he said. “We have a captive audience watching captive cats. I’m the last person to talk to about statistics and ratings. Obviously, I’m happy that people are seeing it. We worked on it for a very long time, and it’s very rewarding.”