Life after being a Netflix phenomenon

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Rick Kirkham, one of the protagonists of the documentary series revelation of the year, ‘Tiger King’, has fled the United States to forget about Joe Exotic and settle north of the Arctic Circle

Joe Exotic, the folkloric ex-owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (GW Zoo), located in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, persistently pursued success his entire life. Now he is one of the great characters of the year and he cannot enjoy it. He was already in jail when Netflix released the documentary that sees him as the protagonist, Tiger King, the first great triumph of confinement television, the tale of the cruel world of America’s private zoos (and their cruel owners). The phenomenon of the documentary was such that Amazon Prime Video has announced that Nicholas Cage will play Joe in a series based on his bizarre life. Joe’s staunch enemy Carole Baskin, whom he tried to kill for hire, is one of the stars of the new season of Dancing With the Stars in the US and a little further away there is another person totally changed by that program.

Rick Kirkham (Oklahoma City, 62 years old) wanted to leave behind the nightmare lived at the GW Zoo. He couldn’t go any further: he chose Bodø, a city of 46,000 inhabitants in Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. He was the producer of the program that Exotic aired on the Internet, about him and his zoo, but he never thought that the king of tigers was “so cruel.” When he realized it it was too late. The material he had stored detailed the dark exotic animal trade from the US It could be sold to the highest bidder. A fire took him forever.

Kirkham, who had risen to fame as a reporter for the show Inside Edition in the nineties, he knelt down and cried desperately He collected his belongings, fled the zoo after a year of “sweat and blood” and returned home. The FBI concluded that it was Exotic himself who decided to set fire to the studio. “I had lost my soul and my integrity as a journalist, because I stayed when I should have left after seeing what I have seen. However, he knew that he had a great show. I feel guilty, “Kirkham admits today to this newspaper in a video call.

Six months later, another fire destroyed his home. A dog woke him up when the flames approached him and allowed him to leave his room in time. It was never made clear whose fault it was: perhaps the revenge of his boss, or the mistake of his junkie roommate. The event ended up morally sinking him.

A telematic love story, with a Norwegian woman named Kristin, saved him. She first wrote to him when Kirkham released TV Junkie (2006), an autobiographical documentary – awarded at the Sundance Festival – about his addiction to crack. Kristin felt very close to her suffering because her son had also fallen into drug addiction. The reporter ended up catching a flight to permanently move to Bodø and marry her as soon as he got off the plane.

“When I was at the zoo, I would talk to her all the time and send her videos of me holding a tiger or talking to a monkey. She told me to come and I left. I got an early pension and now I’ve been here for three years ”, he says. Collaborate with a local newspaper, Bodø Nu, although only when he wants, because he is retired. Since it came out Tiger King, there is no one there who does not know him.

He is writing his autobiography. During the summer they enjoy vacations, which she also documents with her camera, although this year she has spent most of her time allowing herself to be interviewed.

From time to time he continues to suffer the ravages of his relationship with Exotic, towards whom he feels a lot of resentment: “Prison is where he has to be. Even without the accusation of attempted murder against Carole Baskin, for the treatment she reserved for animals and people, she deserves 22 years in jail, ”he says. According to him, Netflix “is not even close to the cruelty of Joe.” There is one memory in particular that he considers the worst of all: “A woman asked Joe to take care of her horse. They hugged and cried together. He promised that he would have a place at the zoo and live a happy life. But when the woman left, Joe took his revolver and shot the animal between the eyes. Two men with chainsaws opened it and in half an hour they had fed it to the lions and tigers, ”he says. All this is now a distant memory.

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