“We were getting tattoos in Flint, Michigan, and I sat for nine-and-a-half hours,” John Finlay says about the prominent crocodile tattoo on his shoulder. “I was so sore and I had to do a magic show at the mall. I was one of the assistants Joe [Exotic] had, so I had to crawl in a little tiny space with me already hurting from the tattoo. And yeah, I got stepped on quite a bit while I was in there.”
Considering how incredible much of Finlay’s life has been, dealing with a tiger treading on a fresh tattoo seems par for the course. Before March 20, 2020, few people outside of his immediate social circle knew much about Finlay. Then “Tiger King” premiered on Netflix and everything changed at lightning speed.
In the first 10 days, nearly 35 million people immersed themselves in the strange world of Joe Exotic; the eccentric cast of characters riveted viewers. As he sat shirtless in an easy chair telling tales of his married life with Exotic, Finlay was especially captivating. His tattoos, his toothless grin, his Oklahoman drawl—there is so much about him to love. The narrative is so enthralling that it’s easy to forget Finlay isn’t a character in a scripted drama. He’s a real person who had his entire life thrown into disarray when he became a household name.
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The Summer Issue