Yup, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle — who is featured prominently in the jaw-dropping, seven-part docuseries that has captivated viewers this month — was the tiger handler during Spears’ iconic performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U.”
Spears, 38, opened the song inside a cage with Antle and the tiger, then stormed the stage to dance with a live python.
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 andMadness, 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.
Video: 'Tiger King' Subject Carole Baskin Slams Netflix Doc
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.
“Throwback to when @beyonce visited us! Feeding tiger cubs with the help of @docantle & Vali the Chimp,” the post was captioned.