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‘Tiger King’ documentary cast member coming to Erwin

G.W. Zoo Manger John Reinke, right, stands next Joe Exotic. Reinke, who stars with Exotic in Netflix’s docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” will be at Union Street Taproom, in Erwin, on Oct. 4. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

G.W. Zoo Manager John Reinke, a key figure in the popular Netflix show, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” is heading to Union Street Taproom on Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. and tickets are available now.

For those that may have missed the hit docuseries, Netflix describes “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” as a story of a zoo owner that spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.

Reinke recently spoke to The Erwin Record ahead of his visit to Unicoi County.

“I have never been to Erwin. I know it’s beautiful up there around October,” Reinke said. “I’m a redneck and am excited to get together with some down to earth, laid back people. I’m really looking forward to seeing the mountains and trees. I’m from Texas, we don’t have that.”

According to Reinke, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” potrayed all of the characters involved in a true to life way, except for one.

“Everything in that show was spot on – all of the people in that show that said they were portrayed wrong, they weren’t,” Reinke said. “They did downplay Joe (Exotic) a little bit; he’s a little more flamboyant than that.”

Reinke said he came to work at the G.W. Zoo after a chance visit there.

“I had just taken my family on vacation and we happened to stop by a drive-through animal park 20 miles north of G.W. Zoo and we saw the advertisement for the zoo,” Reinke said. “We stopped by there, and I fell in love with a grizzly bear that they had there and I just asked what they needed and what I could do. They needed volunteers and the bear needed a water tank, so we bought him a water tank and the next weekend I came back and one weekend turned into 14 years.”

For Reinke, working with the animals makes all of the craziness worth it.

“There is nothing more fulfilling than getting up in the morning and spending time with these animals, especially a lion,” Reinke said. “It’s not every day that you get to spend time with a lion. There is not a college out there that can teach me what I’ve learned working at that zoo.”

According to Union Street Taproom Owner Tara Baker, having Reinke come to Erwin is a great get for the county.

“We couldn’t be happier to have someone from this show come to Unicoi County, let alone our taproom,” Baker said.

Promoter Alvin Casey, who has hosted many stars over the years, is excited to bring Reinke to Erwin. “

This guy is just like us,” Casey said. “(Reinke) is a dirt track racer and is excited to visit here,” Casey said. “This event is more than just a meet and greet and photo op. He will be hanging out with everybody, sharing stories and just hanging out. He is really down to earth and does not have an ego.”

For just $35, you get a one-of-a-kind experience as well as many parting gifts.

“(Reinke) will be here all night hanging out, making the rounds,” Casey said. “For $35 you get a meet and greet with Reinke, an autographed photo, sardine oil (hand sanitizer) that you can get signed by Reinke, and a beer token. We will also be giving away special hats signed by Reinke. It is going to be a great time.”

According to Reinke, Oct. 4 at the Union Street Taproom will be a very special time.

“With COVID and everything that has happened, this is the time to get back out there and have a good time and meet with friends,” Reinke said. “Let’s get out and have a good time with friends.”

The Oct. 4 event coincides with a huge milestone for the Union Street Taproom.

“We opened during the Apple Festival in 2018 and that was a phenomenal weekend,” Baker said. “We’ve had several highlights over the past two years such as the 2019 Apple Festival, the countless live performances held in the taproom, and our newest addition – monthly karaoke. We are overwhelmed by the support that this community and visitors have shown us. We love being a part of the ever-growing downtown community.”

According to Baker, Union Street Taproom has several other events on the horizon.

“Other events that we have coming up are our 2nd Anniversary Party on Oct. 2, karaoke on Oct. 24, and an Election Return Party on Nov 3.

Tickets can be purchased at the taproom during business hours as well online via the Facebook event page. Union Street Taproom is open Tuesday-Saturday starting at 5 p.m.