At the beginning of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, was in a three-way marriage to John Finlay and Travis Maldanado. However, he and Finlay parted ways in 2014 and in 2017, Maldanado passed away.
A few months later, Maldonado-Passage, now 57, met Dillon Passage.
“He would talk about Travis a lot and then he’d apologize to me and I’m like, ‘No, like there’s no need for you to apologize. You know, this is something that was very traumatic to you and Travis was very special, so I want you to be able to talk to me about how you feel,'” Passage, 24, told Us Weekly exclusively about the beginning of their relationship, noting he was always respectful to that.
However, his relationship with the former zoo owner was very different — mostly because it was just the two of them. Since Maldanado-Passage went to prison — he’s serving 22 years for animal abuse and a murder-for-hire plot to kill Carole Baskin — they’ve had conversations about opening up their marriage.
“He’s like, ‘I don’t want you to be alone. I know how hard it is.’ And I’m just like, ‘You know, I don’t need anybody to do that right now. I’m kind of focusing on me and what life has to throw at me,'” Passage told Us. “I’ve been through a lot. I’m only 24 years old. Nobody ever would have expected that this would happen or that, you know, my life would be this way. But he said, you know, ‘If you ever find somebody that is important to you and you think that you need to move on, I’d be OK with letting you do that.'”
Passage noted that even if he did find someone and moved on, he “wouldn’t just stop talking to Joe” altogether. “He’d still be a part of my daily life.”
The pair married in 2017, and while others raised eyebrows at their 33-year age difference, it never bothered Passage.
“I like older guys! Maybe I have daddy issues, who knows?” he said with a laugh. “Joe was just super down to Earth and he didn’t act like a 55-year-old [when we met]. He had the energy of a 25-year-old. He was fun to be around and that’s really all that mattered to me.”
With reporting by Brody Brown
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