The bionic star of the Netflix hit never sued the "friends" that left him paralyzed... even after they won the lottery.
John Reinke is loyal – literally – to a fault.
The "Tiger King" star has revealed that he never took a lawsuit against the company that cost him his legs because "they were his friends".
In a candid chat with TooFab, the former GW Zoo Manager confirmed that he never got a penny from the business... even after the owners won $16million in the lottery a few years later.
Long before he was a tiger handler at Oklahoma's most famous animal park, Reinke was a professional bungee jumper, who was helping a company set up a new zip line attraction that was to travel around fairs.
"We were getting it ready and testing it out, and the pulley failed and I fell 50 feet," he recalled. "Broke my back, my hip, shattered my feet. I was paralyzed for a couple of years."
"Realized I didn't want no part in a wheelchair, so I learned how to walk... and I shouldn't have been walking. Anyways, I ended up with bone infection and that's how ultimately I lost my feet."
Despite his horrific injuries, and the years spent re-learning to walk on two prosthetic legs, he never sued.
"Nah, I just got screwed over. It's just one of those things," he smiled. "Back then you didn't sue your friends, you know, and they were friends of mine. They said they'd take care of me... and anyways, I'm alright. I take care of myself."
They never did take care of him.
"I don't see em. I don't even think they even know I exist any more," he sighed, confirming that the statute of limitations is now well passed.
"Oh yeah. That happened back in '94. Can't do anything about it. That story's even crazier; they won the Texas lottery. They won like $16million or something."
Still loyal to a fault, without ever stopping his smile, John refused to name those responsible.
Loyalty to Joe Exotic was something that was heavily tested in Tiger King; as Reinke admits: "right there towards the end, everybody turned on everybody. They just kind of rolled over."
He said some of those who testified against him were still working for rival Jeff Lowe, and it was "his way or the highway."
As for Reinke, he still considers Joe a friend, although he does not agree with everything he did.
"He's not where he should be. He shouldn't be in there for 22 years. He did do some stuff wrong, but I think he's done enough time."
Joe, of course, is currently serving said sentence for a supposed murder-for-hire plot to kill mortal enemy Carole Baskin. Reinke insists he never would have went that far.
"I was part of Joe's life for 14 years, I worked with him side by side every day," he said, insisting Joe was "provoked" and "had his words turned round" to secure the conviction.
Even if he was going to hire an assassin — why would he hire the hated right hand man of the guy who usurped his zoo?
Reinke revealed that he hasn't spoken to Joe since his incarceration — and it's for his own good.
"Simply because I know Joe, and Joe can't shut up," he said. "Everything in jail is recorded and they can use it against him, so I won't talk to him because he doesn't know how to just stop."
In fact he hasn't spoke to anyone from the show since it aired — except briefly to Joe's ex-husband John Finlay.
In the wake of the jaw-dropping doc, some of its stars alleged the concept had been mis-sold to them, which appeared to explain, in part at least, how the makers got such unfiltered access to its motley cast.
But not so, says Reinke, who concurs with the general consensus he was the "most normal one".
"They didn't trick me," he insisted. "I think (the rest of the cast) knew what was going on."
"Everybody was spot on in the show, I thought. Nobody was misrepresented in any way."
The only person who was any different in real life was Joe Exotic, who he claims was actually toned down for the doc. "'cause he's pretty flamboyant," he chuckled.
As for the as-yet-unanswered plot points in the series, John has some ideas.
The fire, he is still convinced was started by Rick Kirkman himself; in the wreckage, he says, a safe was missing. "That footage is out there somewhere."
And Carole Baskin's missing husband? "You know, she's the one who brought up sardine oil," he laughed. "I'm pretty sure he's in a tiger somewhere."
Despite the massive success of the show, Reinke revealed he made pretty much no money out of it.
"I filmed that thing for five or six years, and didn't make biscuits out of that," he said. "Netflix made all the money on that."
Does that make him sore?
"Not really, but I have heard that some people made money on it, and that kind of irritates me a little bit. But I've not tried to make money at all through this... until now."
And so we come to Reinke's feature debut: "Barbie & Kendra Save the Tiger King":
Somehow, the concept of the project manages to out-crazy its source material.
In a nutshell, two girls — Barbie & Kendra — fall in love with Joe Exotic and go on a mission to free him from jail, in a mockumentary that also documents how Joe was captured by a tribe as a child after a plane crash in the jungle (young Joe Exotic is perfectly voiced by Will & Grace's greatest asset, Leslie Jordan).
The trailer sort of has to be seen to be believed.
"It's what we need right now during COVID," Reinke chuckled. "Everyone needs a laugh."
He hopes that elusive big paycheck may finally come when the inevitable Tiger King movie gets made; while he's not yet sold on Nicholas Cage playing Joe Exotic, he hasn't given up on his dream of Matthew McConaughey playing John Reinke.
"Barbie & Kendra Save the Tiger King" premieres online at Full Moon Features on Friday May 15 at 8am ET.
Check out the TooFab exclusive clip of John in action below!