Restaurant owner transforms into Joe Exotic to raise money for employees

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Photo: Netflix

It’s no secret that the novel coronavirus is a gut-punch to the food and drink industry. The mass closures of restaurants and bars (most temporary, for now) have led to donation drives all over the states, free meals for out-of-work cooks and servers, and innovative delivery solutions like Boober. And one restaurateur in Indianapolis has launched a fundraiser that is catching everyone’s eye. Jake Burgess, owner of the FoxGardin restaurants in suburban Indianapolis, has transformed into Joe Exotic in an effort to put cash in his employees’ hands.

If you haven’t been online in the past ten days—who are you, and how do I steal your life?—Joe Exotic is the lead character in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Joe Exotic, alias Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, née Schreibvogel, is a gay Oklahoman polygamist with a bleached blond mullet, an erstwhile meth problem, 17 convicted federal charges, and, oh yeah, dozens of (abused) big cats. Burgess has transformed into Exotic hopefully in haircut only, but man, it’s still a look. Here’s a look at him getting the ’do:


Like so many restaurant owners, this month Burgess was faced with the terrible task of telling his 147 employees they’d be out of work, at least for the time being. (Though one restaurant, FoxGardin in Fortville, is now doing takeout orders.) In a livestream, Burgess asked customers to make donations or buy gift cards to keep workers paid. As a carrot, he said if the stream got more than 1,000 views, he’d transform into Joe Exotic—he got 3,400 views. And the cash-grab worked. According to IndyStar, since the Saturday night chop, Burgess has so far raised $3,500 to be split among his employees. If you respect Burgess’ willingness to get that haircut for his workers, you can still donate: he’s @FoxGardin on Venmo.

Now that Burgess has the Joe shag, I really, really wouldn’t want to be his nemesis.