Exactly 25 years ago today American actress, artist and activist Cookie Mueller died. Virtually unknown in this country, Cookie was one of director John Waters’ original ‘Dreamlanders’ – that eclectic cast of eccentric misfits who numbered Divine, Mink Stole and Susan Lowe – who populated his early cult films like Pink Flamingos (1972) and Desperate Living (1977). Born Dorothy Mueller in 1949, and raised in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, she was given the name ‘Cookie’ as a toddler and it stuck. With her Cleopatra eyes and ever-changing hair colour, Cookie was a rebel from the time she could walk. She pursued a hippy lifestyle as she grew older, travelling across America, Jamaica and Europe, and becoming a go-go dancer, before meeting Waters in 1969.
Cookie subsequently starred in four of Waters’ movies and several more for other filmmakers until she retired from acting 1983. She relocated to New York and established herself as a journalist and quirky columnist. Her addictive ‘Ask Doctor Mueller’ (1982-1984) column in East Village Eye magazine attained cult status and Cookie’s offbeat, witty (and often reckless) advice has since been collected in book form. Openly bisexual, she died of AIDS-related causes on 10 November 1989, aged 40, just seven weeks after her husband succumbed to the same disease. “She really was unconventional in the way she lived,” said her friend, the punk rock singer, Richard Hell, “and was totally uninhibited by anybody’s attitudes towards her.”
Just like Mary, Cookie has become something of a counter-culture icon, and I’ve always been fascinated by her extraordinary, unpredictable career. A wonderful new book about her astonishing life entitled Edgewise – A Picture of Cookie Mueller, has just been published. Written by Berlin-based author Chloe Griffin, it features candid interviews with 80 of Cookie’s friends, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.