Cookie Mueller grew up with her parents Frank Lennert Mueller and Anne Sawyer Mueller in the Baltimore suburbs in a house near the woods, a mental hospital and railroad tracks. She was nicknamed Cookie as a baby: "Somehow I got the name Cookie before I could walk. It didn't matter to me, they could call me whatever they wanted." During her childhood Cookie, along with her parents, brother Michael, and sister Judy, took road trips across the country:
"In 1959, with eyes the same size, I got to see some of America traveling in the old green Plymouth with my parents, who couldn't stand each other, and my brother and sister, who loved everyone. [Cookie's brother Michael actually died in an accident on March 20, 1955.] I remember the Erie Canal on a dismal day, the Maine coastline in a storm, Georgia willow trees in the rain, and the Luray Caverns in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where the stalagmites and -tites were poorly lit."
"Cookie and Vittorio's Wedding" (1986)
Mueller had many pets as a child, including many turtles (one named Fidel), a dog named Jip, snakes, and tadpoles. Cookie began to write at age 11, when she wrote a 321-page book about the Johnstown flood of 1889. She stapled it together, wrapped it in butcher paper and Saran wrap, and placed it on the shelves of a local library in what would have been its proper place. The book was never seen again.
With a swath of pivotal events in Mueller's life--including her brother's death at age 14, the result of climbing a dead tree, which collapsed on him in the woods near their home--she went on to pursue her writing, and in high school hung out with the hippie crowd. One of Mueller's idiosyncrasies as a teen was that she constantly dyed her hair: "Whenever you're depressed, just change your hair color," she [her mother] always told me, years later, when I was a teenager: I was never denied a bottle of hair bleach or dye. In my closet there weren't many clothes, but there were tons of bottles."
She took a small job at a Baltimore men's department store and saved up enough funds to head to Haight-Ashbury, where she continued the hippie lifestyle.
Mueller traveled across the country, living with groups of vagrants, and settled in places such as Provincetown, Massachusetts; British Columbia; San Francisco; Pennsylvania; Jamaica; and Italy. In 1969, Mueller first met film director John Waters at the premiere of his film Mondo Trasho. Mueller subsequently starred in Waters' films, including a major role as "Cookie the Spy" in Pink Flamingos. After her underground film status had faded, she moved to New York and put down stakes as a writer, journalist, and columnist.
In his book Shock Value, John Waters credits Mueller with the title for his 1974 film Female Trouble. When she was hospitalized for pelvic inflammatory disease in Provincetown, Waters and Mink Stole visited Mueller. "What happened, Cook?" Waters asked. "Just a little female trouble, hon," she replied.
From 1976 up until her death, she remained a close friend, artistic collaborator, and photographic subject of Nan Goldin. Goldin created and widely exhibited The Cookie Portfolio 1976-1989, a series of fifteen portraits, after Mueller's death. One photograph, "Cookie and Vittorio's Wedding" (1986), documents Mueller's wedding to Vittorio Scarpati, an Italian artist and jewelry designer from Naples who died of AIDS just seven weeks before Mueller.
Mueller wrote the health column "Ask Dr. Mueller" for the East Village Eye and later served as art critic for Details. Mueller's books, Ask Doctor Mueller (1996), a collection of her writings; Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black (1990), a memoir; and Garden of Ashes (Hanuman Books, 1990) are cult classics. Other works include the novella Fan Mail, Frank Letters and Crank Calls (Hanuman Books, 1988) and several collections of short prose.
Mueller died from AIDS-related causes on November 10, 1989 in New York City, aged 40. Her ashes are interred on the beach near Provincetown; in the flowerbed of the Church of St. Luke in the fields in Greenwich Village; alongside those of Vittorio and her dog Beauty in the Scarpati family crypt in Sorrento, Italy; under the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro; in the South Bronx; and in the holy waters of the Ganges River. She was survived by her son, Max Wolfe Mueller, who appeared in Pink Flamingos.
The last of Mueller's quotes, an elegy of her intent and existence, was written shortly before her death:
"Fortunately I am not the first person to tell you that you will never die. You simply lose your body. You will be the same except you won't have to worry about rent or mortgages or fashionable clothes. You will be released from sexual obsessions. You will not have drug addictions. You will not need alcohol. You will not have to worry about cellulite or cigarettes or cancer or AIDS or venereal disease. You will be free."
Filthy: The Weird World of John Waters by Robrt L. Pela
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books; 1 edition (June 1, 2002)
Amazon: Filthy: The Weird World of John Waters
To call John Waters a cultural icon is almost insulting. This is after all a man who's entire career has been dedicated to the explosion of mainstream culture. But nonethless, from his earliest films he has been the center of controversy, acclaim, revilement, and reverence. He is the director of the notorious Pink Flamingos (in which the 300 pound transvestite Divine snacks on poodle poop) and Female Trouble (in which Divine as a man--with really nasty skidmarks on his shorts--rapes himself as a woman) as well as the crossover smash Hairspray (which introduced Ricki Lake to the world) and Serial Mom (in which Kathleen Turner offed Patty Hearst with a white pump.) From the days when the press wouldn't return his phone calls to the present, promoting his new films on network morning shows, and giving commentary on NPR, CNN, TNT, and The Sundance Channel, Waters has consistently been the outrageous voice of avant garde cinema. Critic Robrt Pela, examines Waters's life and impact on our culture in this book which is both a biography of Waters, and a remarkable, often hilarious, always illuminating look at his films, their impact, and the not to be believed cult of Waters fans.
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