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The Time John Waters’s Girls Escaped a Kidnapping

In this excerpt of <i>Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller</i>, two men abduct three actresses who have starred in several of John Waters's classic movies.

Mink Stole and Susan Lowe, 1969. Photo courtesy of Susan Lowe

Excerpted from Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller, which was published in September by Bbooks Verlag. The Cookie Mueller quotes were taken from the book Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black

Cookie Mueller: “They were just three sluts looking for sex on the highway,” the two abductors and rapists said later when asked to describe us. This wasn’t the way we saw it.

Mink Stole: Yes, it must have been 1969. You know the story. Well, my version’s probably different. In Cookie’s story, she had me wearing a ball gown, which is completely not true. I was wearing brown bell-bottom jeans and a brown leather jacket.

Susan Lowe: I had black nail polish, miniskirt up to here, black lipstick. We were the punks.

Mueller: And I, the blond, was dressed conservatively, in a see-through micro-minidress and black velvet jacket.

It was a sunny day in early June, and Mink, Susan, and I were on our way to Cape Cod from Baltimore to visit John Waters, who had just finished directing us in his film Multiple Maniacs. When we told him we were going to thumb it, he said, incredulously, “You three? You’re crazy! Don’t do it.”

Stole: Then a couple guys picked us up—we were still in Maryland. They promised to take us to New York, and we believed them.

Lowe: We got in this car with these hillbillies because they had beer in the backseat. They looked like… oh, you know, greased-back hair or a flattop, maybe—farmerish.

Mueller: Burgundy Mach IV Mustang with two sickos, gigantic honkies, hopped-up, and horny on a local joyride.

Stole: The three of us got into the back, and the stupid thing is that we put our luggage in the trunk. That was our mistake. And Cookie carried everything in her bag: an iron… I mean she was loaded down.

Mueller: For the twelve-hour trip, we didn’t forget our two quarts of Jack Daniels and a handful of Dexedrine Spansules (they were new on the pharmaceutical market) and twenty black beauties. Aside from these necessities we had a couple of duffel bags of Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul formals and uniwear.

Stole: We started getting a bad feeling about these guys. I don’t know how long we were in the car before we realized that they were never going to take us to New York, that they had no intention of taking us to New York and never had. What they intended to do, I don’t know.

Mueller: There comes a time when even the most optimistic people, like myself, realize that life among certain humans cannot be easy, that sometimes it is unmanageable and low-down, that all people are quixotic, and haunted, and burdened, and there’s just no way to lift their load for them. With this in mind I wanted to say something to Mink and Susan about not antagonizing these sad slobs, but right then the driver turned to me. “You ain’t going north, honey. You ain’t going nowhere but where we’re taking you.” These were those certain humans.

Stole: I don’t know if they thought they could just ride us around. I don’t know if they intended to rape us or kill us or what. I really don’t know. Anyway, it was still daylight, and we were in this town called Elkton.

Mueller: Smack in the middle of a famous love zone, Elkton, Maryland, the quickie honeymoon and divorce capital of the eastern seaboard.

Stole: At one point we went through a car wash. We sat in the car through the whole thing. We could have hopped out while the guys got out, but they were fucking with us already, and we started to get scared and they knew we were scared and they were somehow getting off on that.

Lowe: Well, this is how I remember it: I remember seeing the same toll taker, and I’m going, What the fuck? And then we realized the guys were trying to make us lost, and then one time we tried to pass a note to the tollbooth—it was me because the tollbooth was on the driver’s side, and I was behind the driver—and they caught us trying to slip a note. We were laughing because we didn’t realize the danger at the time. We were high on black beauties.

Cookie Mueller, 1978. Photo by Don Herron, courtesy of the Estate of Don Herron

Mueller: “We have knives,” the guy riding shotgun said, and he grinned at us with teeth that had brown moss growing near the gums.

“Big fuckin’ deal,” said Susan. “So do I,” and she whipped out a buck knife that was the size of my miniskirt.

The driver casually leaned over and produced a shotgun, and Susan threw the knife out the window.

Stole: Eventually they drove to some small rural house somewhere in the area of Elkton. There was a woman with a small child doing the laundry.

Lowe: A hillbilly house that I have never seen before, except in pictures of Appalachia, maybe. It was in the woods. Mink and I were on the edges, so we jumped out, but Cookie was in the middle, and they drove off before she could get out.

Mueller: Mink and Susan got out, but Mossy Teeth, El, grabbed my thigh and held me fast. Merle spun the car around and we took off, making corn-dirt dust in all the faces of everyone who was standing there in front of the house…

I began to feel the mood change. As they were talking to each other I noticed that they sounded scared; El even wanted to get out and go home.

After a lot of fighting, Merle finally did let El go… I have always been an astute observer of sexy women and unsexy women, and in all my years I’ve never seen a crazy woman get chased by a man. Look at bag ladies on the street. They rarely get raped, I surmised. And look at burned-out LSD girls. No men bothered with them much. So I decided that I would simply act crazy. I would turn the tables. I would scare him.

I started making the sounds of tape-recorded words running backward at high speed. This shocked him a bit, but he kept driving farther into the woods, as the sun was setting and the trees were closing in.

“What the fuck are you supposed to be doing?” he asked me nervously. “You a maniac or something?”

“I just escaped from a mental hospital,” I told him and continued with the backward-tape sounds, now sounding like alien UFO chatter. I think he was believing me. Anyway, he pulled off into the bushes and unzipped his pants and pulled out his pitifully limp wiener. He tried to get it hard. For a second I saw him debating about whether or not he should force me to give him a blow job.

“Ya devil woman, ya’d bite my dick off, wouldn’t ya?”

He tried to force his semi-hard pee-wee rod into me as he ripped my tights at the crotch. I just continued with the sounds of the backward tape as he fumbled with his loafing meat. This infuriated him. “I’m going to ask Jesus to help me on this one. Come on, sweet Jesus, help me get a hard-on. Come on.” He was very serious.

Stole: Susan and I got the woman to call the sheriff. He came and got us and took us to the station. Susan was drunk and passed out; she had tattoos on her belly, and her shirt would ride up, and, well, they just thought we were trash. We were beatniks, we were hitchhiking, and we deserved whatever we got. There was absolutely no sympathy.

So Susan and I stayed in the sheriff’s office for a while, and during this time there was a jailbreak. I remember there was this one really fat guy walking around in his Bermuda shorts. He had a two-gun holster and was yelling, “Leg irons! Next time we put ’em in leg irons!”

Mueller: Not waiting to see whose side the Lord was on, I pushed his wiener quickly aside and threw open the door and dove out into the darkness. I ran faster than I’d ever run, and I wasn’t a bad runner. As my eyes grew accustomed to the half-moon light, I saw that I was running into very deep woods. Aggressive brambles grabbed at my thighs, poison ivy licked at my ankles, and yearling trees slapped me in the face.

After a long time I decided to stop running, so I got under a bush next to a pile of rocks. I felt a bunch of furry things scuttle away. Rats or possums or raccoons, I guessed.

I lay there for a while trying to see things in the darkness. And then I heard his voice. He was far in the distance yelling, “Girl! Girl! Where the hell are ya?”

Did he think I was really going to answer?

As he got a little closer I saw that he had a flashlight, and I got scared again. If his light found me there would be no hope. My white skin was very bright in the bluish flood of the half-moon. I had a black velvet jacket on with a black lining, so I ripped out the lining in two pieces and wrapped one around my head and the other on my almost bare legs. Those brambles had shredded my stockings. No light would bounce off me now. I was awake for a long time, and then I just fell asleep, sure that he had given up the search.

At sunrise, or thereabout, I woke up. I didn’t even have a hangover. I felt very proud that I had melted so well into the underbrush, just like Bambi. Without too much trouble I found this little dirt road, and I started walking to the right.

All roads lead to Rome, I told myself.

For more information about Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller, check out Chloe Griffin's website