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Dangerous, irreverent, insatiable, hilarious.

Episode 2

partying with pablo.

This is a production of Journalista Podcast, LLC and iHeartRadio. Just a warning, this podcast includes adult language and situations, references to drug use, violence, and some things that will be very hard to listen to.

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Cookie Hood: He’s dropping five-hundred-pound bombs on the city because by that time, his philosophy is: “If we just kill everybody, we don’t have a revolution”.

Steve Esteb: Welcome back to the Journalista podcast. I’m Steven Esteb, your host. We’ve talked a lot about Nicaragua and the events that made Cookie who she became. And I mentioned that she always seemed to be at the crossroads of history, but the story you’re about to hear is absolutely insane—a dangerous secret that most of her friends and her news colleagues never knew. Yes, everybody knows she partied, but did they know she partied with Pablo Escobar?

Steven Esteb: So all this shit’s going down and Nicaragua’s changing and all these things are happening, but you’re not there. Where are you?

Cookie Hood: I am in New York City. I’m modeling. I’m having a very successful career and partying, obviously.

Steven Esteb: Where did you like to go, to party?

Cookie Hood: 54, of course. This was a club that you had to look a certain way and obviously have a certain lifestyle. And in 54, they had the dance floor, the bars, but then downstairs was the special room, and that’s where VIPs were doing all kinds of drugs, crazy things. Any given night, you could be with David Bowie, Calvin Klein. And one of my best friends was a celebrity: Bianca Jagger—Mick Jagger’s wife.

Steven Esteb: Was she from Nicaragua?

Cookie Hood: From Nicaragua. That’s where I knew her from. She took me with her and we went on the whole tour.

Mick Jagger: Are you alright? Are you doing alright?… The Rolling Stones.

Cookie Hood: I took a quick trip to Miami and ran into an old childhood friend, Chino, and we hooked up. I never went back. What I didn’t know is that he was already deep in the drug game, part of the Medellin Colombia cartel.

Steven Esteb: What was his job? What would you say he did?

Cookie Hood: Fly to Columbia, meet with the big wigs, place the orders, have the orders shipped. There were many different ways of getting product here to the United States. And then once here, we had his slew of clients that he would sell to in bulk. He didn’t have to get his hands dirty, but he liked to. I would tell him, “Why are you hanging out with these low level drug dealers?”. We’d be in my home, I’d open up a closet and kilos would fall out, and I’m like, “Why is this even in our home? Get a safe house. Do things differently”. No, he just never thought anything would ever happen to him, which every criminal thinks at the beginning; they’re different, they’re never going to get in trouble.

Steven Esteb: Did you ever go to Columbia?

Cookie Hood: No, I was smart. Never got my hands dirty. I was just having fun at the parties, and the shady characters, and a couple of hitmen here and there, Pablo Escobar.

Steven Esteb: What was he like, just one-on-one?

Cookie Hood: At the time we only called him El Jefe—the boss—and he wasn’t Pablo Escobar like everyone knows him now. He was kind of quiet. Sometimes he would get a little boisterous. He wasn’t a very book-smart guy. He was interesting, just like when you’re doing blow, the coke wrap and you know, talking. He was sort of protective over me.

Steven Esteb: When Cookie meets Pablo Escobar, he’s not yet a household name. He doesn’t have a Netflix series about his life or even much of a criminal profile. He had a mansion near Miami in his own freaking name. He was selling cocaine—lots of it. At his peak, he was making $420 million a week and his net worth was estimated at more than 30 billion, making him by all accounts, the wealthiest person in the world. Of course it’s hard to measure since it was all illegal and much of it was smuggled through Nicaragua. That’s where Chino and his partners come in. 

Steven Esteb: You told me once that you thought of yourself as Mrs. Scarface.

Cookie Hood: I was Mrs. Scarface. When you have that much product and that much money, it gives you power.

Steven Esteb: When you were with Chino in that time period, did you feel like you were partners in the game or was it his thing and you were just along for the ride?

Cookie Hood: Well, I was the one calling the shots because he wasn’t very bright and he had a very bad habit that if he started doing blow, he started to drink, and he would get stupid drunk.

Steven Esteb: So it’s kind of like managing a multimillion dollar corporation.

Cookie Hood: Yeah, giving my 2 cents, which once he was drunk he wouldn’t listen to. But guys like Pablo Escobar and other people in the game, they would listen to me, because they knew that what I was saying made sense.

Steven Esteb: In those days when you were rolling with Chino and those guys, did you ever run up against any, you know, bullshit, anything bad, that was happening?

Cookie Hood: You mean with the cartel guys?

Steven Esteb: Exactly.

Cookie Hood: Let’s put it to you this way: These cartel guys were my friends. Obviously I must have had an inkling of what kind of people they were or what they were capable of. But as long as I had a seat at the table and allowed to party and had unlimited amounts of blow, it was pretty standard friendship relationships.

Steven Esteb: Well, you talk about having a seat at the table. Did that ever go wrong?

Cookie Hood: You know, I’m a local girl from New Orleans. I would always insist to Chino and to others, “You’ve got the whole country to do business in, please don’t go to New Orleans and please don’t go to Louisiana. That’s where I’m from. My dad is very well known. My family is a prominent family there. Can we just leave my stomping grounds out of the business?” And for the most part, Chino would listen, but as soon as he’d start having a cocktail or two and then doing blow, all, you know, rational thinking went out the window. I had heard that they were gonna do some sort of business with one of our people who happens to be from New Orleans, and he was going to come back to New Orleans with the product, and his connection was the son of a top state government official.

Steven Esteb: So basically they’re doing a drug deal.

Cookie Hood: Of course, and I begged them don’t do it. So sure enough, something goes wrong.

Steven Esteb: Are you talking about a big chunk of product?

Cookie Hood: Big chunk of product. Not only my local friend got popped, but the son of the top government official got popped, and he’s in jail. So at that point, the top state government official decides he’s going to run his own private investigation so he could save his son’s future, get him out and find out who was behind this huge drug deal. And he’s getting close. So this one particular evening, we’re at my house, we’re talking and one of our employees decides, “You know what, let’s just get rid of this guy. We’re not only gonna get rid of the kid in jail, but we’re gonna get rid of his father”. I could see some people at the table sort of nodding their head, I’m sitting next to Pablo and I’m just saying, “If you do this, this could blow up in everybody’s faces, not just myself and my family”. I got so upset, I stood up and I said, no one is getting killed in my city on my watch. And at that point I turned to Pablo and he leaned over and sort of whispered in my ear and he says, “You know, you should be running this show”. To which I replied, I am.

Steven Esteb: Were you aware of the DEA, the FBI, all that stuff?

Cookie Hood: Oh yes. Immensely. I mean we had all these gadgets, you know, that you’d plug into your phone and it would tell you if they were listening in: A red light would start beeping. We had all the latest gadgets.

Steven Esteb: So you had the highest tech that could be had.

Cookie Hood: Yeah, and security in our homes, you know—’cause we had several homes; you know, one in Miami, one in LA, one in San Francisco. We had boats, racing cars, we had race horses, we had everything. As much as we had, we wouldn’t hesitate in a second to leave it and move on to the next city.

Steven Esteb: Because the money was gonna come anyway.

Cookie Hood: Always. You could lose it, throw it away, flush it down the toilet, didn’t matter. You’d have it all back the next day. He would get a car—a Mercedes, bring it in from Miami, it would be San Francisco, and then they didn’t need it, they would set it on fire. The money was just never ending. I remember that my “allowance” was 10 grand a week. And that wasn’t to pay rent or bills. That was just-

Steven Esteb: Fun money.

Cookie Hood: Fun money I could do with as I pleased. There were always suitcases full of cash. There were always suitcases full of kilos. And sometimes when the suitcases would come in from Columbia, they would throw in emeralds and pills and… You never knew what was coming.

Steven Esteb: Was there danger?

Cookie Hood: Constantly.

Steven Esteb: So you get pregnant. Was that good news?

Cookie Hood: To me, it wasn’t, because I just said I can’t bring a kid into this environment. You know, this constant partying, we’d stay up for days, and there was a constant flow of cocaine, people coming in and out. Any given house that we owned, you know, I’d wake up and there’s strangers walking around in my house. You know, I remember once in Beverly Hills, somebody coming up to me asking me where the bathroom was and I said, “Well, who are you?”. He goes, “Well who are you?”. I said, “I’m the damn owner of this house. Get the fuck outta my house”. So it was sort of that kind of thing. I was not happy about it. I was still partying, pregnant. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

Steven Esteb: For the record, her baby boy was born healthy and happy. 

Steven Esteb: So you guys decided to get married?

Cookie Hood: What we did was we were planning a wedding at the house where we were living at, which was with Norwin Meneses.

Steven Esteb: I have to stop here. As if this story isn’t crazy enough, Norwin Meneses, Cookie’s husband, Chino, and another friend from Nicaragua, Danilo Blandon, were the guys smuggling cocaine into the US for Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. Cookie was aware of that and definitely enjoying the party. But these guys would become very famous a few years later, when they made a deal with the CIA to introduce crack cocaine into South Central Los Angeles through a local drug dealer by the name of Freeway Ricky Ross.

News Anchor: Facing life in prison, LA’s biggest crack dealer, now is saying he was pawn in a CIA plot. And his argument was convincing enough that a federal judge postponed sentencing to consider evidence that his main supplier was an agency operator.

Ricky Ross: You know, his whole intentions was for me to make more money. The more money I made, the more money he made, and I guess, the more money that he would have, to help sponsor the war.

Steven Esteb: FX made a television series called Snowfall based on some of that story.

News Anchor: It’s Eye on America. Accusations—underscore the word accusations—that are nothing short of explosives. They are that the CIA, knowingly and intentionally did what amount to pump crack cocaine into Los Angeles to help fund rebels in Nicaragua. The Justice Department in Congress are investigating, and so is CBS News.

Steven Esteb: It was the beginning of a drug explosion that ravaged black communities all over America. Gary Webb, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, wrote a controversial three-part exposé and later a book called the Dark Alliance, detailing the connection between the CIA, the sale of crack cocaine and funding the Contras. In this clip, he’s asked about the CIA involvement.

News Anchor: Did the CIA put drugs into the black community?

Gary Webb: We don’t have any evidence so far that they did it directly. And what we have evidence of is that men working for a CIA-run army did do that.

News Anchor: With the knowledge of the CIA?

Gary Webb: That’s the part we don’t know. That’s the part we don’t know. I mean, what we know is that these guys were working for a CIA army. They were meeting with CIA agents before and during the time they were doing this. What happens from there is sort of where we ran into the wall of a national security.

Steven Esteb: The CIA and the mainstream media went after him, eventually destroying his career. He died from two gunshots to the head. It was ruled a suicide. Two shots. Think about it. Is it all true? I don’t know for sure.

In this interview from a prison in Nicaragua, Norwin Meneses blames the whole scandal on the Democrats trying to use narco-trafficking to win the election. And of course he says he’s innocent of all accusations and that no charges have been filed.

Cookie wasn’t part of any of that. In fact, she was working for CBS at the time, and we’ll get into that later. What she will tell you is that Norwin Meneses is a friend—someone she has known since childhood, and that she cares about him to this very day. Back to her wedding.

Steven Esteb: So you were married in Norwin Meneses’ home? 

Cookie Hood: In Norwin’s home. He was going to be one that walked me down the aisle. Chepito Areas from Santana was the best man. I flew in some people from New Orleans—not a lot; it was just gonna be a small gathering. And we initially wanted a judge to come. Well, judges don’t come. So we found Mark DeWolfe: gay minister, perfect. Chepito pulled out his Rolls-Royce; Pablo gave me half a pound of cocaine for the wedding. So I brought my girlfriend from New Orleans, flew her in and we spent the whole day before and the whole day of, grinding it up. We started off with one gram bottles and realized quickly that’s not gonna be enough. So we went and got two gram bottles, filled up a hundred of them. When the people arrived at the door, that’s what they were given, with a bow on it. You know, this is your party favor.

Steven Esteb: Did Pablo come or did you just send the-

Cookie Hood: Pablo was there.

Steven Esteb: Pablo was there?

Cookie Hood: Pablo was there.

Steven Esteb: Wow.

Cookie Hood: Of course, everyone’s starting to party immediately. My husband Chino, he was lost. He was downstairs ’cause freebase had started out in Tally at that time. So he was downstairs doing that. And I remember that at some point the minister comes up to me, he says, “Look, I’ve got another event, you know. I can’t find my Bible”. And of course people were using his Bible with the Coke lines on it. And I said, “I think your Bible’s being used in the next room”. I said, “I can give you a little something, you know, to perk you up”. He goes, “Oh, okay”. So next thing I know, the minister’s partying. So the time constraints were gone by then. Also it was my gardenia era so I had to have fresh gardenias in my hair and my hands. The whole house, it smelled like gardenias.
Steven Esteb: Having some serious hippie shit there.
Cookie Hood: Yeah, but elegant hippie. Finally when we’re getting ready to do it, I had to get Chino up from downstairs and he was already all fucked up. Norwin walked me down the aisle. Chepito Areas is crying, you know, ’cause he could just cry with one tear coming down one eye.
Steven Esteb: So you’re eight months pregnant, you’re walked down the aisle by Norwin Meneses. The best man is the-
Cookie Hood: The bongo player of Santana.
Steven Esteb: The bongo player.
Cookie Hood: Who’s from Nicaragua.
Steven Esteb: He’s from Nicaragua. Okay. And you have a non-denominational minister.
Cookie Hood: Gay.
Steven Esteb: Gay minister.
Cookie Hood: ’cause remember we’re in San Francisco.
Steven Esteb: I’m just trying to decide if this is a movie, a TV series, or a sitcom right now.
Cookie Hood: All of the above.
Steven Esteb: There’s not exactly a happy ending to this wedding story.
Cookie Hood: I went on the honeymoon by myself, ’cause Chino, as soon as he got married, went right back downstairs. And so I left and went on the honeymoon by myself.
Steven Esteb: Were you pissed off at him?
Cookie Hood: Not really. Annoyed, maybe.

Steven Esteb: Back in Nicaragua, another journalist is murdered. This time, it’s an American.

We’ll be right back.

Steven Esteb: Welcome back. Journalism can be a very dangerous business, especially during war. I wanna warn you, this segment contains graphic descriptions of violence that are disturbing and hard to listen to. While Cookie was playing Mrs. Scarface, partying her ass off and trying to stay one step ahead of the DEA and law enforcement, her beloved Nicaragua was exploding. The dictator, Anastasio Samoza, is at war with his own people.


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