Miami-Dade County

Self-taught Miami photojournalist and blogger Bill Cooke dies at 70

Bill Cooke, shooting Donna Rice
Bill Cooke, shooting Donna Rice Courtesy Miami New Times

Bill Cooke, a tough-as-nails photojournalist and blogger, died Saturday afternoon in the Miami VA hospice after years of battling pulmonary fibrosis. He was 70.

A Vietnam veteran and notorious curmudgeon who taught himself to shoot a camera, Cooke built his career in Miami as a freelance photographer with a nose for news. He scored big in 1992 when he followed a crew sign pointing down a neighborhood alley and snapped Madonna naked in a backyard shooting stills for her book “Sex.” While working as a car valet, he got a gig at the Associated Press by walking into the Miami office with photos of Al Pacino shooting scenes for “Scarface.”

“He’d managed to sneak in and get some really outstanding pictures,” said Phil Sandlin, a former AP photo editor who worked with Cooke for about a decade. “Bill was a hustler. And he was actually as good a newsman as he was a photographer.”

Born in Atlantic City as William Lee Cooke and raised in Miami, he shot major sporting events, “Miami Vice,” and photos of Donna Rice, the former beauty queen whose alleged fling with Gary Hart took down the former U.S. Senator’s 1988 presidential campaign, among his many assignments. In 2008, Cooke launched the Random Pixels blog, where he sometimes broke news on high-paid county workers and Miami Beach police, shared his love for cats and Miami history, and blasted local media. Cooke was a frequent and harsh critic of the Miami Herald.

Cooke is survived by his sister, Linda Yero. Memorial services have not yet been set.