Dorothy Stratten

Dorothy Stratten

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Updated On February 1, 2021

Dorothy Stratten was a Canadian Playboy Playmate, model, as well as an actress. Dorothy Stratten won Playboy Playmate of the Month for August 1979 and Playmate of the Year in 1980. “Death of a Centerfold” and theatrical release Star 80, as well as the book “The Killing of the Unicorn” are all made in the honor of late model and actress Dorothy.

Early Life and Childhood

Dorothy Stratten’s full name is Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten and she was born on 28 February 1960. Unfortunately, she passed away at the young age of 20 years old. Dorothy is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and was born in Grace Maternity Hospital located in her hometown. Dorothy’s parents are father Simon and mother Nelly Hoogstraten. They are immigrants from the Netherlands. Additionally, she has two siblings. They are a brother born in 1961and a sister born in May 1968. Her brother is John Arthur and her sister is named Louise Stratten.

In the year 1977, Dorothy Stratten was attending Centennial High School in Coquitlam, British Columbia. She was also simultaneously working part-time at a local Dairy Queen. There she met 26-year-old Vancouver-area club promoter and pimp Paul Snider, who began dating her. Snider later hired a photographer to take Dorothy’s professional nude photos. He then sent them to Playboy magazine in the summer of 1978. She was less than 19 years old, so she persuaded her mother to sign the model release form.

Relationship Status

Dorothy Stratten dated the 26-year-old Vancouver-area club promoter and pimp Paul Snider. Later in June 1979, Dorothy and Paul tied the knot and shared a house in West Los Angeles. Dorothy then dated Peter Bogdanovich. Sadly, after agreeing to finalize their divorce, Paul murdered his young wife and himself died due to suicide from the same shotgun he used to kill Dorothy.

Dorothy Stratten

Caption: Dorothy Stratten with Peter Bogdanovich. Source: BFI

Career and Professional Life

Dorothy was a Canadian Playboy Playmate, model, and actress. She was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for August 1979 and Playmate of the Year in 1980. Also, she appeared in three comedy films and in at least two episodes of shows broadcast on US network television.

Unfortunately, the young talent was murdered at the age of 20 by her estranged husband and manager Paul Snider. Paul also died by suicide on the same day. Dorothy’s death inspired two motion pictures. They are the 1981 TV movie Death of a Centerfold and the 1983 theatrical release Star 80, as well as the book The Killing of the Unicorn and the songs “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “The Best Was Yet to Come” by Bryan Adams and “Cover Girl” by the Canadian rock band Prism.

Early Career

In August 1978, Dorothy moved to Los Angeles, where she was chosen as a finalist for the 25th Anniversary Great Playmate Hunt. Paul Snider joined her in October, and in June the next year, they married. She shortened her surname to Stratten and also became Playboy’s Miss August 1979. She then began working as a Bunny at the Playboy Club in Century City, Los Angeles.

Hugh Hefner had high hopes Dorothy Stratten could have meaningful crossover success as an actress. Dorothy featured in episodes of the television series Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island. Dorothy Stratten also had small roles in 1979 in Americathon and the roller disco comedy Skatetown, U.S.A., and a lead role in the exploitation film Autumn Born.

In 1980, Dorothy became Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, with photography by Mario Casilli. She also played the title role in the sci-fi parody Galaxina. Hefner reportedly encouraged her to sever ties with Paul Snider, calling him a “hustler and a pimp.”

More details

Rosanne Katon and other friends warned Dorothy Stratten about Snider’s behavior. Dorothy began an affair with Peter Bogdanovich while he was directing They All Laughed (1981), intended as her first major studio film. Snider hired a private detective to follow Stratten. They separated and Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, planning to file for a divorce from Paul Snider.

When Stratten arrived at the Playboy Mansion for the 25th Anniversary Playmate Hunt she was very shy and naive. She was very uncomfortable with the casual nudity and sex. Many of the contemporary playmates including Pamela Bryant, Gail Stanton, and Marcy Hanson befriended Stratten and protected her from some of Hefner’s friends whom they considered to be predators.

Trying to compete with Bob Guccione, who frequently appeared in layouts with nude Penthouse Pets, a pictorial with a nude Stratten and Hefner was shot. However, it was pulled after her death and just a few days before printing.

August 1980

On the night of 31 July 1980, Paul Snider was aware that his estranged wife was living with Bogdanovich. He hid among the shadows just outside the director’s Los Angeles estate carrying a borrowed handgun, intending to shoot anyone who appeared at the entrance to the property. After several hours of inactivity, Paul Snider grew impatient and left, drove up into the hills overlooking the city and, admitting later to a friend, had thoughts of suicide.

At approximately noon on Friday, August 8, Dorothy and Paul saw each other for the first time in nearly three months at Paul’s house in West Los Angeles. Paul had already persuaded Dorothy to pose for Playboy and then marry him. Hence, Paul Snider was supremely confident before the meeting that he would convince his wife to take him back.

However…

But his hopes of a reconciliation were quickly shattered when Stratten admitted that she had fallen in love with Bogdanovich and wanted to finalize their separation. A downcast Paul Snider agreed to meet Stratten one more time the following week to discuss a monetary settlement. Later that afternoon, less than a week before Stratten’s murder, Snider had to return the borrowed gun to its owner. Over the next five days, he became obsessed with getting another.

On the 9th of August, the day after his meeting with Stratten, Paul Snider and the private detective he’d hired went to a local gun store. Paul asked the detective to buy the gun Snider wanted for him after the store couldn’t sell him a firearm because of his Canadian citizenship. However, the detective tried to talk him out of it when Paul tried to persuade him again the next day. On the 11th of August, Paul went in search of the man whose gun was for sale in the newspaper but unfortunately couldn’t find the address.

Dorothy Stratten

Caption: Dorothy Stratten posing for a photo with her Playboy edition at an event. Source: Washington Post

Day of Murder

On 13 August 1980, Paul Snider bought a used, 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun from a private seller he found in a local classified ad. Later that evening in a conversation with friends, Paul described how he had purchased a gun that day and finished his story by cryptically declaring that he was “going to take up hunting.”

During the same conversation, barely more than 12 hours before the murder, the otherwise jovial Paul casually brought up the subject of Playmates who had unexpectedly died. In particular, Paul spoke of Claudia Jennings. Jennings is an actress and former Playmate of the Year and she was killed in a car accident the year before.

Moreover, Paul Snider made several morbid remarks to his companions related to the problems at Playboy magazine caused by Jennings’ death. It also included a comment about how if they have time, the editors will pull nude photos of a dead Playmate from the next issue.

In that morning…

Later, Dorothy Stratten arrived for her meeting with Snider at his rented West Los Angeles house. It was approximately noon on Thursday, August 14. Dorothy spent the morning conferring with her business manager. One of the topics the pair discussed was the amount of the property settlement the Playmate would offer her estranged husband that afternoon. The police later found $1,100 in cash among Stratten’s belongings in the house, which she had apparently brought for Snider as a down payment.

Towards the end of her morning meeting, Dorothy’s business manager made a fateful observation that his young client could avoid spending any more time with her husband by handing off the remaining separation and divorce negotiations to her lawyer. Stratten replied that the process would go easier if she dealt with Snider personally, explaining that he was being nice about everything and finally adding, “I’d like to remain his friend.”

On the other hand, Paul Snider’s two roommates had left in the morning, so the couple was alone when Stratten stepped into the house. By all appearances, Stratten had spent some time in the living room, where her purse was found lying open before she and Snider went into his bedroom.

The discovery

By eight o’clock that evening, both of the roommates had returned to the house. They saw Stratten’s car parked out front and they also noted Snider’s bedroom door closed. They assumed that the couple had reconciled and wanted their privacy. Hence, the roommates spent the next several hours watching television in the living room.

Paul’s roommates entered the bedroom shortly after 11 pm that night. The private detective had alerted the roommates. And that is how they discovered Dorothy Stratten and Paul Snider bodies. Both died by a single blast from Snider’s shotgun. Both bodies were nude. According to the police timeline, Snider had shot Stratten that afternoon within an hour of her arrival at the house. Snider then committed suicide approximately one hour after the murder.

Dorothy Stratten

Caption: Dorothy Stratten with her husband Paul Snider. Source: Atlantic Mirror

Afterward…

Sometime after midnight of August 15, the private detective telephoned the Playboy Mansion. He told Hefner that Paul murdered Dorothy. Hefner then called Bogdanovich. After collapsing at the news, they sedated Bogdanovich. An RCMP Mountie informed Dorothy’s mother of her daughter’s death at her Vancouver-area home later that morning.

They cremated Dorothy Stratten’s body and interred the remains at the Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles. They also interred the remains of Hefner (d. 2017) and Marilyn Monroe (d. 1962), his magazine’s first centerfold, in this same place.

The epitaph on Stratten’s grave marker includes a passage chosen by Bogdanovich from Chapter 34 of the Ernest Hemingway novel A Farewell to Arms. Three years after Dorothy’s murder, the author, Hemmingway’s granddaughter, Mariel Hemingway, played Dorothy Stratten in Star 80, the Bob Fosse biopic about the doomed Playmate and her husband.

After her death

In August of 1981, her final film, the romantic comedy They All Laughed had its US release. Peter Bogdanovich wrote and directed this. They quietly withdrew the movie after a disappointing limited run in a handful of theaters in the southwest, the upper midwest, and the northeast.

Peter was upset that his only project with Stratten did not have a nationwide release. He believed that her last screen performance needed a chance for a broader audience. Hence, Bogdanovich bought the theatrical rights to the picture. Out of his own pocket, he paid for a re-release of They All Laughed in nearly a dozen large markets across North America beginning in late 1981 and rolling into the following year.

Despite generally favorable reviews and strong attendance in some theaters, Bogdanovich ultimately sank more than five million dollars, his entire net worth at the time, into the vanity project to properly promote and distribute the movie and rescue Stratten’s film legacy. Bogdanovich declared bankruptcy in 1985. In the process, he lost his Los Angeles home where Stratten had lived for the last few weeks of her life.

In the years since its inauspicious debut, filmmakers, critics, and others recognized They All Laughed as one of Bogdanovich’s best pictures. One Day Since Yesterday, a documentary about the making and cultural importance of Bogdanovich’s romantic comedy, which includes interviews with the director and his remembrances of Stratten, premiered in 2014.

The Killing of the Unicorn

In August of 1984, four years after Stratten’s death, the publisher William Morrow released a book by Bogdanovich titled The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980. This book is a biography of Stratten, a memoir of Bogdanovich’s affair with the married Playmate who was half his age, and a scathing, feminist attack on Hefner. Further, his Playboy philosophy and the hedonistic sexual mores he celebrated in his magazine and practiced at his mansion, and the entire Playboy organization.

Sofar the most controversial part of the book is the director’s claim that Hefner had sexually assaulted a then eighteen-year-old Stratten in August of 1978. According to Bogdanovich’s allegation, the assault occurred while the two were alone in a secluded area of the Playboy Mansion at the end of Stratten’s first day of posing for the magazine’s photographer.

Allegations

Among the other allegations that Bogdanovich made in his book, the most significant are:

  1. Stratten didn’t marry Snider out of love. She rather used her marriage as an excuse to block the advances of Hefner. Bogdanovich claimed that Hefner pursued Stratten as a sexual partner after the purported assault
  2. Stratten loathed nude modeling and dealing with Playboy in general. She tolerated the humiliating work only to promote her acting career
  3. In part, Hefner was responsible for enabling Paul Snider’s killing rage. He banned Paul from entering the Playboy Mansion just days before the murder. Bogdanovich’s underlying assertion for the last charge is that Snider was banned because Hefner hated the man. In his defense, Hefner explained that his purpose was to encourage the lovers to appear at the mansion as a couple.

Nearly every review of The Killing of the Unicorn in the US press was negative. While few objected to Bogdanovich’s attacks on Hefner and Playboy, many were skeptical of his newfound feminism.

Legacy and Net worth

Two films depict Stratten’s murder and one is the made-for-television Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981). For this, Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Stratten and Bruce Weitz played Paul Snider. Bob Fosse’s feature film Star 80 (1983) starred Mariel Hemingway as Stratten and Eric Roberts as Snider.

Later in December of 1988, at age 49, Bogdanovich married Stratten’s sister, Louise, who was 20. Peter Bogdanovich paid for Louise’s private schooling and modeling classes following Stratten’s death. They stayed married for 13 long years but divorced in 2001.

Singer-songwriter Bryan Adams and Jim Valance wrote the song “The Best Was Yet to Come”. They wrote it as the closing track for Adams’ 1983 LP “Cuts Like a Knife“. Moreover, this was a dedication to Dorothy Stratten. Moreover, Bush also wrote the song “Dead Meat” in her memory.

Furthermore, Dorothy Stratten was a professional model and actress. Hence, most of her earnings came through her modeling and acting career. Moreover, her estimated net worth is $1 million to $5 million.