Dorothy Stratten

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Dorothy Stratten
Dorothy Stratten 1979.jpg
Stratten in 1979
Born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten
(1960-02-28)February 28, 1960
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada[1]
Died August 14, 1980(1980-08-14) (aged 20)
West Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Murder by gunshot
Resting place Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Nationality Canadian
Occupation Model, actress
Spouse(s) Paul Snider (m. 1979–1980)
Partner(s) Peter Bogdanovich
Playboy centerfold appearance
August 1979
Preceded by Dorothy Mays
Succeeded by Vicki McCarty
Playboy Playmate of the Year
Preceded by Monique St. Pierre
Succeeded by Terri Welles
Personal details
Measurements Bust: 36 in (91 cm)[1]
Waist: 24 in (61 cm)
Hips: 36 in (91 cm)
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)[1]
Weight 123 lb (56 kg; 8.8 st)

Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten (February 28, 1960 – August 14, 1980), who took the stage name Dorothy Stratten, was a Canadian Playboy Playmate, model, and actress. Stratten was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for August 1979 and Playmate of the Year in 1980.[1] Stratten appeared in three comedy films and in at least two episodes of shows broadcast on US network television, she was murdered at the age of 20 by her estranged husband/manager Paul Snider, who committed suicide on the same day. Her death inspired two motion pictures, the 1981 TV movie Death of a Centerfold and the 1983 theatrical release Star 80,[2] as well as the book The Killing of the Unicorn and the song "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Life and career[edit]

Stratten was born in Grace Maternity Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, on February 28, 1960, to Simon and Nelly Hoogstraten, who had immigrated from the Netherlands.[3] In 1961, her brother John Arthur was born and, in May 1968, her sister Louise Stratten.

In 1977, Stratten was attending Centennial High School in Coquitlam, British Columbia. Concurrently, she was working part-time at a local Dairy Queen, where she met 26-year-old Vancouver-area club promoter and pimp, Paul Snider, who romanced her. Snider later had a photographer take professional nude photos of her which were sent to Playboy magazine in the summer of 1978, she was under the age of 19 at the time, which is the legal age to pose nude in Canada, so she had to persuade her mother to sign the model release form.[3]

In August 1978, she moved to Los Angeles, where she was chosen as a finalist for the 25th Anniversary Great Playmate Hunt.[3] Snider joined her in October, and in June the following year, they married, with her surname shortened to Stratten, she became Playboy's Miss August 1979, and began working as a bunny at the Playboy Club in Century City, Los Angeles.[3] Hugh Hefner had high hopes Stratten could have meaningful crossover success as an actress.[3] She featured in episodes of the television series Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island, along with small roles in 1979 in Americathon and the roller disco comedy Skatetown, U.S.A.

In 1980, she became Playboy's Playmate of the Year, with photography by Mario Casilli. Stratten also played the title role in the sci-fi parody Galaxina, her first and only starring role.

Hefner reportedly encouraged Stratten to sever ties with Snider, calling him a "hustler and a pimp".[3] Rosanne Katon and other friends warned Stratten about Snider's behavior. Stratten began an affair with Peter Bogdanovich while he was directing They All Laughed (1981), intended as her first major studio film.[3] Snider hired a private investigator to follow Stratten, they separated and Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, planning to file for a divorce from Snider. By August 1980, Snider most likely believed that he had lost Stratten and what he had called his "rocket to the moon".[3]

Bogdanovich later asserted in his book The Killing of the Unicorn that Hefner had sexually assaulted Stratten during her first night as a Playmate. Publishers for the book removed the word "rape" under pressure from Hefner's lawyers.[4]


Dorothy Stratten's grave

On August 13, 1980, the day before Stratten was murdered, Snider bought a used, 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun from a private seller he found in a local classified ad.[3][5] Later that evening in a conversation with friends, Snider explained how he had purchased a gun that day and that he was "going to take up hunting."[5]

During the same conversation, barely more than twelve hours before the murder,[6] an otherwise jovial Snider casually brought up the subject of Playmates who had unexpectedly died; in particular, he spoke of Claudia Jennings, an actress and former Playmate of the Year who had been killed in a car accident ten months earlier.[5] Snider made several morbid remarks to his companions relating to the problems at Playboy magazine caused by Jennings' death, including a comment about how the editors will pull nude photos of a dead Playmate from the next issue if there's time.[5][6]

Stratten arrived for her meeting with Snider at his rented West Los Angeles house at approximately twelve noon on Thursday, August 14,[7][3] she had spent the morning conferring with her business manager, and one of the topics the pair discussed was the amount of the property settlement the Playmate would offer her estranged husband that afternoon.[8] The police later found $1,100 in cash among Stratten's belongings in the house, which she had apparently meant for Snider as a down payment.[3]

Towards the end of her morning meeting, Stratten's business manager made a fateful observation: That she could avoid spending any more time with Snider 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."[9]

Stratten was to pick up her sister Louise after seeing Snider but never showed, which was very unlike her, around 11 pm, Snider's private investigator called Cushner on his private line, saying that he had been trying to call Snider for several hours, but Snider was not answering. Although there were many guests in the residence, Snider's bedroom door was closed and they assumed Snider's privacy was essential. Cushner broke into Snider's room and discovered the nude bodies of Snider and Stratten, both having been killed with Snider's shotgun. Police determined that Snider murdered Stratten, who was 20, then abused and raped her corpse, before turning the shotgun on himself.[3][10]

Stratten's remains were cremated and her ashes were interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

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.[11] Three years after Stratten's murder the author's granddaughter, Mariel Hemingway, played Stratten in Star 80, the Bob Fosse biopic about the doomed Playmate and her husband.


Stratten's murder was depicted in two films; in the made-for-television Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981), Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Stratten and Bruce Weitz played Paul Snider. Bob Fosse's feature film, Star 80 (1983), starred Mariel Hemingway[2] as Stratten and Eric Roberts as Snider.

In 1983, film critic Vincent Canby wrote, "Miss Stratten possessed a charming screen presence and might possibly have become a first-rate comedienne with time and work".[2]

In 1984, Peter Bogdanovich's book about Stratten was published, titled The Killing of the Unicorn.[12] Four years later, at age 49, Bogdanovich married Stratten's sister, Louise, who was 20. Bogdanovich had paid for Louise's private schooling and modeling classes following Stratten's death,[12] they divorced in 2001 after being married for 13 years.

Singer-songwriter Bryan Adams, along with co-writer Jim Valance, wrote the song "The Best Was Yet To Come" as the closing track for Adams' 1983 LP "Cuts Like A Knife" as a dedication to Dorothy Stratten.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Playmate data". Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Canby, Vincent (November 10, 1983). "SCREEN: 'STAR 80,' A SEX-SYMBOL'S LIFE AND DEATH". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Carpenter, Theresa (November 5, 1980). "Death of a Playmate" (PDF). The Village Voice. Retrieved July 22, 2008. 
  4. ^ Redden, Molly (29 September 2017). "Effusive Hugh Hefner tributes ignore Playboy founder's dark side" – via 
  5. ^ a b c d Rhodes, Richard; The editors of Playboy (May 1981). "Dorothy Stratten: Her Story". Playboy. Vol. 28 no. 5. Based in part on the research of John Riley and Laura Bernstein. Chicago. p. 232. ISSN 0032-1478. 
  6. ^ a b The Editors of Time-Life Books (1993). "L.A. Story". Death and Celebrity. True Crime. Alexandria, VA.: Time-Life Books. p. 42. ISBN 0-7835-0026-2. 
  7. ^ Rhodes 1981, p. 216.
  8. ^ Rhodes 1981, pp. 232-3.
  9. ^ Rhodes 1981, p. 233.
  10. ^ Biskind, Peter (1998). Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. Simon & Schuster. pp. 388, 389. ISBN 0-684-80996-6. 
  11. ^ Rhodes 1981, p. 248.
  12. ^ a b Nashawaty, Chris (August 12, 1994). "The Centerfold Murder: Playmate Dorothy Stratten is found murdered". Entertainment Weekly. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Yule, Andrew. Picture Shows: the Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich - Has extensive coverage of Stratten's relationships with Paul Snider and Peter Bogdonovich.

External links[edit]