Dorothy Stratten

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Dorothy Stratten
Dorothy Stratten 1979.jpg
Stratten in 1979
Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten

(1960-02-28)February 28, 1960
DiedAugust 14, 1980(1980-08-14) (aged 20)
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
OccupationModel, actress
Paul Snider (m. 1979)
Partner(s)Peter Bogdanovich
Playboy centerfold appearance
August 1979
Preceded byDorothy Mays
Succeeded byVicki McCarty
Playboy Playmate of the Year
Preceded byMonique St. Pierre
Succeeded byTerri Welles

Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten (February 28, 1960 – August 14, 1980), who took the professional 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 songs "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and "The Best Was Yet to Come" by Bryan Adams.

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 emigrated from the Netherlands.[1][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 began dating 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 (the legal age of majority 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. She 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, 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.

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 detective 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 described how he had purchased a gun that day and cryptically finished by declaring that he was "going to take up hunting."[5]

During the same conversation, barely more than 12 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 the year before.[5] Snider made several morbid remarks to his companions related 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 brought for Snider as a down payment.[3]

Towards the end of her morning meeting, Stratten'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."[9]

Snider's two roommates had left in the morning, so the couple was alone when Stratten stepped into the house that she had shared with her husband until just a few months earlier.[10][9] 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.[11]

By eight o'clock that evening both of the roommates had returned to the house.[12] They saw Stratten's car parked out front and noted that Snider's bedroom door was closed.[3] Assuming that the couple had reconciled and wanted their privacy, the roommates spent the next several hours watching television in the living room.[13]

Alerted by Snider's private detective, the roommates entered the bedroom shortly after 11 pm that night and discovered the bodies of Stratten and Snider.[12] Each had been killed by a single blast from Snider's shotgun. Both bodies were nude.[3] 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.[14]

Sometime after midnight in the early morning of August 15, the private detective telephoned the Playboy Mansion and told Hefner that Stratten had been murdered. Hefner then called Bogdanovich.[15] After collapsing at the news, Bogdanovich was sedated.[16] Stratten's mother was told of her daughter's death at her Vancouver-area home later that morning by an RCMP Mountie.[17]

Stratten's body was cremated and the remains interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles.[18] The remains of Hefner (d. 2017) and Marilyn Monroe (d. 1962), his magazine's first centerfold, are interred there as well.

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.[19] 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.



Year Title Role Notes
1979 Americathon Stage escort dressed as Playboy Bunny Uncredited. Film debut
1979 Skatetown, U.S.A. Girl at the snack bar First speaking part
1979 Autumn Born Tara Dawson
1980 Galaxina Galaxina Only starring role
1981 They All Laughed Dolores Martin Final film role. Released posthumously


Year Title Role Notes
1979 Playboy's Roller-Disco & Pajama Party Herself Appears in running gag with host Richard Dawson
1979 Fantasy Island Mickey Episode: "The Victim/The Mermaid"
1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Miss Cosmos Episode: "Cruise Ship to the Stars"


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.[20] 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.[20] 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.

Bush's song "Dead Meat" is written in her memory.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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 m 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. ^ a b Rhodes 1981, p. 233.
  10. ^ Bogdanovich, Peter (1984). The Killing Of The Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980. New York City: William Morrow and Company. p. 151. ISBN 0-688-01611-1.
  11. ^ Yule, Andrew (1992). Picture Shows: The Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich. New York: Limelight Editions. p. 164. ISBN 0-87910-153-9.
  12. ^ a b Rhodes 1981, p. 234.
  13. ^ Rhodes 1981, pp. 233-4.
  14. ^ Bogdanovich 1984, p. 3.
  15. ^ Rhodes 1981, pp. 234, 236.
  16. ^ Yule 1992, pp. 162, 165.
  17. ^ Rhodes 1981, p. 242.
  18. ^ Rhodes 1981, p. 246.
  19. ^ Rhodes 1981, p. 248.
  20. ^ a b Nashawaty, Chris (August 12, 1994). "The Centerfold Murder: Playmate Dorothy Stratten is found murdered". Entertainment Weekly.
  21. ^

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