Dorothy Stratten

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, "The Best Was Yet to Come" by Bryan Adams and "Cover Girl" by the Canadian rock band Prism.

Dorothy Stratten
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

Life and career

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 British Columbia), 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.

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. Several contemporary playmates including Pamela Bryant, Gail Stanton and Marcy Hanson befriended Stratten and protected her from some of Hefner's friends who 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 July 31, 1980, Snider, by now aware that his estranged wife was living with Bogdanovich, 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 Snider grew impatient and left, drove up into the hills overlooking the city and, admitting later to a friend, had thoughts of suicide.[4]

At approximately noon on Friday, August 8, Stratten and Snider saw each other for the first time in nearly three months at Snider's (and Stratten's former) house in West Los Angeles. After having already persuaded Stratten to pose for Playboy and then marry him, Snider was supremely confident before the meeting that he would convince his wife to take him back. 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 dejected Snider agreed to meet Stratten one more time the following week to discuss a monetary settlement.[3][5]

Later that afternoon, less than a week before Stratten's murder, Snider had to return the borrowed gun to its owner.[3] Over the next five days he would become obsessed with getting another.

On August 9, the day after his meeting with Stratten, Snider and the private detective he'd hired went to a local gun store. After being told that the store couldn't sell him a firearm because of his Canadian citizenship, Snider asked the detective to buy the gun Snider wanted for him. The man said no.[6] When Snider saw the private detective again the following day, he tried to convince the man to buy him a machine gun, for "home protection" as Snider explained, but the detective talked him out of the idea.[3] The next day, August 11, Snider drove out into the San Fernando Valley to look at a gun he'd found for sale in a newspaper. He got lost, however, and eventually went home before finding the owner's address.[6]

August 13, 1980, marked the two-year anniversary of the day that Stratten had first arrived in Los Angeles to begin her acting and modeling career.[7]


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][6] Later that evening in a conversation with friends, Snider described how he had purchased a gun that day and finished his story by cryptically declaring that he was "going to take up hunting."[6]

During the same conversation, barely more than 12 hours before the murder,[8] 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.[6] 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.[6][8]

Stratten arrived for her meeting with Snider at his rented West Los Angeles house at approximately noon on Thursday, August 14.[9][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.[10] 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."[11]

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.[12][11] 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.[13]

By eight o'clock that evening both of the roommates had returned to the house.[14] 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.[15]

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.[14] 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.[16]

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.[17] After collapsing at the news, Bogdanovich was sedated.[18] Stratten's mother was told of her daughter's death at her Vancouver-area home later that morning by an RCMP Mountie.[7]

Stratten's body was cremated and the remains interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles.[19] 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.[20] 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
Skatetown, U.S.A. Girl at the snack bar First speaking part
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
Fantasy Island Mickey Episode: "The Victim/The Mermaid"
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Miss Cosmos Episode: "Cruise Ship to the Stars"
1980 The Tonight Show Herself Episode: "04/30/1980"

Aftermath of Stratten's murder

Bogdanovich and They All Laughed

In August of 1981, one year after Stratten's death, her final film, the romantic comedy They All Laughed, which was written and directed by Bogdanovich, had its US release.[21] After a disappointing limited run in a handful of theaters in the southwest, the upper midwest, and the northeast, the picture was quietly withdrawn.[22] [23]

Upset that what would be his only project with Stratten did not have a nationwide release, and determined that her last screen performance have a chance to be seen by a broader audience, 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.[24]

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.[25]

In the years since its inauspicious debut, They All Laughed has been recognized by filmmakers, critics, and others as being 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.[26]

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.[27]

The Killing of the Unicorn is by turns 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, his Playboy philosophy and the hedonistic sexual mores he celebrated in his magazine and practiced at his mansion, and the entire Playboy organization. By far 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.[28] (Bogdanovich chose to use the word "seduced" to describe Hefner's behavior in the book,[29] however, he originally used the word "raped" in the drafts of his manuscript. Bogdanovich and the publisher made the change after being threatened with a lawsuit by Hefner's lawyers.)[30]

Among the other allegations that Bogdanovich made in his book, the most significant are: 1) That Stratten had not married Snider out of love, but rather used her marriage as an excuse to block the advances of Hefner who, Bogdanovich claimed, pursued Stratten as a sexual partner after the purported assault, 2) That Stratten loathed nude modeling and dealing with Playboy in general, and only tolerated the humiliating work in order to promote her acting career, and 3) That Hefner was responsible, in part, for enabling Snider's killing rage when he was banned from entering the Playboy Mansion just days before the murder. [30] (Bogdanovich's underlying assertion for the last charge is that Snider was banned because Hefner hated the man. In his defense, Hefner explained that the purpose of the ban was to encourage Stratten and Bogdanovich to appear at the mansion as a couple.)

In a print article that appeared shortly after the murder, Hefner, who was 33 years older than Stratten, used the word "friendship" to describe his relationship with her and was said to see himself as a "father figure" to the Playmate.[3] The image that Hefner presented to the public as a supportive, benevolent, paternal figure to Stratten was further emphasized the following spring when Playboy published her biography in its May, 1981 issue. It was later reported that Hefner had personally supervised the editing of the article.[31]

In 1985, when asked again about his relationship with Stratten after the release of The Killing of the Unicorn, Hefner did concede to a crucial detail that lay at the heart of Bogdanovich's allegation. Namely, Hefner admitted that several weeks after Stratten first arrived in Los Angeles, the two had taken a nude soak in the "grotto" Jacuzzi on the Playboy Mansion grounds, the place where Bogdanovich claimed the sexual assault had occurred.[32] In the same interview, while allowing that they had "hugged" in the Jacuzzi, Hefner denied having forced himself on Stratten. Hefner also denied, despite his reputation, that he'd ever so much as made a pass at the young Canadian, suggesting that his sexual interest in Stratten had ended in the Jacuzzi after learning that she expected to become engaged to her boyfriend. (This conversation would have happened approximately two months before Hefner would first meet Snider.)


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 December of 1988, 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.[33] 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.[34]

See also


  1. "Playmate data". Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  2. Canby, Vincent (November 10, 1983). "SCREEN: 'STAR 80,' A SEX-SYMBOL'S LIFE AND DEATH". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
  3. Carpenter, Theresa (November 5, 1980). "Death of a Playmate" (PDF). The Village Voice. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
  4. 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. 228. ISSN 0032-1478.
  5. Rhodes 1981, p. 230.
  6. Rhodes 1981, p. 232.
  7. Rhodes 1981, p. 242.
  8. 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.
  9. Rhodes 1981, p. 216.
  10. Rhodes 1981, pp. 232-3.
  11. Rhodes 1981, p. 233.
  12. 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.
  13. Yule, Andrew (1992). Picture Shows: The Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich. New York: Limelight Editions. p. 164. ISBN 0-87910-153-9.
  14. Rhodes 1981, p. 234.
  15. Rhodes 1981, pp. 233-4.
  16. Bogdanovich 1984, p. 3.
  17. Rhodes 1981, pp. 234, 236.
  18. Yule 1992, pp. 162, 165.
  19. Rhodes 1981, p. 246.
  20. Rhodes 1981, p. 248.
  21. Yule 1992, p. 170.
  22. "Detail view of Movies Page - THEY ALL LAUGHED (1981)". Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  23. Yule 1992, p. 171.
  24. Yule 1992, pp. 171, 176-8.
  25. Crook, David (December 19, 1985). "Bogdanovich's Bankrupt Memorial". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  26. Rooney, David (September 1, 2014). "'One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich & the Lost American Film': Venice Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  27. Scott, Vernon (August 20, 1984). "Scott's World: Hefner fires broadside at Bogdanovich over book". UPI. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  28. Bogdanovich 1984, pp. 28-9.
  29. Bogdanovich 1984, p. 6.
  30. Ciotti, Paul (July 1985). "Doing Right by Dorothy". California. Vol. 10 no. 7. Los Angeles. p. 82.
  31. Watts, Steven (2008). Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-471-69059-7.
  32. Ciotti 1985, p. 83.
  33. Nashawaty, Chris (August 12, 1994). "The Centerfold Murder: Playmate Dorothy Stratten is found murdered". Entertainment Weekly.
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