Stratten in 1979
Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten|
February 28, 1960
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
August 14, 1980 (aged 20)|
West Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Gunshot wound|
|Resting place||Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery|
Paul Snider (m. 1979–1980)
|Playboy centerfold appearance|
|Preceded by||Dorothy Mays|
|Succeeded by||Vicki McCarty|
|Playboy Playmate of the Year|
|Preceded by||Monique St. Pierre|
|Succeeded by||Terri 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. 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, 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
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. 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.
In August 1978, she moved to Los Angeles, where she was chosen as a finalist for the 25th Anniversary Great Playmate Hunt. 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. Hugh Hefner had high hopes Stratten could have meaningful crossover success as an actress. 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.
Hefner reportedly encouraged Stratten to sever ties with Snider, calling him a "hustler and a pimp". 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. 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."
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.
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. Later that evening in a conversation with friends, Snider described how he had purchased a gun that day and that he was "going to take up hunting."
During the same conversation, barely more than 12 hours before the murder, 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. 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.
Stratten arrived for her meeting with Snider at his rented West Los Angeles house at approximately twelve noon on Thursday, August 14. 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. 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, 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."
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. By all appearances they had spent some time in the living room, where Stratten's purse was found lying open, before going into Snider's bedroom.
By eight o'clock that evening the roommates had returned to the house. They both saw Stratten's car parked out front and noted that Snider's bedroom door was closed. Assuming that the couple had reconciled and wanted their privacy, the roommates spent the next several hours watching television in the living room.
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. Each had been killed 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.
Sometime after midnight on the morning of August 15, the private detective telephoned the Playboy Mansion and told Hefner that Stratten had been murdered. Hefner then called Bogdanovich. After collapsing at the news, Bogdanovich was sedated. Stratten's mother was told of her daughter's death at her Vancouver home later that morning by an RCMP Mountie.
Stratten's body was cremated and the remains interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles. 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. 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 as Stratten and Eric Roberts as Snider.
In 1984, Peter Bogdanovich's book about Stratten was published, titled The Killing of the Unicorn. 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. 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.
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