Saturday, August 14, 2010

Deathday: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980 Murdered Playmate of the Year

Dorothy Stratten (February 28, 1960 – August 14, 1980)[1] was a Canadian model and actress. Stratten found fame as the Playboy Playmate of the Month for August 1979 and subsequently Playmate of the Year for 1980.[1] She was the second Playmate (after Lee Ann Michelle) to be born in the 1960s. Stratten is most remembered for the circumstances of her murder at age 20 by her estranged husband/manager, Paul Snider, who committed suicide later the same day. The circumstances surrounding her death have inspired two motion pictures.[2]

Life and career

Stratten was born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten in a Salvation Army hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Simon and Nelly Hoogstraten, Dutch immigrants.[3] In 1961, her brother John Arthur was born, and her sister Louise Stratten followed in May 1968.

She attended Centennial High School in Coquitlam. In 1977, while working part-time in a local Dairy Queen, she met a Vancouver-area promoter and pimp[3] named Paul Snider (then 26), who had nude photos taken of her and eventually sent them to Playboy. Because she was underage, she had to obtain her mother's signature to have the photos taken.[3]

In 1979, after having her surname shortened to Stratten,[3] she became Playboy's Miss August, and found work as a Bunny at the Los Angeles Playboy Club. She also played the role of Miss Cosmos in the Buck Rogers television series.

In June 1979, she married Snider in Las Vegas, Nevada. The couple's relationship quickly deteriorated, as Snider became prone to fits of jealousy and controlling behavior; he forbade her to drink coffee out of fear that it would damage her teeth, and Stratten believed that he was responsible for the death of her pet dog because he was jealous of the attention she gave it. [4]

In 1980, she became Playboy's Playmate of the Year. Her original pictorial was photographed by Mario Casilli.

Hugh 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. By August 1980, Snider's grandiosity gave way to obsessive jealousy as he lost control of Stratten's "rocket to the moon".[3] Around this time Stratten began an affair with the director of her first major film, Peter Bogdanovich.[3] Snider hired a private detective to follow Stratten and report back to him everything she did. Snider and Stratten separated, and Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, planning to file for a divorce from Snider.


Just after noon on August 14, 1980, Snider and Stratten met at Snider's house, where the two had once lived as a couple and which Snider was then sharing with their mutual friend, Dr. Stephen Cushner, and two women. The two had met to discuss terms for an amicable divorce, and Stratten had brought along $1,000 in the hopes that Snider would accept it as a settlement. [3][4] Around 12:30 pm, the private investigator whom Snider had hired phoned the apartment to see how the meeting was going; Snider answered the phone and told him that "everything is going fine." [4]

Around 5:00 pm, the female occupants of the apartment returned home from work. Finding Snider and Stratten's cars in the driveway and Snider's room door closed, they presumed that the couple wanted privacy. The female occupants watched the six o'clock news and then left to get dinner; at 7:00 pm, Cushner returned home from work, and, also finding Stratten's car in the driveway and Snider's door closed, decided not to disturb the couple. At 8:00 pm, the female occupants returned home and informed Cushner that they hadn't checked on Stratten and Snider either.[4]

At 11:00 pm, Cushner received a phone call on his private line from Snider's private investigator, who told him that he had been attempting to contact Snider for several hours but that Snider would not answer his phone. At the investigator's request, Cushner forced his way into Snider's room and found the couple; both were dead, completely nude and being partily eaten by ants. [4][3][5] Stratten was on the bed, dead from a shotgun blast that had taken off the side of her face and her left index finger. Evidence collected at the scene by police speculated that between 12:30 and 1:00 pm that Snider may have sexually forced himself on Stratten during an argument which turned violent in which he may have forcibily tied her up and then raped and sodomized before killing her with a shotgun that he kept in his room. Evidence also indicated that after having murdered Stratten, Snider had used medical tape to secure her corpse to a bondage bench and engaged in necrophilia with it before laying her corpse on the bed. Snider then turned the shotgun on himself.

Dorothy Stratten is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California. Stratten and Carol Willis are the only two Playmates to die within a year and a half of their Playboy appearances. At 20 and 22 years of age respectively, they were also the youngest.

In popular culture

Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Stratten and Bruce Weitz played Paul Snider in the 1981 television film Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story.

Stratten's story was portrayed in Bob Fosse's 1983 film Star 80 starring Mariel Hemingway[2] (Stratten) and Eric Roberts (Snider). The movie was filmed in the very same house and room where the actual murder/suicide occurred.

Peter Bogdanovich wrote a book about Stratten titled The Killing of the Unicorn, published in the summer of 1984. Four years later, at the age of 49, he married Stratten's sister, Louise, age 20. Earlier, Bogdanovich had paid for Louise's private school and modeling classes after Stratten's death.[6] They divorced in 2001 after 13 years of marriage.

Bryan Adams co-wrote two songs about Stratten. The first, "Cover Girl," became a hit for the band Prism in 1980. The second, "The Best Was Yet to Come," was written with Jim Vallance; it appeared on Adams' 1983 album Cuts Like a Knife and was later covered by Laura Branigan.



1.^ "Playmate data". Retrieved January 29, 2010.
2.^ Vincent Canby (1983-11-10). "SCREEN: 'STAR 80,' A SEX-SYMBOL'S LIFE AND DEATH". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
3.^ Theresa Carpenter (1980-11-05). "Death of a Playmate". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
4.^ The Murder of Dorothy Stratten
5.^ 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.
6.^ The Centerfold Murder

Further reading

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

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