Sunday, January 9, 2022

Dorothy Stratten


Dorothy Stratten was born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on February 28, 1960.  Just a few years earlier, her parents had immigrated from the Netherlands, intent on starting a family.  Brother John was born in 1961, followed by sister Louise in 1968.

During her high school years, Stratten worked at a local Dairy Queen in Coquitlam, British Columbia.  It was there in 1977 that she met the villain of our story, 26-year-old club promoter and pimp Paul Snider, who was immediately fascinated with the underage girl.  Despite his obvious lack of charm, the two soon began dating, with Snider even escorting Stratten to her senior prom.  

By 1978, the two were inseparable.  Snider, convinced that he had found his meal ticket, convinced Stratten to pose nude for a professional photographer.  He believed she could be the next Playboy Playmate, and promptly sent the photos to the magazine.  While Stratten was 18 years old at the time, the legal age of majority in Canada was 19, requiring Stratten's mother to sign a model release form.  It remains unclear today as to whether she actually signed the form herself or if Snider forged her signature.  Stratten followed the photos to Los Angeles, where she relocated in August 1978.  Snider followed just two months later, and they were married shortly thereafter.

When Playboy editors saw the photos, they were indeed interested, and Stratten was selected as a finalist to be the 25th anniversary Playmate.  While that title eventually went to model Candy Loving, Stratten was named Playmate of the Month in the August 1979 issue.  She began working as a bunny at the now-defunct Playboy Club in Century City, while simultaneously landing roles on television.  Playboy editor Hugh Hefner believed Stratten had great potential in Hollywood and was eager to help her pursue that endeavor, but he encouraged her to dump Snider, who was creeping the hell out of everyone.

Her first role, although uncredited, was in the 1979 Neal Israel comedy Americathon, starring Harvey Korman, Fred Willard and an unknown John Ritter.  She'd follow it up with guest appearances on Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (see Trivia below).  She also appeared in the 1979 Maureen McCormick/Scott Baio classic Skatetown, USA.

In early 1980, Stratten starred as the titular character in the science-fiction film Galaxina.  The production was not an easy one however, as Snider was constantly on set fighting with his estranged wife. He was becoming increasingly paranoid that he was losing his wife to Hollywood, when in fact he was losing her through his own machinations. 

A few months later, she was named Playboy Playmate of the Year.  She shot a second pictorial for the magazine, which caught the attention of director Peter Bogdanovich.  He cast her in a new film entitled They All Laughed, playing opposite John Ritter. Stratten flew to New York to begin production on the film, eager to spend some time away from her husband.  There, she began having a relationship with Bogdanovich.  

In April, just as her issue was to be released, Stratten took a break from filming and went on a publicity tour to promote the magazine.  She returned to Los Angeles and the home she shared with Snider, declaring her intentions to leave him.

Stratten's tour ended in her hometown of Vancouver, where she decided to spend some time with her family.  Snider went there to see her however, and quite curiously, convinced her to make a few personal appearances at area nightclubs, for which he pocketed all of the proceeds.  Back in Los Angeles, Snider later sold all of her Playboy prizes, except for the $26,000 Jaguar that he kept for himself.

Principal photography for They All Laughed concluded in July, and Stratten returned to Los Angeles.  There, she moved in with Bogdanovich, a fact that did not sit well with Snider.  He hired a private detective to follow the two (which seems kinda pointless when you think about it).  Snider contacted his estranged wife on several occasions, convinced that he could win her back.  But Stratten had moved on.

Over the next few weeks, Snider made several attempts to buy a gun, something his Canadian citizenship prevented in Los Angeles.  He asked the private detective to buy one for him, but this man knew better.  Oddly, he never contacted the police to discuss his concerns.  Snider was ultimately successful in buying a used 12-gauge pump action shotgun via the classified ads.

On August 14, Stratten returned to Snider's house, as the two had arranged a meeting to discuss their separation.  She went to see him by herself, a mistake that would ultimately cost her her life.

Several hours later, Snider's roommate returned to the home, noticing Stratten's car in the driveway.  Upon entering the home, he found both of them dead, totally nude and covered in blood.  Police would later determine that Snider murdered Stratten within an hour of her entering the home, had sex with her lifeless corpse, then killed himself an hour later.  Upon hearing the news from Hugh Hefner, Bogdanovich had to be sedated.

Dorothy Stratten was laid to rest at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village in Los Angeles.  She is just a stone's throw away from both Hugh Hefner and Marilyn Monroe.

Rest in peace.


  • The inscription on Stratten's headstone is a quote from Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.  It reads: "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them.  So of course it kills them.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.  We love you, D.R."  Coincidentally, Hemingway's granddaughter Mariel portrayed Stratten in in the 1983 Bob Fosse film Star 80.  For further insight into the quote, click here.

  • They All Laughed had a very limited release in 1981, with dismal results.  Bogdanovish believed in his film however, and personally financed a larger distribution four years later.  It was a box office disaster, largely seen as a Bogdanovich vanity project.  This decision ultimately bankrupted the director.

  • In 1985, Bogdanovich chronicled Stratten's life and career in his 1985 book The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.  Ironically, Bogdanovich himself passed away as this blog post was being prepared.

  • Four months after Stratten passed, the band Prism released a tribute song entitled "Cover Girl."  Then in 1983, Bryan Adams released his own tribute song entitled "The Best Was Yet to Come."  "Californication," by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, also pays tribute to Stratten.  You can listen to all three songs on YouTube.

  • On her Playmate Data Sheet, Stratten stated her biggest turnoff was "jealous people."

  • Stratten appeared in the Buck Rogers episode "Cruise Ship to the Stars."  When you watch the episode, listen closely, as you'll never hear her real voice.  All of her lines were dubbed by another actress.

  • Stratten appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to promote her Playmate of the Year issue.  You can watch that interview, and hear her real voice, on YouTube.

  • This blogger has visited the house where Stratten was murdered, located at 10881 West Clarkson Road in Rancho Park, Los Angeles.  The murder scene in Star 80 was filmed on location!

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