The Life and Tragic Death of Dorothy Stratten

Updated on July 24, 2018
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A pop culture addict who loves to talk about movies, music, books, comics, and all of the other things that move and entertain us.

Dorothy Hoogstraten was born on February 28, 1960 to Dutch immigrants to Canada. Her father left the family when she was three, leaving Dorothy's mother Nellie to care for her and her younger brother. Times were hard as Nellie took public assistance and worked as a housekeeper. Times got a little harder after Nellie became pregnant again by one of her employers. He refused to take responsibility for the child, so now Nellie was raising three kids on her own.

Dorothy wanted to help out, and so she took a job at the Dairy Queen. It was here that she would meet Paul Snider. Snider was a promoter who mostly worked car shows at the time, and also a pimp. He started dating Dorothy despite her family thinking he was obnoxious. Snider convinced Dorothy to take some nude photos to enter in Playboy's Playmate Hunt contest. Dorothy won, and went to L.A. to be photographed by Playboy. Snider followed her and managed to maintain a pretty tight control over her. He pressured Dorothy to marry him, and she relented out of a sense of obligation.

Dorothy third from right with her family in Canada
Dorothy third from right with her family in Canada

Dorothy, who had changed her name to Stratten to be a Playmate, was making a move to become an actress. She had guest spots on Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island, and has small roles in the films Americathon, Galaxina, and Skatetown U.S.A. Her big break came when Peter Bogdanovich cast her in his movie They All Laughed. Dorothy fell for the director and the two started an affair. Dorothy told her husband that she wanted a separation. She was willing to give him pretty much anything he wanted, because she still felt she owed her whole career to him.

Dorothy moved in with Bogdanovich, and Snider hired a private eye to follow her. He also bought a shotgun, and constructed a bondage chair. He moved a girlfriend in with him. Everyone warned Dorothy that Snider was dangerous, but she insisted she could handle him. She wanted the split to be amicable and hoped to remain friends with him. She didn't know that he had bought a gun, and had been talking about Playmates dying. That is why she ignored all advice and agreed to meet with him provately at his house on August 14, 1980.

Dorothy and husband/killer Paul Snider
Dorothy and husband/killer Paul Snider

No one knows exactly what happened that day. Somehow Paul got Dorothy in the bedroom. He raped her, then shot her, then apparently raped her again. After this he turned the gun on himself. The bodies went undiscovered for hours, until the P.I. Snider had hired called his roommates saying he was concerned because he couldn't reach him. The roommates had assumed the couple were reconciling when they came home to see Dorothy's car in the drive and the bedroom door closed. They broke into the room and found the naked dead bodies of Dorothy Stratten and her husband.

The awful end of Dorothy's life should have ended the scandals, but unfortunately the tawdriness kept coming. Bogdanovich was in mourning over his lost love, and wrote a book about her. In the book, he claimed that Hugh Hefner raped Dorothy and blamed the Playboy lifestyle for her death. Of course, her death falls squarely on the shoulders of Paul Snider, who was controlling and abusive before he ever talked Dorothy into posing for Playboy. Hefner retaliated by claiming that after Dorothy's death Bogdanovich had a sexual relationship with her 13 year old sister. Dorothy's family sued Hefner for libel and slander. Years later, Bogdanovich married the sister, after she had come of legal age. Dorothy was on the verge of maybe being a big star, but the men in her life first killed her, then made sure that her memory was drowned in scandal.




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