Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten, popularly known by her pseudonym Dorothy Stratten, was a model, Playboy Playmate and actress. During her high school years, she worked in an ice-cream and fast food outlet where she caught the attention of club promoter and wannabe star Paul Snider. After they started dating, he convinced her to pose for a nude photo-shootwith the photographs being sent to Playboy magazine’s 25th Anniversary, Great Playmate Hunt in 1978. She moved from Coquitlam, Canada to Los Angeles, California, USA as a contestant with Snider as her manager. Although she lost to Candy Loving in the contest, she became Playboy Miss August1979 and later waschosen as the 1980’s Playmate of the Year. Despiteopposition from friends and colleagues, she married Snider. She acted in sometelevision series like ‘Fantasy Island’ and ‘Buck Rogers’, and in movies like ‘Autumn Born’ (1979) and ‘Galaxina’ (1980). Soon Stratten and Snider broke up and she was subsequently murdered by Snider during a private meeting regarding divorce formalities. Back then, many Hollywood directors considered Dorothy Stratten as a great acting prospectbut her untimely end shocked many in the industry.
Childhood & Early Life
Dorothy was born on 28th February, 1960 at Grace Maternity Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to Dutch immigrants Nelly and Simon Hoogstraten. When she was 3 years old, her father abandoned the family. Her mother remarried, but this marriage was also a failure.
She had a younger brother John Arthur (born in 1961) and a younger step-sister Louis Stratten (born in May 1968). Though she grew up in a noisy neighborhood in Vancouver, she kept away from most of the troubles.Dorothy studied at the Centennial High School in Coquitlam. Nelly Hoogstraten, having been married and divorced twice, barely earned enough by working as a nurse to support her three children and hence had to depend on welfare grants.
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While in high school and working at an outlet of the Dairy Queen fast food chain, she met a 26 year old Vancouver promoter and an allegedpimp named Paul Snider and they soon started dating. Snider later asked a professional photographer to take nude pictures of Stratten. Paul then sent those photographs to Playboy Magazine andDorothy immediately asked her mother to sign the consent form for modelling in the US (the Stratten biopic ‘Star 80’ implies that Snider may have forged Stratten’s mother’s signature).
Stratten and Snider flew to Los Angeles in August 1978 and she became one of the contestants of the 25thAnniversary Great Playmate Hunt. Incidentally she changed her surname to Stratten on Snider’s insistence.
She started working as a bunny (club hostess / entertainer) at the Playboy Club in Century City, Los Angeles.
Later sheconsciously tried to move from the Playboy career to an acting career by starring in episodes of the populartelevision series‘Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers’. As she ventured into films, she proved her potential as an actress, particularly noted for comedy roles. Dorothy also became apopular actor in Richard Dawson’s ABC TV Specials, shot at the Playboy Mansion.
Dorothy and Snider got married on June 1979 in Las Vegas. As she was rising as a star, their relationship encountered multiple issues. He started to bother her on the sets of the movie ‘Galaxina’ and also found out that she was developing more than a friendly relationship with director Peter Bogdanovich.
Snider’s cocaine addiction worsened and he became increasingly violent and abusive. According to the biopic ‘Star 80’, Snider may have lost Stratten’s hard earned money through failed business attempts and excessive spending.
Stratten tried her best to move away from Snider with support from Hugh Hefner and her friend and Playboy colleague Rosanne Katon. In 1980, Stratten was cast (probably with some help from Hugh Hefner) in a romantic comedy titled ‘They All Laughed’, co-starring Audry Hepburn and Bena Gazzara.
Director Peter Bogdanovich (just separated from his partner Cybill Sheperd) and Stratten had an affair during the filming in New York in spring 1980. Strangely Stratten played the role of a wife, having an extramarital affair while her husband tries to discover her secret life with the help of a private detective, just like what Snider did in real life. Later, Stratten and Bogdanovich went to Europe for a vacation.
When Stratten returned, she had plans of divorcing her husband Snider, who by that time was living separately along with another blonde.
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The estranged couple agreed upon meeting each other on 14th August, 1980 for discussing separation formalities. The argument soon turned violent, and as Snider had other plans, he had come armed with a gun.He raped his wife and then shot her to death before killing himself.
The incident was first brought to light by Snider’s private detective who called their mutual friend Dr. Cushner in order to break into the room where the incident had happened. Autopsy reports suggested that Stratten was assaulted before and after her death. The death of the Playmate was on the headlines of many national dailies the next morning.
Awards & Achievement
Dorothy became Playboy’s Miss August in 1979.
In 1980, it was revealed that Stratten would be declared as the Playmate of the Year by Playboy founder and publisher Hugh M. Hefner.
Film critic Vincent Canby had said that Stratten possessed a great screen presence and would have become a first-grade comedian, had more time and work been allotted to her. She also had a flair for writing good poetry and essays. She also appeared in the Vancouver Canadians’ baseball program, one month before her death.
Her murder has been depicted in two films namely ‘Death of a Centrefold: The Dorothy Stratten Story’ of 1981 in whichJamie Lee Curtis and Bruce Weitz played Stratten and Paul Snider respectively. The second film was directed by Bob Fosses and was titled ‘Star 80’ starring Eric Roberts as Snider and Mariel Hemmingway as Stratten. (80 was the number of Mercedes bought by Snider with Stratten’s money).
In his interpretation of the life of Stratten named ‘Killing of the Unicorn’, Bogdanovich had blamed Hugh Hefner and Playboy bunny lifestyle for the circumstances that led to Stratten’s death. He was also sued by private detective Marc Goldstein for some adverse remarks published in his book.
In contrast to this account, biographer Teresa Carpenter strongly criticized both Bogdanovich and Hefner for Stratten’s demise in her article, published in Village Voice for which she won the Pulitzer Award in journalism.
Dorothy Stratten was a friend of actress Colleen Camp, who is most famous for her police women roles like those in the Police Academy series.
After Stratten’s death, Bogdanovich paid up for Stratten’s younger sister’s schooling and modelling classes and married her in 1988. Though he divorced her in 2001, they still often work together.
Dorothy’s younger sister Louise, after having seen Snider’s behaviour towards Dorothy, grew up into ananti-domestic-violence activist and built a shelter for domestic violence victims in Los Angeles. Louise sued Hefner and her own step father for claiming that Bogdanovich had seduced Louise at the age of thirteen. But finally the case was withdrawn and was settled out of court. She also paid for a plastic surgery to make herself resemble Dorothy.