Life and Tragic Death of Dorothy Stratten: What Really Happened?

The death of Dorothy Stratten borders around the “If I can’t have you, no one will” sentiment. As one of the most popular Playboy Playmate models in the late 1900s, Dorothy was young and full of life. She had so much to accomplish with an already booming career in acting. But unfortunately, her life was cut short after a breakup that went wrong.

Dorothy Stratten died the same year she was recognized as the Playboy Playmate of the Year and bagged her first big break in the movie industry with They All Laughed (1980). The movie was written by Peter Bogdanovich, her lover before her death. Dorothy’s passing came as a massive shock to her fans and admirers across the world and today, the story of her life and death has been told through films such as Star 80 and Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story.

The Life of Dorothy Stratten

Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten was born at Grace Maternity Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on the 28th of February 1960 to parents Simon and Nelly Hoogstraten who were her parents. Dorothy had a brother and a half-sister, John Author and Louis Stratten. Her mother – who had been married twice – was a nurse who could barely take care of her children but managed by depending on welfare grants for support. Her father Simon left the family when Dorothy was only three.

As expected, Dorothy and her family lived in the low-income earners’ part of Vancouver characterized by rowdiness and several vices. The young girl, however, managed to stay out of trouble. She attended the Centennial High School in Coquitlam while also working at Dairy Queen fast food restaurant. It was there that she met the 26-year-old small-time promoter and pimp who would eventually become her sunrise and her sunset, Paul Snider.

Her Marriage and Separation From Paul Snider

Paul Snider saw potential in this beautiful waitress and before long, they started dating. He soon convinced her to take professional nude photos which he sent to Playboy Magazine. At this time, Dorothy was 17 and below the legal age of having her nudes published, hence she needed a consent form signed by her guardian. She got this from her mother and that marked the beginning of her rise to stardom.

Dorothy Stratten would later marry Paul Snider in June 1979 out of what has been described as a ‘sense of obligation’ rather than love.

She began working at the Playboy club as a bunny and changed her name to Stratten. She was ultimately made a Playboy Playmate in August 1979. Seeking a career in acting, Dorothy Stratten began appearing in movies and television shows playing small roles. Some of her movies and television shows include Fantasy Island, Buck Rogers, Autumn Born, and Galaxina. She had what was supposed to be her big break when she was cast on Peter Bogdanovich’s movie, They All Laughed, in 1980.

On the home front, Paul was abusive and controlling. This eventually chased her into the arms of another man, Peter Bogdanovich. She broke up with Paul Snider through a letter, telling him she had moved in with another man.

The Tragic Death of Dorothy Stratten

The 20-year-old model was murdered by her estranged husband when she went to meet him in their former home for final arrangements on their divorce and wealth allocation.

Dorothy Stratten
Dorothy Stratten and Paul Snider

Apparently, Paul didn’t take the letter of separation lightly. After receiving it, he hired a private detective to follow Dorothy around and report her movements to him. Days before the murder, Paul had gone to Peter Bogdanovich’s house where Dorothy lived with a borrowed gun. His intent was to kill anyone he saw at the entrance to the property. When he saw no one, he left and contemplated committing suicide instead.

Days later, he was approached by Dorothy who wanted to finalize their divorce arrangements. He agreed to the divorce and asked to see her one more time to discuss the details of wealth allocation.

On the fateful afternoon of August 14, 1980, Dorothy arrived at her former home at West Los Angeles by 12 noon and there she met her estranged husband who beat her up, raped her, and shot her in the head with a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun after which he shot himself. His corpse, as well as that of Dorothy Stratten, was found around 11 pm by his roommates.

There has been no consensus on why Paul Snider killed his estranged wife. Some have said that he didn’t want to let a valuable asset go. Others are of the opinion that he was a very sick man.

It is also on records that he was a cocaine abuser, so he could have committed the act under the influence of this substance. Above all, many would agree it was another case of a jealous lover who couldn’t stand another man having his woman. Whatever the reason might be, it was clear that Paul Snider took away a rare gem.


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