Life and careerStratten was born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten in a Salvation Army hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia to Simon and Nelly Hoogstraten, who were Dutch immigrants. In 1961 her brother John Arthur was born. Her sister Louise Stratten followed in May 1968.
In 1977 she was attending Centennial High School in Coquitlam when, while working part-time at a local Dairy Queen she met twenty-six year old Vancouver-area club promoter and pimp Paul Snider, who romanced her. Snider later had professional nude photos taken of her which were sent to Playboy magazine. She was underage and when her mother refused to sign the model release, Nelly Hoogstraten's signature was forged.
In 1979 the two moved to Los Angeles. With her surname shortened to Stratten, she became Playboy's Miss August and began working as a bunny at the Century City Playboy Club. Hugh Hefner had high hopes Stratten could have meaningful crossover success as an actress. She guest starred in episodes of the television series Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island, along with a small role in the 1979 roller disco comedy Skatetown, U.S.A..
In 1980 she became Playboy's Playmate of the Year, with photography by Mario Casilli. Stratten also played the title role in the sci-fi parody Galaxina.
Hefner reportedly encouraged Stratten to sever ties with Snider, calling him a "hustler and a pimp." Rosanne Katon and other friends warned Stratten about Snider's behavior. Stratten began an affair with Peter Bogdanovich while he was directing They All Laughed, her first and only major film. Snider hired a private detective to follow Stratten. They separated and Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, planning to file for a divorce from Snider. By August 1980 Snider most likely believed he had lost Stratten and what he had called his "rocket to the moon."
MurderShortly 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 by then sharing with its owner, their mutual friend Dr. Stephen Cushner, along with two women. Stratten had come to talk about an amicable divorce and brought along $1,000 to give Snider.
At about 11:00 PM Snider's private investigator called Cushner on his private line, saying he had been trying to telephone Snider for several hours, but Snider would not answer his phone. Cushner broke into Snider's room and found them dead from shotgun blasts, both bodies nude and swarmed by ants.
Aftermath, popular cultureIn 1983 film critic Vincent Canby wrote, "Miss Stratten possessed a charming screen presence and might possibly have become a first-rate comedienne with time and work."
Stratten's murder was depicted in two films. In Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981) Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Stratten and Bruce Weitz played Paul Snider. Bob Fosse's Star 80 (1983) starred Mariel Hemingway as Stratten and Eric Roberts as Snider, whose performance was praised by many critics. Scenes of Star 80 were filmed in the same house and room where the murder/suicide happened.
Peter Bogdanovich wrote a book about Stratten titled The Killing of the Unicorn (1984). Four years later at age forty-nine he married Stratten's sister Louise, who was twenty. Bogdanovich had paid for Louise's private school and modeling classes following Stratten's death. They divorced in 2001 after thirteen years of marriage.
Bryan Adams co-wrote two songs about Stratten. "Cover Girl" became a hit for the band Prism in 1980 and "The Best Was Yet to Come", written with Jim Vallance, was on Adams' album Cuts Like a Knife (1983) and later covered by Laura Branigan. A similar song was on his 2008 album 11."Flowers Grown Wild" The song was about the price of fame in Hollywood.
Bongwater mention Dorothy Stratten in their song "Nick Cave Dolls". She is also referred to in "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers as the "first born unicorn".