Playboy Playmate, model, and actress. Stratten was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for August 1979, Playmate of the Year in 1980 and was the second Playmate (after Lee Ann Michelle) born in the 1960s. Stratten appeared in three comedy films and at least two episodes of shows broadcast on US network television. She was murdered at age twenty by her estranged husband/manager Paul Snider, who committed suicide the same day. Her death inspired two motion pictures.
Life and careerStratten was born 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 under age 18 at the time, and when her mother refused to sign the model release, Nelly Hoogstraten's signature was forged.
In 1979 Dorothy and Paul moved to Los Angeles together. 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."
At about 11:00PM 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 the bodies of Snider and Stratten, both dead from shotgun blasts from a 12 gauge Mossberg shotgun; both bodies were nude. Police believed Snider raped and murdered Stratten, abused the corpse, then killed himself with the same shotgun.
Stratten is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
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 49 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 being married for 13 years.
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 was covered by Laura Branigan. A similar song was on Adams' 2008 album 11. "Flowers Grown Wild" (song) was about the price of fame in Hollywood.
Bongwater mentioned Dorothy Stratten in its song "Nick Cave Dolls". She also is referenced in "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as the "first born unicorn". The Angry Samoans mentioned Dorothy Stratten in their song "I'd Rather Do The Dog With Dorothy Stratten".
Gavin Rossdale mentions Dorothy Stratten in his song "Dead Meat" performed by his band Bush on the album, The Science of Things (1999), in the lyric "Dorothy died for your pleasure".
In 2012, hungarian electronic music artist, S Olbricht created his own story of Dorothy's life, and released his first artist album, The Last Act Of Dorothy Stratten as a soundtrack.