Born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten, Dorothy Stratten was a former Dairy Queen waitress from a cowtown in Canada. At the age of 18, she was unhappily married to Paul Snider (aged 29), a sleazy hustler and erstwhile pimp who was “managing” her career.
Snider sent her nude pictures to Playboy, where she featured as Playmate of the Month for August 1979, going on to become Playmate of the Year in 1980.
Stratten was a stunning blonde, statuesque (five foot eleven), with great bone structure, full breasts, and was, of course, an aspiring actress. She was also a pothead who spent her days stoned playing checkers and roller skating.
She was almost comically near-sighted but refused to wear glasses because they spoiled her looks.
When she walked down Sunset Boulevard in LA to Mirabelle’s (a restaurant) perched on platform heels and wearing indecently brief terrycloth shorts with a tiny top, head high in the air, she invariably caused rear-enders – to which she was entirely oblivious because she was nearly blind . . .
Several of Dorothy’s friends warned her that Snider was unstable, but she always dismissed the idea saying, “Oh, he’d never do anything. He’s very gentle.”
Director Peter Bogdanovich wrote Dorothy into They All Laughed (1981), a romantic madcap private-eye caper with Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara and John Ritter, and became romantically involved with her. In the spring, she wrote Snider a letter informing him that she wanted a separation. When filming wrapped in July she moved into Peter’s house.
Snider, meanwhile, was starting to behave erratically. He bought a shotgun and shot pigeons in his backyard. He convinced Stratten she still owed him for making her a centrefold, and she was giving him money.
On the morning of 14 August, she left Peter’s house without telling anyone where she was going. She was on her way to Snider’s home in West Los Angeles, apparently to make another payment.
When she had not returned by noon, Peter Bogdanovich began to worry. Trying to calm him down, his daughter Antonia said – ironically, as it turned out – “At least she’s not dead.”
Probably loaded on booze and quaaludes, Snider blew Stratten’s face off with the 12-gauge shotgun and then placed her on an exercise bench (later referred to in the press as a “bondage machine”) and had sex with her corpse – she had apparently been sodomised. She was 20.
Snider then shot himself in the head.
Bogdanovich was told about the murder-suicide by Hugh Hefner, who phoned him around midnight.
Since her death, Stratten has become something of a minor cult fixture and has had two movies, a song, and a couple of books written about her. They All Laughed was released after her death.