Just on the cusp of the 1980’s, Playboy magazine chose Dorothy Stratten as “Playmate of the Year”. She was to be groomed as their latest sex symbol. Would Stratten be the next Marilyn Monroe?
August 14, 1980. Dorothy Stratten is murdered by her husband Paul Snider with a shotgun blast to her face. Snider would do the same to himself. What went wrong? Why couldn’t this have been prevented? It was always about control.
Paul Snider, a small-time pimp from Vancouver, wanted to enter the big leagues and with Dorothy, he nearly made it. In 1977, he found her working at a “Dairy Queen” and eventually convinced her to be Playboy’s latest model.
Founder Hugh Hefner immediately saw her potential. Stratten would be their greatest star.
In 1979, Paul marries Dorothy. He now has fifty percent controlling interest.
Early in 1980, director Peter Bogdanovich casts Dorothy in his latest film, setting the wheels in motion. A fatal love affair begins.
Dorothy and Paul’s marriage was never a good one. Why she agreed to it, I can’t be sure, but Snider used it as a way to keep as much of her income as possible. She felt she owed him her career, even though she never wanted to pose nude or achieve fame and fortune. It was all Paul’s idea.
Peter Bogdanovich saw in Dorothy, his soulmate. You could say his movie was the only thing she did that wasn’t exploitive. Dorothy was willing to end her marriage for him, but not for herself.
What convinced her to ultimately leave him?
I suspect it was the poisoning of her puppy – a gift from Hefner. Snider could be jealous even of a dog. People who abuse animals often progress to people.
At the “Playmate of the Year” ceremony, you can see Dorothy pulling away from Paul, flinching, not being able to hold his hand or let him touch her. He knew he was losing control.
In 1980, Dorothy had begun living with Peter. Paul was aware of this. He had hired detectives to follow her.
A last attempt to make money off a poster of Dorothy was rejected. (Peter advised her of this.)
Finally, Hefner barred Paul from the Playboy mansion. From then on, he would be allowed entry only if accompanied by his wife.
Cocaine was the drug of choice at the time and Paul used it for a paranoid high. Add to this, his belief that he was losing Dorothy – his only ticket to the big time and…
The future may have seemed bright for Dorothy Stratten. She had several features in the works. A western (“Harry Tracy’) and Playboy’s version of “Little Annie Fanny”. Plus, Peter’s forthcoming movie.
The only problem she had left was Paul. What did he want?
Snider wanted a house, a green card, full access back inside the Playboy mansion, half of Dorothy’s money and, of course, he wanted his wife back.
“Star 80” (1983), a mostly inaccurate version of what happened, starring Mariel Hemingway (who looks nothing like Dorothy), focuses a great deal on that last day. It can’t be known what they said, but it is known that Paul raped his wife, killed her and then raped her again.
Why did Dorothy go alone? Didn’t she or Peter see this coming? Although, Peter was unaware of her visit, why was she faced with the task of facing a dangerous man by herself?
Bogdanovich partially blamed Hefner for his magazine’s ethics. He would go on to marry her younger sister, Louise, later ending in divorce.
Dorothy remains a tragic figure, caught in the middle, for her loss of control.
Text © 2018 – ERN