Dorothy Stratten, the 1980 Playboy Magazine Playmate of the Year, was the child of Dutch immigrants to Canada. Her sister would later marry the movie director she was dating at the time of her death at the hands of a jealous estranged husband.
Stratten was only 20, magically beautiful, an intoxicating mix of child-woman, and still retaining the wholesomeness of her Canadian upbringing. She was on the brink of major fame – already a Playboy Playmate and just starting to star in movies – when Paul Snider, bent on revenge because Stratten wanted to leave him for the director Peter Bogdanovich, murdered her with a shotgun blast to the face, before killing himself.
Stratten’s story will be featured in a two-hour episode of 20/20 on Friday, October 18, 2019. The coroner called Stratten’s death a murder-suicide. Her husband, 29, had descended into anger and paranoia as Stratten broke free of his iron grip of control.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stratten Was the Daughter of Dutch Immigrants But Worked in the Dairy Queen Where She Was Discovered to Help Her Mother Make Ends Meet
Dorothy Stratten was born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Only two years before she was murdered, according to a 1980 Associated Press article written shortly after her death, Stratten was working at a Dairy Queen store in Vancouver, British Columbia. ABC News reports that Stratten worked in the Dairy Queen throughout high school to help her mother make ends meet. Her mom worked in a school cafeteria. Paul Leslie Snider ordered a Strawberry Sundae Supreme on that fateful day. He had stumbled upon a woman so beautiful he was certain she could make them both very rich.
The Hoogstraten family has roots in the Netherlands. Her father, Simon Hoogstraten, left the family when Dorothy was 3. Nelly has three children: Dorothy; Louise, and a son, John Arthur Hoogstraten. See childhood photos of Dorothy here.
The book Picture Shows: The life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich by Andrew Yule states that Dorothy was born in a Salvation Army Hospital on February 28, 1960. Her parents’ full names were Peternella (Nelly) Schapp Fuchs and Simon Hoogstraten. Nelly had grown up in an orphanage in Holland and also worked as a housekeeper, becoming pregnant by an employer when Dorothy was still a child. That child was Louise, Dorothy’s half sister. They were on social assistance while Nelly trained to become a nurse.
Snider, who was also from Vancouver, quit school in the seventh grade after his parents split up and worked as a leather cutter in his dad’s sweatshop, the book says. He moved on to promote “whatever he could find to promise” from go-go dancers to automobiles. He was also a pimp.
Her IMDB profile says that Stratten grew up in a rough neighborhood but stayed out of trouble. Her life trajectory was changed forever when she started dating Snider, described by IMDB as a “promoter and wannabe star.”
According to the Village Voice, Snider was a small-time hustler who was Dorothy’s second boyfriend. She thought she’d become a secretary but he had other ideas, coaxing her to submit nude photos to Playboy, which soon ran them in the magazine.
2. Stratten Was Having an Affair With the Director Peter Bogdanovich at the Time of Her Death
Peter Bogdanovich was directing Stratten in a movie at the time of her death. He was also her lover. His comments about her at the time border on adulation. A People Magazine article from 1989 described how Bogdanovich cast Stratten in a movie. She was only 19 and he quickly became “obsessed with her,” telling People, “I could hardly believe that she really existed, that she wasn’t a dream. There was something miraculous about Dorothy Stratten.”
He added, “I don’t know if I can ever love as totally and completely as I loved Dorothy,” People Magazine reported, adding that, after the murder, Bogdanovich gave up making movies for a time and devoted himself to Dorothy’s mother, Nelly, and her kid sister, Louise, then 12.
In a statement released after her death, Bogdanovich said, “Dorothy Stratten was as gifted and intelligent an actress as she was beautiful, and she was very beautiful indeed – in every way imaginable – most particularly in her heart. She and I feel in love during our picture and had planned to be married as soon as her divorce was final. The loss to her mother and father, her sister and brother, to my children, to her friends and to me is larger than we can calculate.”
In 1985, when Dorothy’s sister was only 16, her mother and sister filed a lawsuit against Hugh Hefner for claiming the sister, Louise, “had been sexually involved with director Peter Bogdanovich after Stratten`s death,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
The Tribune quoted Stratten’s mother, Nelly Schaap, as saying: “All I ask is to leave my youngest girl alone. Leave my family alone. “Mr. Bogdanovich has been a friend to our family. He has not been sexually involved with me or my daughter Louise at any time.”
However, that wasn’t the end of the story when it came to Peter Bogdanovich and Louise Hoogstraten.
3. Bogdanovich Married Stratten’s Sister, Louise, After Her Death
The traumatized Peter Bogdanovich rebounded romantically after Dorothy’s horrific death by marrying Dorothy’s younger sister, Louise.
A 1989 Associated Press article reported that Bodanovich had married Dorothy’s younger sister, Louise Hoogstraten, 20. At the time, Bogdanovich was 49 years old. She also went by the name L.B. Hoogstraten (that surname was Dorothy’s real last name).
They were married in Canada. The AP article reported that Louise had filed a slander suit against Hugh Hefner and her former stepfather alleging they “falsely told reporters that Bogdanovich had seduced Louise Stratten when she was 13 and had sex with her mother after Dorothy Stratten was killed, and that Bogdanovich had paid for Louise to have plastic surgery to make her look more like her late sister.” But the lawsuit was later dropped.
In 1984, Bogdanovich wrote a book called, The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten, 1960-1980. It can still be purchased on Amazon.
According to Louise’s IMDB profile, she “is an actress and producer, known for City Island (2009), Django Unchained (2012) and It: Chapter Two (2019).” She is no longer with Bogdanovich. It was the third marriage for Bogdanovich; in 2001, he filed for divorce after 12 years of marriage to Louise.
In 2016, Louise attended a screening of a Bogdanovich movie with the director.
According to a book on Bogdanovich, Bogdanovich had an epitaph from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms “carved on Dorothy’s headstone:
“…if people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.”
4. Stratten’s Estranged Husband Murdered Her After a Botched Meeting Between the Two
An Associated Press story from August 1980 reported that the coroner’s report confirmed Stratten had died from a “shotgun wound to the face.” The naked bodies of Stratten and Snider were discovered at their home in West Los Angeles, where he’d raped Stratten before murdering her.
The coroner found that both Stratten and Snider – who had married in 1979, died “of gunshot wounds to the head.”According to the book Picture Shows: The Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich, the then Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Thomas T. Noguchi later stated, “Paul Snider shot (Dorothy) in the head, then put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.”
“The motive was apparently that he was despondent over the breakup of the marriage,” police Lt. Dan Cooke said at the time to the Associated Press, which added that Stratten moved out of the home she shared with Snider two months before.
A friend and controversial private investigator for Snider named Marc Goldstein had spoken with Snider the day before and Statten was with him. He told the AP, “All I can figure out is that it had to be an act of passion.” However, there were signs of control because Goldstein also said that Snider had retained him to investigate whether Stratten was in another relationship.
Stratten’s purse was lying in the middle of the living room floor with a note in Paul’s handwriting “explaining his financial distress,” according to the Edmonton Journal. Dorothy’s body was found “crouched across the bottom corner of a low bed. Both knees were on the carpet and her right shoulder was drooping.” The shotgun blast entered above her left eye.
5. Snider Was Becoming Angry & Despondent Before the Murder/Suicide
A 1980 article in the Edmonton Journal reported that Snider expected “but could not prove” that Stratten was having an affair. Snider had found “poems and love letters” from Bogdanovich to Stratten, according to the Journal, and wanted Goldstein, the private investigator to do more research.
Snider was afraid he would never see her again and that he was losing control, The Journal reported. He had called a photographer friend crying because he could “not touch Dorothy or get near her.” Dorothy had gone on a holiday to London with Bogdanovich.
Knowing that Hugh Hefner was planning a Midsummer Night’s Dream party at the Playboy Mansion, Snider tried to finagle an invite but was told he could only come if he was with Dorothy. Dorothy didn’t go to the apartment. She had moved into a Beverly Hills apartment on paper, but the person who really lived in it was Bogdanovich’s personal assistant, according to Edmonton Journal. She was really living with Peter Bogdanovich in Bel Air.
Stratten went to a playmate event out of state and then agreed to meet Snider on August 8, 1980 for lunch. That was a fatal decision. He told friends, “The queen is coming back.” But the lunch unraveled, with Dorothy confessing that she was in love with Bogdanovich and wanted out of the relationship.
Snider then set the murder plot in motion, The Journal reported, buying a 12-gauge Mossberg pump shotgun through an ad, learning how to load and fire it.
Court records in a 1985 suit that Goldstein filed against Peter Bogdanovich and Stratten’s estate provide more details. The court records contain responses that Bogdanovich gave to interrogatories in the court case.
Bogdanovich states in the court records that Snider had purchased a gun and had earlier borrowed a handgun from an individual named “Chip” that he returned to that man. He also tried to purchase an automatic weapon. Snider was “upset and despondent because of, among other things, the marital problems Snider was experiencing with Stratten and that Stratten was romantically involved with Bogdanovich,” the records say.
The breakup of Snider’s marriage to Stratten was “imminent,” Bogdanovich believed. Snider “had been barred from the Playboy mansion unless he was accompanied by Stratten and…this infuriated Snider.” Furthermore Bogdanovich claimed that Snider was involved “with drugs and perverse sex at the time he was upset concerning the breakup of his marriage and looking to purchase a gun.”
Bogdanovich said that Snider had arranged for a meeting with Stratten after he was aware that she “desired to terminate the marriage and after Snider had purchased a gun.” Dorothy Stratten “kept the meeting with Snider as arranged on August 14, 1980.” Snider was “moody, upset and/or despondent” in the days before the death, the court records saw.