Paul Snider, Dorothy Stratten’s Husband: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

paul snider

Getty Paul Snider and Dorothy Stratten.

Paul Snider was a hustler, a pimp, and flashy enough to wear a mink coat as a fashion statement. He was also the estranged husband of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten, and a murderously jealous one.

Snider discovered the beautiful Canadian blonde in their home town of Vancouver, Canada, steering her career and guiding her onto the pages of Playboy, exerting a tyrannical control over her life and career. However, once Snider started to lose his grip on Dorothy – due to her own ascendance in Hollywood and affair with an acclaimed director – Snider unraveled into a fury that escalated into murder.

Stratten’s life and death at her husband’s hands will be featured in a two-hour episode of 20/20 on Friday, October 18, 2019. At the time of her death, Stratten, the 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year, was only 20 years old and was dating a famous director, Peter Bogdanovich. He’s famous for movies like The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. The coroner called Stratten’s death a murder-suicide; in contrast to Bogdanovich, who was a high-powered director, her husband, Snider, was a small-town pimp and promoter.

“He (Snider) wanted ownership of her,” the actress Mariel Hemingway told ABC. “He wanted to say that he owned something, that he did something… I think he thought he made her.”

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Paul Snider Stumbled on Dorothy Stratten in a Dairy Queen & Convinced Her to Send Playboy Naked Photos

There’s no question that Snider was responsible for “discovering” the young woman then known as Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten. According to a 1980 Associated Press article written shortly after her death, he walked into the Dairy Queen store in Vancouver, British Columbia where Dorothy was working. She was serving ice cream, according to ABC, which added that Dorothy had worked at the chain restaurant all through high school to help her mother, who worked in a school cafeteria, make ends meet.

Snider convinced her to submit photos to Playboy after seeing an advertisement for the magazine’s 25th Anniversary Playmate search in 1978, IMDB reports. Playboy was interested, although Candy Loving beat her out that year. She became a playmate the following year, however. It was a clash of cultures: The small town girl headed to the big city, still naive and gullible.

“She didn’t believe that everybody lied, and all the liars came to [Los Angeles],” said actor Max Baer Jr., one of Snider’s friends, to ABC. “I said [to Snider], ‘Do you care about her?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Well if you really care about her…take her back to Vancouver. She doesn’t belong here.’ I said, ‘She’s nice. She’s got a great figure, got a beautiful face and this town will destroy her.'”

But he didn’t take her back to Vancouver. Instead, it was Snider who destroyed her.

Her IMDB profile says that Stratten grew up in a rough neighborhood but stayed out of trouble. Snider was described by IMDB as a “promoter and wannabe star.” Snider immediately realized that Dorothy could make him a lot of money, and he plied her with jewelry and promises, the article stated, adding that he was only her second boyfriend and she thought of becoming a secretary before meeting Snider. Hugh Hefner, Village Voice reported, would later describe Dorothy’s “magic” as being a cross between vulnerability and sensual appeal, and she drew comparisons to Marilyn Monroe.

Of Snider, Hefner would say, he was “very sick.”

2. Snider, Who Grew Up in a Broken Home, Was a Bodybuilder & Promoter Known as the ‘Jewish Pimp’

paul snider

The marriage photo of Dorothy Stratten to Paul Snider.

According to the Village Voice, Snider grew up in Vancouver in a broken home, became a bodybuilder, hit the nightclub circuit, started promoting car shows, earned the label the “Jewish Pimp,” and was known to dress flashy, including wearing a mink coat. He drove a Mercedes with a license plate that read “STAR 80,” which was later the name taken for a Hollywood movie about Stratten.

He tooled around LA in a gold limousine for a time. Teresa Carpenter, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her Village Voice article on the case, told ABC that Snider “made a pretty good living as a promoter for automobile shows and cycling shows.” He didn’t make enough money though so he was literally a pimp prostituting out women, Carpenter told ABC. She added that he could be seen around town flashing his black corvette or jeweled Star of David necklace. He was all flash, craving attention.

“He didn’t keep a low profile,” Carpenter told ABC, which reported that Snider took Stratten to her senior prom when he was 26 years old. “It took him a little while to talk me into agreeing to taking some test pictures,” Stratten said to Canadian television. “I had never taken my clothes off for anyone I didn’t know… It took me about two weeks to agree.”

Snider’s plans for Dorothy worked, and they moved to Hollywood, where Playboy and a few acting roles placed her on the cusp of ultimate fame.

Dorothy was soon was finding a spot in movies like Galaxina. At the time of her death, she had just completed production on her first major film, They All Laughed, by the director Peter Bogdanovich, famous for The Last Picture Show.

Her Playboy stats say that Dorothy stood 5’9″, weighed 123 lbs, and had measurements of 36-24-36. Snider was only 29 years old when he died. She was 20.

3. It’s Believed That Snider Murdered Dorothy With a Shotgun Blast to the Face Before Killing Himself

Dorothy Stratten

GettyDorothy Stratten in 1980

An Associated Press story from August 1980 reported that the coroner’s report confirmed Stratten had died from a “shotgun wound to the face.” Both Stratten and Snider were naked. He raped her before murdering her.

The coroner found that both Stratten and Snider – who had married in 1979, died “of gunshot wounds to the head.” The Village Voice article says the coroner hedged a bit, dubbing it as “questionable suicide, possible homicide.”

According to the book Picture Shows: The Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich, despite that somewhat ambiguous initial statement, 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 crime scene forensic analysis was complicated by the fact that the police claimed “they were unable to determine scientifically whether or not Snider had fired the shotgun, since his hands were coated with too much blood and tissue for conclusive tests to be conducted.”

The New York Times dubbed Snider a “small-time promoter.” Stratten was his chance to make it big. Now they were both gone. He thought he could make her, and he thought he could unmake her, authorities believe.

4. Snider Was Growing Increasingly Despondent & Purchased a Gun in the Days Before Dorothy Died

dorothy stratten

GettyMay 1980: Canadian model and actor Dorothy Stratten (1960 – 1980), ‘Playmate of The Year’ for 1980, holding a pen over a copy of Playboy magazine, during a reception at the Playboy Mansion West, Los Angeles, California.

The motive seemed clear. Snider had seen Dorothy as his path to fame and fortune, but she was slipping from his grasp. Without her at his side, he found doors slammed to him. He’d turned off people with his personality, even, according to ABC News, trying to make out with other women at the Playboy Mansion’s famous grotto. Meanwhile, Dorothy was described by people who knew her as childlike despite her woman’s voluptuous body.

“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. She was having an affair with Peter Bogdanovich, the director of her film.

“As she started to slip away, he started to realize he owned nothing,” Hemingway said to ABC. “He wasn’t doing anything, nobody was admiring him. Hugh Hefner’s not going to call him back… and then this deep, deep, deep, freaky thing that was going on inside of him took control and he lost it.”

Marc Goldstein, hired by Snider as a private investigator to trail Stratten, 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.”

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.

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.”

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.

peter bogdanovich

GettyPeter Bogdanovich (l)

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.

5. Hugh Hefner Believed Snider Murdered Stratten Because He Was a ‘Very Sick Guy’ Who ‘Saw a Meal Ticket’

Hugh Hefner, Playboy

GettyHugh Hefner poses at Playboy’s 60th Anniversary special event on January 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

The Village Voice article by Teresa Carpenter was turned into a movie on Stratten’s life and death called Star80, according to The New York Times. The actor Eric Roberts played Paul Snider.

You can read the Village Voice article here; it was called Death of a Playmate. When Stratten died, Hugh Hefner, rejected the simplistic narrative that Stratten was a small-town girl who died because of the fast lane, saying the death was the fault of Paul Snider alone, calling him a “very sick guy” who “saw a meal ticket” and felt his “connection to power” slipping away.

According to the 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.”