Killing a Thing of Beauty: The Death of Rising Star Dorothy Stratten

Lori Johnston
9 min readJul 2, 2020

Vancouver native Dorothy Stratten very nearly had it all — small town girl makes good in Hollywood — living the dream before her estranged husband took it all away.

Dorothy was discovered at the age of eighteen by Playboy, who had received nude photos of the beauty sent by her then-boyfriend Paul Snider. Snider had found the blonde Dorothy working at a Dairy Queen and, always looking for an angle, the former pimp decided her star potential would allow him to ride her coattails to success.

Playboy liked what it saw and Dorothy headed to L.A., with Snider following her a month or so later. By August of 1979, she was Playmate of the Month, two months after marrying Snider in a quickie Las Vegas ceremony. While Dorothy’s motivation seemed to be obligation and a sense of gratitude for her “manager,” Snider’s intent was to keep her from slipping away from him. Her friends and those acquaintances connected with Playboy were none too happy that she had married the slimy Snider, who began driving around town in a Mercedes with vanity plates — STAR80 — to indicate where he felt he and his wife were going.

Dorothy worked as a Bunny at the Playboy Club and acting seemed a natural transition for her. Hefner believed she could be one of the then few who could move from Playmate to actress. She got roles, albeit small ones, in tv shows like Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers and the 25th Century and her first film role as a skater in Skatetown, U.S.A. All of these roles showcased her girl-next-door type of beauty but did little to demonstrate any talent. Her first starring role was as, and in, Galaxina, a science fiction parody released in 1980.

Her career was gaining momentum but the more success she seemed to gain professionally, the more stress her marriage was put under. Snider was jealous, not just of Dorothy potentially looking at other men but of her career. He had wanted to make her a star but now that she was solidly on the way, he began turning on her.

Hugh Hefner encouraged her to leave Snider, calling him a hustler and a pimp, but Dorothy felt responsible for her husband and refused. Friends began to warn her about Snider and his increasingly unstable behavior but again, Dorothy felt responsible.

In January 1980, Dorothy received the holy grail of Playboy stardom; she was crowned the 1980 Playmate of the Year. She also landed a small role that could have…

Lori Johnston

Writer, reader, margarita drinker. Currently looking for a “dare to be great” situation.