In April of 1985, Hugh Hefner — the Playboy founder and owner who normally walked around his mansion in a robe with a smile that almost touched end to end — arrived to the press conference he called wearing formal attire, his demeanor much less jovial.
I suspect this will change the nature and focus of my life. To have that experience and come back from that is something of a miracle and blessing. When you come that close to the edge and look over, the dramatic nature of what occurred gave me permission in a single day to drop the luggage of a lifetime.
Hefner was talking about the stroke he had suffered just a few weeks earlier, a stroke he attributed to acclaimed director Peter Bogdanovich, who had helmed classics such as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. Bogdanovich had not directly caused the stroke, but rather it was the book he wrote a year earlier that caused the stress-induced health crisis of the Playboy tycoon.
The book, The Killing of the Unicorn, told the tale of a beautiful Canadian girl, who rose to prominence as a Playmate, and then a budding actress and model in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the Cinderella fantasy ended with a shotgun blast to her face, a murder that Bogdanovich ultimately blamed — at least partially — on Hefner, among others. The ripples in the sea of humanity that this young, beautiful woman’s splash created do not end there, nor do they begin there. They start at an ice cream shop in Canada.
The Idea Man
Paul Snider was not a stupid man. He would later — in a 1980 Village Voice article — be labeled a “pimp,” and perhaps he was. But, Snider had an eye for talent. It was his idea to start an all-male, nude revue show that would later become the Chippendales nightclub juggernaut. In 1977, Snider was likely not in search of talent, or an act he could attach his rope to and ride into a vault of gold, when he entered a Vancouver Dairy Queen — instead he found his greatest act of all.
Her name was Dorothy Stratten. Although she was only 17 and in high school at the time, she had already blossomed into a woman, the picturesque definition of every man’s fantasy. She had honey blonde hair, a perfectly proportioned face, and 36-24-36 dimensions —the “holy grail” in the world of voluptuous, female modeling. Peter Bogdanovich would later describe her as “the most beautiful woman (he had) ever seen.”
Snider, a nightclub promoter, knew he had to have her. The 26-year old lathered on his charms, doing his best to turn this ice cream attendant into the golden ticket he had already envisioned. It didn’t take long. That same year, Stratten and Snider became an item, and then, a married couple. But, it wasn’t Snider’s goal to just marry the beautiful Canadian, it was his goal to turn her into a star.
When Stratten turned 18, Snider began to put his plan to work. He had professionally nude photographs taken of Stratten, and sent them to Playboy for their 25th Anniversary contest. Immediately, Hugh Hefner — the Playboy magazine magnate — urged Stratten to move to L.A. She obliged, and both she and Snider made their residence in California, with Snider acting as her manager. Stratten became a “Bunny” at The Playboy Club, and a regular at the Playboy Mansion. It was there — in October of 1978 — that she would meet the “other man” in her life: director Peter Bogdanovich. In an interview with UPROXX, Bogdanovich recalled the first time he laid eyes on the stunning beauty.
I met her first at the Playboy mansion in October of 1978. She was introduced to me by one of the mansion regulars along with Candy Loving who was one of the Playboy 25th Anniversary Playmates. I remember thinking that when I met Dorothy that she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. And she was a honey blonde, just gorgeous. In fact Candy Loving could tell I was smitten because she kept smiling and I didn’t even look at her.
Bogdanovich and Stratten wouldn’t speak again for one year, but during that time, the Canadian bombshell’s star was steadily rising. In August of 1979, she became Playboy’s centerfold. She described her secret dream: “To fly to the moon; to be able to hear other people think for a day.”
Her acting career began to take off; in 1979 she starred in episodes of mega-popular shows, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers. It was also during this time that she began to distance herself from her husband and “manager,” Paul Snider. An excerpt from her memoirs revealed dismay. “A lot of men were entering my life all of a sudden and a lot of them wanted me. No one was pushy or forceful — but talk can be very powerful — especially to a mixed-up little girl.”