Grave Spotlight

In a way, cemeteries are like libraries. They contain the final resting places of thousands of people, each with their own separate and unique story. Some of these people are famous, and their stories are well known. Most are not, but that doesn't make their life any less interesting or their stories any less worthy of being told and remembered.

Periodically, we'll spotlight a different Los Angeles-area grave. Every person has a story, and we will use this space to tell their story, through their final resting place.

After your tour of the virtual cemetery, don't forget to visit the official store (or the brand new downtown location) on your way out and pick up a souvenir or two. Thanks!

Dorothy Stratten

(Feb. 28, 1960 - Aug. 14, 1980)

April 7, 2010 -- Dorothy Stratten was a model, actress and Playboy magazine's 1980 Playmate of the Year. But she is probably best remembered as the victim of a brutal murder at the hands of her estranged husband, Paul Snider, who then killed himself.

Born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Stratten was working at a Dairy Queen restaurant in 1978 when Snider, her boyfriend at the time, submitted her picture to Playboy magazine. Stratten and Snider were married in June 1979 in Las Vegas, and she first appeared in Playboy in August 1979. Stratten also worked in the Los Angeles Playboy Club. In April 1980, Stratten was named Playboy's Playmate of the Year.

Snider was an obsessively jealous and controlling husband, and hoped that his marriage to Stratten would be his ticket to fame and fortune in the entertainment world. But many of Stratten's friends, including Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, warned Stratten about Snider's behavior, and urged her to distance herself from him.

The Playboy publicity helped Stratten launch a film career, and she made her debut in bit parts in "Skatetown, U.S.A." (1979) and "Americathon" (1979), then starred in "Galaxina" (1980), a science-fiction comedy. She also starred in "They All Laughed" (1981), written and directed by Peter Bogdanovich, and co-starring Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara and John Ritter. During the filming, Stratten and Bogdanovich fell in love, and Stratten and Snider separated in May 1980. Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, and started making plans to file for divorce from Snider.

Early on the afternoon of Aug. 14, 1980, Stratten went to visit Snider at the apartment they once shared on Clarkson Road in west Los Angeles, to discuss the financial details of their divorce. Stratten brought $1,000 in cash to give to Snider. At some point during her visit, Snider killed the 20-year-old Stratten with a single blast to her face from a 12-gauge shotgun, then turned the gun on himself.

Stratten had completed work on "They All Laughed" before her death, but Bogdanovich was unable to find a studio willing to release the film, since they feared that the publicity surrounding Stratten's death would keep viewers away. So Bogdanovich financed the distribution himself, reportedly spending $5 million of his own money. Due to a combination of Stratten's death and poor reviews, the film was a box office failure, and Bogdanovich was driven to the brink of professional and financial ruin.

In 1981, Teresa Carpenter's "Death of a Playmate" article appeared in The Village Voice (and won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing). In the article, Carpenter criticized both Hefner and Bogdanovich, claming that Stratten was used and victimized by them as much as she was by Snider.

Stratten's story was told in the films "Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story" (1981), starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Bruce Weitz, and "Star 80" (1983), based on Carpenter's article, starring Mariel Hemingway and Eric Roberts and directed by Bob Fosse. "Star 80" was filmed in the same house where the murder-suicide took place. (The title of the film was taken from Snider's vanity license place. Stratten's license plate was "GALXINA.")

In 1984, in response to Carpenter's article and the two films, Bogdanovich wrote an understandably subjective biography of Stratten titled, "The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten, 1960 - 1980." Four years later, Bogdanovich, 49, married Stratten's younger sister, Louise, 20. Bogdanovich and Louise Stratten were divorced in 2001.

Stratten's cremated remains were buried at Westwood Memorial Park, not far from another beautiful blonde woman who posed for Playboy, became an actress and died tragically -- Marilyn Monroe. Stratten's grave marker includes a lengthy passage from Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms": "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 that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. ... We love you, D.R." ("D.R." was Bogdanovich's nickname for Stratten, from the initials of her first and middle names.)

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