Content warning: This article contains mentions of grooming, abusive relationships, rape and violence.
There’s a new must-watch series debuting today, Nov. 22, on Hulu that centers around the true-crime drama of the male revue Chippendales. Welcome to Chippendales follows the journey of its founder, Indian immigrant Somen “Steve” Banerjee (portrayed by Kumail Nanjiani) as he becomes the unlikely founder of a male strip joint that transforms into a cultural phenomenon. Along the way, he encounters others that have gone down in history too, like Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten (played by Nicola Peltz Beckham) whose life and career ended abruptly and tragically.
On August 14, 1980, Stratten (née Dorothy Hoogstraten) died at 20 years old after she was raped, tortured and murdered by her estranged husband Paul Snider, who then committed suicide. The Canadian Playmate first met Snider (who was nine years her senior) when she was a teenager working at Dairy Queen. After “wooing” and grooming the teen, the club promoter and emcee brought Stratten to Los Angeles. To put her on Hugh Hefner’s radar, Snider convinced Stratten to pose for nude photos which he later sent to Playboy for consideration. On June 1, 1979, Snider and Stratten married.
In Teresa Carpenter’s 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning article in The Village Voice, “Death of a Playmate,” Hefner told the journalist he saw himself as a “father figure” to Stratten, and that he expressed reservations when she told him of Snider’s proposal. “I said to her that he had a ‘pimp-like quality’ about him,” the Playboy mogul told Carpenter.
Dubbed Playboy Playmate of the Month in August 1979, Stratten was named Playmate of the Year in 1980. Rising to meteoric success, Stratten reached beyond the bounds of the Playboy Mansion, acting in projects from Galaxina, to They All Laughed and Autumn Born.
“In his [Snider’s] mind, Dorothy was his rocket ship to the moon,” said Snider’s former roommate Dr. Stephen Cushner in the A&E docuseries Secrets of the Chippendales Murders, released earlier this year.
When Banerjee was rebranding his upscale club, Snider approached him with the idea of male strippers. It was Stratten who proposed the male dancers should wear cuffs and collars, referencing what the Bunnies wore at the Playboy Club.
After proving to be an inadequate emcee at Chippendales, Banerjee was forced to let Snider go, sparking a feeling of betrayal in the promoter for using his idea.
“She was a Goddess, and she was with this sleaze bag,” former Chippendales creative director Eric Gilbert recalled in the A&E series.
One year before the horrific murder-suicide, Snider was reportedly arrested in Vancouver for selling drugs and pimping. In A&E’s Secrets of Playboy docuseries, former Playmate and director of brand promotions Miki Garcia claims to have sent Hefner a memo regarding the arrest but it allegedly didn’t lead to action by the Playboy founder. “I wanted to warn Hef that Dorothy Stratten was with a very dangerous man,” said Garcia.
Stratten and Snider separated two months prior to the tragedy, with friends of the couple telling police Snider had been especially distraught over the separation. Snider shot and killed Stratten before turning the gun on himself.
This fall, Peltz Beckham posed for GRAZIA USA‘s cover story and shared what it was like portraying the Playmate. “I’ve been a fan of Dorothy’s for so long and her story is so heartbreaking,” Peltz Beckham told GRAZIA USA. “I actually watched Star 80 when I was younger and her story suck in my mind for so many years. When I got the audition, I was just really excited. I hope people like my performance. I wanted to honor Dorothy because I love her so much.”