Stratten was born in a Salvation Army hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Simon and Nelly Hoogstraten, who were Dutch immigrants. In 1961 her brother John Arthur was born. Her sister Louise Stratten followed in May 1968.
In 1977 she was attending Centennial High School in Coquitlam when, while working part-time at a local Dairy Queen, she met 26-year-old Vancouver-area club promoter and pimp, Paul Snider, who romanced her. Snider later had a photographer take professional nude photos of her which were sent to Playboy magazine in the summer of 1978. She was under the age of 19 at the time, which is the legal age to pose nude in Canada so she had to persuade her mother to sign the model release form.
In August 1978 she moved to Los Angeles, where she was chosen as a finalist for the 25th Anniversary Great Playmate Hunt. Snider joined her in October. With her surname shortened to Stratten, she later became Playboy’s Miss August 1979, and began working as a bunny at the Century City Playboy Club. Hugh Hefner had high hopes Stratten could have meaningful crossover success as an actress. She guest-starred in episodes of the television series Buck Rogers and Fantasy Island, along with a small role in the 1979 roller disco comedy Skatetown, U.S.A.
Hefner reportedly encouraged Stratten to sever ties with Snider, calling him a “hustler and a pimp.” Rosanne Katon and other friends warned Stratten about Snider’s behavior. Stratten began an affair with Peter Bogdanovich while he was directing They All Laughed, her first major studio film. Snider hired a private detective to follow Stratten. They separated and Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, planning to file for a divorce from Snider. By August 1980 Snider most likely believed that he had lost Stratten and what he had called his “rocket to the moon.”
Shortly after noon on August 14, 1980, Snider and Stratten met at Snider’s house, where the two had once lived as a couple, and which Snider was by then sharing with its owner, their mutual friend, Dr. Stephen Cushner. Stratten had come to talk about an amicable divorce and brought along $1,000 to give to Snider.
At approximately 11 p.m., Snider’s private investigator called Cushner on his private line, saying that he had been trying to telephone Snider for several hours, but Snider would not answer his phone. Cushner broke into Snider’s room and found the bodies of Snider and Stratten, both dead from shotgun blasts from a 12 gauge Mossberg shotgun; both bodies were nude. Police believed that Snider raped and murdered Stratten, abused the corpse, then killed himself with the same shotgun.
- February, 28, 1960
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- August, 14, 1980
- Los Angeles, California
- Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
- Westwood, California