THE KILLING OF THE UNICORN: Dorothy Stratten, 1960-1980 by Peter Bogdanovich

THE KILLING OF THE UNICORN: Dorothy Stratten, 1960-1980

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In the last few months before Playboy centerfold Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her crazed husband, she had a relationship with film-director Bogdanorich--who gives his version of her sad story here, heavy on saccharine (Dorothy-as-saint) and bile (Hugh-Hefner-as-devil). In Bogdanovich's maudlin, repetitious telling, Dorothy is a totally naive victim, but also ""an angel"": bright, witty, ""selfless. . . the noblest person l ever met'--not the passive figure of Bob Fosse's Star 80 (which P.B. loathes). They met at Hefner's orgy-ridden mansion, where 18-year-old Dorothy (a nude-model at the urging of fearsome husband/pimp Paul Snider) was a frequent guest and a victim of Hefner's surprise seduction (she thought he ""only wanted a swim"") in the Jacuzzi. Soon ""we clung to each other as two people who might find themselves the only couple left on earth""--while P.B. serenaded Dorothy with the theme from Love Story. After a tender courtship, they eventually became lovers. (""We floated dreamlike through the night."") They traveled together; Dorothy was given a part in P.B.'s new film. But husband Snider kept calling, wanting Dorothy--or at least her income--back. And then, after crude foreshadowing, countdown-style (""From the last kiss we shared that night, Dorothy had less than eleven hours to live""), Dorothy met with Snider--and wound up tortured/raped/killed by him before his own suicide. What caused the tragedy? In Bogdanovich's simplistic, wooly-minded view, it was virtually all Hugh Hefner's fault--especially the fault of the Playboy ethic's misogyny. (""Weren't Snider's actions, finally, an imitation of the stag reels and porno magazines he was addicted to?"") But since Snider's psychopathology remains unexplored here, and since Dorothy's behavior is romanticized and under-explained, Bogdanovich's drippy, shrill account fails both as memoir and pseudo-sociology. Self-justification, revenge, and exploitation with a sugary, sanctimonious facade--only for the titillation contingent within the People magazine audience.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow