HOLLYWOOD -- Hugh Hefner, chief of the far-flung Playboy empire, has loosed a broadside at director Peter Bogdanovich, whose new book all but accuses the publisher of complicity in the death of centerfold model Dorothy Stratten.
The book, 'The Killing of The Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten,' is Bogdanovich's version of the blonde beauty's death in 1980. She was killed by a shotgun blast fired by her husband, Paul Snider, who then blew out his own brains.
It was the sickening climax of a typical love triangle -- the outraged husband, the unfaithful wife and Bogdanovich, the lover.
Except for the principals -- a famous director ('Paper Moon,' 'The Last Picture Show') and a playmate of the year -- the dreadful murder-suicide would have attracted little attention.
But Dorothy's murder at age 20 made headlines and was subsequently dramatized twice in movies, 'Star 80' and 'Death of a Centerfold.'
Bogdanovich has rekindled the tragedy and attempts to place part of the responsibility for his girlfriend's death on Hefner, who he claims - among other things -- seduced Miss Stratten and held her in near bondage as a Playboy model.
Bogdanovich attempts to make the triangle a rectangle, with Hefner as a complicating factor.
Hefner flatly denies he ever romanced Dorothy, maintaining his relationship with her was strictly business and platonic.
An angry Hefner says he is contemplating filing a lawsuit against Bogdanovich but is unwilling to focus more attention on the book than it deserves.
'Bogdanovich presents an alleged inside view of my life,' Hefner said. 'And that isn't me at all. It's his own dark side. He didn't simply seduce Dorothy, he clearly manipulated her personal and professional life.'
Hefner says Bogdanovich put pressure on Dorothy to leave Snider while the actress and director were romancing in New York during the production of 'They All Laughed' while husband Snider, described by Bogdanovich as 'a pimp,' remained in Los Angeles.
'He's turned all of that around and invented this crazy story,' said Hefner, who calls the book a fiction. 'Some people will believe it and I feel I have to do the best I can to reveal it for what it is. Maybe in the process I will be a little better understood.
'I read the first manuscript of the book and it was so obviously a pathological guilt trip. He lies about the whole nature of my relationship -- personal and professional -- and the way that it really was.'
Hefner believes Bogdanovich calculated his involvement to add drama to the story and to help sell books.
'But the major part is pathological obsession,' Hefner said. 'I think that what he has set up and is attacking here is behavior which he himself has done. In effect, what he is calling Hefner is really his own dark side.'
He said the book was such a 'total fabrication and so transparent' that only one review has treated it as something other than bordering on psychopathic.
In self-defense Hefner has compiled a dossier of statements from some of the individuals quoted in the book -- correspondence, memos and logs of visits to his Playboy mansion -- that refute many of Bogdanovich's allegations and claims.
'He sets up in the book a kind of adversarial relationship with me,' Hefner said, 'as if we (Bogdanovich, Stratten, Hefner) are a triangle personally and professionally, which is all in his mind.
'Dorothy had the highest regardfor Playboy. The biggest thing in her life was having become playmate of the year. She was proud of it. Her family was proud of it.'
Before and during Bogdanovich's affair with Dorothy, Hefner says, the director was a regular visitor to the Playboy mansion. It was there, in fact, that he first met Dorothy.
'There was never any conflict in my relationship with Bogdanovich before the deaths,' Hefner said. 'He rewrites all the scenes in which he and I are together and changes the tone of them. I was supportive of their relationship.
'He came over here two days before the deaths to tell me about the romance in glowing terms and I was just as supportive and positive as possible.'
Hefner says he and Bogdanovich remained friends during and after the funeral. He was astounded by the director's accusations and charges in the book.
Hefner heaved a sigh and said, 'I really don't hate Bogdanovich. I just feel sorry for him.'