John Dante’s Inferno – A Playboy’s Life
-by Anthony Valerio
The life of one of the Great Lovers of all time, John Dante lived the life of a bachelor’s fantasy, going from his humble beginnings in a small Italian village to the Playboy Mansion, where he lived for 26 years with Hugh Hefner and 40 of the most beautiful women in the world. John Dante was a key figure in the first years of the Playboy empire, hiring Bunnies, training Bunny Mothers, and managing the Playboy jet. He befriended some of the most popular and important figures of our time, including Hugh Hefner, whom John paints as a “fascinating, complex man,” as well as Shel Silverstein, Lenny Bruce, Linda Lovelace, Don Adams, James Caan and myriad other personalities and stars. A first hand, inside look. An important book from the life of the second-in-command. “This is a highly original way of telling the story of John Dante, self-made namesake of the more famous Dante. Using the medieval poet’s vision of Hell as a kind of running parallel narrative, Anthony Valerio weaves a fascinating tale of ambition, excess, friendship, and rocking good times back in the day of the Playboy Clubs, replete with Bunnies, orgies, and hedonistic fun. Valerio writes with verve and compassion about men and women who ran after their dreams and their pleasures with abandon, living as if youth, potency, and beauty would never end. They did, of course, and this gives a poignant quality to the book. This is also the life story of an Italian American who came up from very humble origins to the heights of Hugh Hefner’s sexy Never Never Land. I didn’t always like these players’ choices, and the machismo of that world is sometimes hard to take. Women are prized for their long, smooth legs, their willingness to service the men, their decorative essence, all of which is not the most admirable way of viewing women. But those were the times and those were the values that dominated Hef’s universe. John Dante did have his own moral code, unusual as it was, and he was above all a good and faithful friend. Valerio is so expert at making us feel the lives of others, even those very far from our own experiences, and his colloquial style is just right. It seems that he wrote this book out of friendship, and so it is ultimately a kind, compassionate book. I am looking forward to many more tales told by the master storyteller, Anthony Valerio!” Rebecca West, professor, University of Chicago
Anthony Valerio is a book editor, who was a colleague and friend of Shel Silverstein who in turn was a great friend of John Dante’s. He requested Anthony’s help with writing his friends book, after introducing them a friendship was struck and a promise to tell Johns story was made.
John Dante started life in America as John Aimola, a 13 year old boy living in Chicago living with his immigrant mother and father in a pretty black and white, post Depression world. That is until he meets his substitute teacher Miss Einway, who soon teaches him that there’s more to school than rosary beads and nuns. He then decides that the best way to get girls is to get rich, and quick. After a few short lived adventures he opened his own club ‘Dante’s Inferno’ on Skid Row where he fulfilled his lifelong mission to meet Hugh Hefner. The two became very close friends sharing a home, ambitions, women and a lot of good, good times…
Dante and Hefs relationship was one of genuine respect and adoration; to begin with, it also became possessive and intricate to say the least. The story is fact based, to the point and very eye-opening, not for the faint hearted. He also uses the work of medieval poet Dante Alighieri and his vision of Hell to very cleverly run alongside his story.
I appreciated how matter-of-fact this book is written in places, however I did find that certain areas of the book could be a little confusing as the time scale during a chapter did not always seem to follow and could sometimes enter into whole new areas, not always connecting.
A must read for any Payboy fan.
John Dante’s Inferno, a Playboy’s Life by Anthony Valerio