Book Review: John Dante’s Inferno: A Playboy’s Life by Anthony Valerio

This was an interesting look at the life and times of John Dante, who has the distinction of living in the Playboy Mansion for 26 years.  Here is the synopsis:

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, Don Adams, James Caan and myriad other personalities and stars. A first hand, inside look at the phenomenon of Playboy from the second-in-command.

Being in my early 30s and heterosexual, I have absolutely no base of knowledge regarding the Playboy empire, other than that reality show that was on E! years ago.

However, the entire concept has intrigued me.  I’m not offended by women who are willing to pose nude for money.  I’m more of an equal opportunity kind of gal.  If you got it, flaunt it.

But looking at the history of the 20th century, it is puzzling.  How did a society that began with women who wore long skirts and high necklines as the expected norm end with something as prevalent as Playboy?

This book sheds light on how we got from point A to point B.

The story of “John Dante” aka “Giovanni Aimola” is fascinating and women play a major role.  “At a very early age I had a tremendous affinity to women, and it seems to me now in retrospect that at every decisive crossroad of my life, a woman was there to direct my path”.  This statement kicks off the first chapter.  And the rest of the book follows in line.

What makes this book so different from any other one like it is that the author takes this statement and weaves in the story of John Dante’s namesake, Dante Alighieri.  For those of you unfortunate to have not read “The Inferno”, I highly suggest it.

It is essentially a long poem about Alighieri’s tour through hell.  He visits each level and the idea of “suffer according to the nature of your sin” is meted out in fantastic detail.

Along with describing his young life, his first sexual experience at age 13 (warning, it was with a teacher), and a recall of John Dante’s mob affiliation, the story of opening night at his nightclub is related.  John Dante opened and operated “Dante’s Inferno” in Chicago in 1957.

The club featured beautiful women, for the first time in fishnet or mesh stockings, leotards and high heels.  The club also featured music and also offered a virtual tour of Dante (Alighieri’s) version of hell.  The place was decked out in five foot posters of the levels of “The Inferno”, the poem, not the club.  The posters were outfitted in phosphorescent paint and had small blue lights under them to make the images stand out.

At this incredibly novel and inventive club, John Dante met Hugh Hefner.  And a lifetime of women, money, and travel ensued.

One thing I did have issue with throughout the book is that it is sometimes difficult to discern the timeline of events.  The author will start out chapters with a fantastic story, and then fill in the background with the details of the story which aren’t always linear.

The author’s prose is at times suffocating.  There are only so many ways you can describe a situation, a person, a house, a club.  And Mr. Valerio finds them all.  In the same sentence.

Given the subject of the book, I was preparing for John Dante to describe his many sexual encounters (think in the thousands).  But I wasn’t ready for the graphic descriptions of orgys, fetish and anal sex.  The latter is particularly ruminated on for an uncomfortable length of time in the middle of the book.

I did appreciate the insight into the “Playboy mansion” and the celebrities that were often feted at the expense of Mr. Hefner.  Most of the celebrities are unknown to me, again, that pesky Regan area birth date interfering.

I give this book 3 stars.  It was interesting, it held my attention, and the ingenious way the levels of hell in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno are used to illustrate particular areas in John Dante’s life is incredible.

It does shed some light on that particular time in history and the role of women during the sexual revolution.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Richard Bunning Books and Reviews – Home | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!
  2. Trackback: Interview with Anthony Valerio, author of John Dante’s Inferno « Review From Here
  3. Trackback: JOHN DANTE’S INFERNO, A PLAYBOY’S LIFE by Anthony Valerio – Guest Blog at Janna Shay’s | Janna Shay
  4. Trackback: The Story Behind John Dante’s Inferno by Anthony Valerio | The Story Behind the Book

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