John Dante's Inferno, a Playboy's Life

John Dante's Inferno.jpg
Author name: 
Anthony Valerio
Columbia College
Class Year: 
Biography & Autobiography

Anthony Valerio's biography of John Dante, Hugh Hefner's second-in-command at "Playboy*" and the Great Libertine's best friend for over 40 years, is like no other book I have read. Deft and clever, literate and highly readable.
First, there's the subject matter. Decades of insider *Playboy* views, virtually from the landmark magazine's inception. Second, there is the intricate weaving of the "other" Dante's story. John Dante sought to imitate Dante Alighieri, he of the medieval, Italian and "divine" Comedy, who meted out punishments, penances, and paradises, in an epic-length poem made of three parts. What has one to do with the other? That would be the third part of this unique book, part social history, part immigrant story, the part that I will call the cautionary tale. For, and I won't say how, John Dante does not end well.
Parading through these pages are some of the best-known names in show business and, its darker side--especially for a magazine self-identified as "men's entertainment"-- pornography: Beatty, Bogdanovich, Caan, Cosby, Curtis, Jagger, Lovelace, Nicholson, Reems, Steinem, and, especially, Silverstein. Readers will be riveted by the portrait of the beloved children's author that emerges in these pages. Not exactly what they may have expected. Silverstein urged John Dante to contact Valerio, whom Silverstein knew and whose work he respected, so that John Dante could write a book--the insider's view of *Playboy*!--that would earn him enough money to get him to Florence, the town that exiled his namesake, the poet Dante Alighieri close to 700 years earlier. The 20th-century (John) Dante gets to Florence all right, but the price is steep, indeed. It's not exactly "Se7en,*" but it has its dark, seamy, *nasty* side. Think "Star 80*".