The Story Behind John Dante’s Inferno 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, 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.

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Story Behind Anthony Valerio’s JOHN DANTE’S INFERNO, a Playboy’s Life


The story behind the writing of JOHN DANTE’S INFERNO, a Playboy’s Life is contained in the book’s Prologue entitled “Sojourn with Shel Silverstein.”  The legendary author of children’s book, songs & plays was a friend of mine & we were also colleagues. At Shel’s request, I became one of his book editors. Shel kept an apartment near to me in Greenwich Village NYC & we used to go to Village cafes to talk & work. Over one coffee he asked me to help his friend John Dante with his book. Shel knew that I did not do such work but I went down to Florida & met John Dante & we became friends & I sought to help him with his book. Four years passed & Shel passed away (1999). Four more years & John Dante passed away. So the writing/back story is that the book JOHN DANTE’S INFERNO, a Playboy’s life–a fact-based biography of John Dante’s life in & out of Playboy—is, for me,  an act of friendship, and I hope that it is the book that  both John & Shel would have wanted.

It was extremely important to Shel Silverstein that his good friend John Dante have his book published & that it succeed. I sought to understand Shel’s persistence…

As Assistant to Playboy president Hugh Hefner, John Dante went out on Bunny hunts. John & Shel, and of course Hugh Hefner, a great friend of theirs, lived in the Playboy Mansion.

“‘I brought back some great-looking chics that Shel was privy to, that he got to. Then we became friends.”

“It was not only that for the first time in his life Shel had access to several beautiful women at one and the same time, or that he became the lover of one or a few.  When he was around 13, 14 years of age, he tried hard to excel at baseball, but he wasn’t a good player.  Nor was teenage Shelly a hit with the girls, he couldn’t dance, but he accepted who he was–a non-athletic boy whom the girls didn’t shine to. With the benefit of hindsight, he considered himself fortunate because he could throw himself into his drawing and his writing. Maybe girls would come later on, and later on, too, maybe he could get a box seat at Comiskey Park.  Beautiful women came to the house on the arms of John Dante, giving him, Shel, a chance, some time, with an attractive woman so that his charm and his wit and his humor and his generosity and his capacity to love could shine through. Perhaps this is what Shel was eternally grateful to John Dante for, the prime reason he sought to help him, including with his book, more so than paltry ecstatic moments of his one weekend of bliss—John gave him the opportunity and the time for a woman to like, even love, him.”



Anthony Valerio is the author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including the cult classics THE MEDITERRANEAN RUNS THROUGH BROOKLYN & VALENTINO & THE GREAT ITALIANS. His bestselling BART: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti was praised by Larry King: “A wonderful read.” His short stories have appeared in the Paris Review and in several anthologies and readers. About Anthony Valerio’s work the legendary children’s book author Shel Silvertein said: “He knows his craft: he gets in, tells his story & gets out. It’s what good writing should be.”Mr. Valerio was a book editor in major publishing houses, including McGraw-Hill. He has taught creative writing at New York University  the City University of New York & Wesleyan University. He lectures widely in the United States and Europe & has been a fiction judge at PEN. He is a member of the Author’s Guild.

You can visit Anthony Valerio’s website at

His latest book is John Dante’s Inferno

John Dante’s Inferno Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule

Monday, June 3 – Interviewed at Allvoices

Tuesday, June 4 – Interviewed at Bibliophile, Please

Wednesday, June 5 – Book Featured at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, June 6 – Book Featured at Gina’s Library

Friday, June 7 – Book reviewed at I Read A Book Once

Monday, June 10 – Book Featured at Authors and Readers Book Corner

Tuesday, June 11 – Interviewed at Examiner

Wednesday, June 12 – Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Thursday, June 13 – Interviewed at Review From Here

Thursday, June 13 – Guest blogging at Janna Shay

Friday, June 14 – Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking

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