dante’s inferno

Lana Turner’s eighth husband led an interesting life….

image found here

“Ronald Dante, or Ronald Pellar, or whatever his name really is, is not just any old guy, but a prolific con man with a history that is almost impossible to believe. 

In the 1970s, he was convicted of trying to murder a rival hypnotist.

A decade earlier he was actress Lana Turner’s eighth husband. She was one of his seven wives.

Lana Turner as a child found here

In the 1990s, he operated one of the greatest diploma-mill scams in U.S. history, although in his opinion it wasn’t a scam at all. The government disagreed.

Dr. Dante, a name he made up when he was a young man because he liked the way it sounded, said he was born in 1920. When he was 5, Dante claimed, he and his family were in Kuala Lumpur when Malaysian insurgents attacked. His mother, father and sister were killed, leaving only himself and his 10-year-old brother, who were sent to a Chicago orphanage.

image found here (click to read fine print)

At 11, Dante said, he walked away from the orphanage with his brother and hit the streets. His first “business venture” involved buying gold-plated watches for $2.99, packaging them in cases with a $150 price tag attached, and selling them to businessmen who assumed they were buying stolen merchandise for $25.

erotic watch found here

Dante, who still speaks in the deep baritone that made him a sensation as a hypnotist, said he attended several colleges as a young man, including the University of Wisconsin. It was there he met a hypnotist who taught him stage presence, he said.

In 1969 he met “sweater girl” actress Turner in a Los Angeles discotheque called The Candy Store. He soon would become her eighth and final husband.


He had a persuasive voice and strange, compelling eyes,” she wrote in her 1982 autobiography. “He claimed to have been brought up in Singapore and to have earned a doctorate in psychology there, but the press dug up something to debunk that. Shortly after our wedding he was shot at, or so he said, in an underground garage, by a gunman wearing an Australian bush hat. It got a lot of attention in the papers – maybe that was what he wanted.”

image found here

Six months after the marriage, she found Dante’s motorcycle and all his belongings gone and a note typed on blue stationery. “It’s obvious that you have your thing to do, and I have mine, and I have to keep on doing it,” the note said.

Dante continued to perform as a hypnotist, and in the early 1970s was working in a Tucson nightclub. In 1974 he was found guilty of attempting to contract for the murder of Michael Dean of San Diego, the widely known hypnotist and entertainer. 

image found here

After being released from prison, he created a permanent-makeup business in which he taught thousands of people how to tattoo eye liner and lip liner, using felt-tip pens and cantaloupes as demonstration tools. The Federal Trade Commission had problems with the company. For one thing, Dante said, he called his graduates “dermatologists,” which angered legitimate dermatologists, who are physicians. The government sued and eventually Dante settled the civil case.

image found here

From the mid-1980s until the late 1990s, according to court documents, Senate committee transcripts and official reports, Dante made somewhere between $10 million and $20 million selling advanced degrees to people in one of the great diploma-mill scams in U.S. history. 

Dante bristles when “diploma mill” or “scam” is mentioned in the same breath with Columbia State. “They all realized what they were getting,” he said. “I mean, come on, who’s kidding who? They were getting a Ph.D. in a month.”

image found here

After an ABC television news show featured him in a story about Columbia State University, he was kidnapped – he says by Mexican federal police – and taken to the United States, where a five-year prison sentence was enforced.

At the time of his kidnapping, Dante said, he had $26 million stashed on the yacht in cash, gold coins, cashier’s checks and American Express checks. While he was in prison, all the money disappeared.

 These days, Dante makes paper flowers, a skill he said he learned while married to Lana Turner. He also has put together a DVD he hopes to sell about how to make the flowers, as well as a DVD about being a hypnotist.

paper flowers found here

His website correctly says he has been listed in Guinness World Records for almost 20 years as having been paid the highest lecture fee: more than $3 million about hypnotherapy at a two-day course held in 1986 in Chicago.

 “That was a good weekend,” Dante said.

 He proudly produces a copy of “Marquis Who’s Who” from 1993, which lists Ronald Pellar as holding a doctorate from Columbia State University and of having been a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps.

 Is the Marine Corps reference true?

 Dante smiled slightly. “Of course not,” he said

image found here

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47 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. He is lucky he was arrested for the Columbia State thing before the Enron fiasco or he would probably not have gotten off so easy.

    • He didn’t get out of prison until he was 86

  2. Cute picture of the young Lana, but look at the stockings! And the anagram of her name?

  3. I guess he wasn’t able to hypnotize the jury. Maybe he should have offered them watches?

    • I’d like one of those erotic watches… such a talking piece

  4. On the plus side he didn’t get the Johnny Stompanato treatment off her daughter. It looks like Lana liked her bad boys

    • Don’t we all 😦

  5. What kind of a lunatic would leave Lana? That woman was hot, hot, hot!

    • Not not not so much later on though

    • She was an alcoholic…..

  6. As an armchair psychologist, I’d say Dr Dante suffered from acute fears of abandonment (thus abandoned others in advance), compulsive lying (survival technique from orphanage days) and mega delusions. Is it worth being that mental for a $3m weekend? I’d rather have been a “fat and pretty baby” and been raised by loving, paying parents.

  7. He sounds very clever and mean.

    • a nasty piece of work

  8. Wow, what a con man. I guess that means my degree isn’t really worth a whole lot. . .

  9. i think i heard he sold zsa zsa’s own leg back to her.

    • Haha I think you’re right

  10. Dodgy. Dodgy as hell. Lana sure could pick ’em.

  11. The idea that people got their eyes tattooed by “dermatologists” who practiced on cantaloupes is pretty scary.

    • Another lie among many ( although minor compared to others). The graduates were called dermalogists, not dermatologists. The students practiced on pigs ears which is similar to human skin, would you rather they practice on people? Also in the tattoo world it is not unheard of to do this.

  12. A bit off subject, but this reminds me of back when I got a “certification” in hypnotherapy through a course at my university (this is California, after all). I wasn’t terribly successful at it. I angered subjects by insisting they hadn’t actually had past life regressions while under. “Isn’t imagination a wonderful thing,” I explained. They were outraged. I suppose I lack the right sort of entrepreneurial flair. In the class, we were once shown a spiral pattern like on the cover of the LP that we could actually place on a turntable for people to stare at. Never practiced anything with cantaloupes though.

    • Was it one of Dante’s “certificates”? 😉

  13. ***Look into my eyes*** ***You are feeling very sleepy*** … ahem, I said sleepy NOT bored!!! … sheeesh

  14. I once did some lectures at the University of Wisconsin. I must be a good hypnotist too as several students fell asleep…….

    • Affer, your link is still to your old blog. Can you fix that?

  15. crap. i need to get to work quickly. need to change the name of the institution on my diploma…. again…. i think i can fit in an “n” to make it “Columbian State”.

  16. *overcome by urge to draw face on melon*

    • you need to see a hypnotist about those urges

  17. He sure lived an interesting life. I’m sure he has no complaints wherever he is.

    • It’s nice to see a kind comment for once. Most people believe everything they read! He has truly lived life to the fullest and made sure his family has as well. He is the most loving, kind, and loyal man to his family, loved ones and friends.

  18. I need to make ups a fake life for me I do

  19. Poor Lana! Bad choice.

  20. I hate it when people pad their resumes.

  21. Poor Lana indeed. Bad choice? But then, he was her eighth “and final” husband, so it seems that she had a history of bad choices. Maybe she finally learned her lesson.

    But what a fascinating man, and how amazing that so many people chose to believe him. $3 million for a weekend lecture? I need to brush up on my self-marketing skills.

  22. Ive seen some older ladies here whose eye tattoos hv turned green after some years. It’s real ugly.

    • Eww… that does sound nasty

  23. “My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.”

    Lana Turner

  24. I’m surprised he made so much money out of selling fake degrees. Surely it’s easy enough to cobble one together on a computer. Did I ever show you my honours degree from Harvard, btw?

  25. well, as I always say…look at the watch…

  26. This man frightens me on every level.

  27. The proper word is “Dermologist” and they practiced on pig ears. RD

    • Thanks for the correction Ron

  28. He was con-man, but he changed my life. On Halloween 1981, I weighed 260. I went to the Magic Mountain theme park in California to compete in a Rubik’s Cube contest. That evening, I participated in Dante’s hypnosis show and learned how to hypnotize myself. I subsequent lost 100 lbs. and have kept it off since.

    • I almost forgot to mention — a few years later I participated in hypnosis show with Michael Dean in San Diego. During the show he asked the participant if they had even been hypnotized on stage before. When I told him I had been on Dante’s stage, he almost blew up!

  29. I knew Dr. Dante about 40 years ago, use to have his show a place called Burbon Street in Phoenix, AZ. He was very nice at that time and was married to Lana Turner or he use to say, guess he was. He in deed was a very interesting man, and I remember he had very pearcing eyes. Interesting information on him.

  30. This guy really got around…in the late 60s, he threw an after-concert performance at his home in Phoenix,for Jimi Hendrix!..Jimi looks wasted, and so does Dr. Dante, in the one photo that exists of the two of them together.

    • I worked with him at the Pirates Den in Tucson Arizona in the early 70’s. I always felt something wasn’t right with him. Although he could be very charming I detected something about him was phony!

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