Alice Denham — writer, Playboy centerfold, film actress who left a vivid chronicle of her literary and sexual adventures in her 2006 memoir, “Sleeping With Bad Boys: A Juicy Tell-All of Literary New York in the Fifties and Sixties.”
“Manhattan was a river of men flowing past my door, and when I was thirsty, I drank.”
Ms. Denham came to New York in the early 1950s, fresh from the University of Rochester, with two things on her mind: literary fame and romance. The city held forth the promise of both, in abundance. “New York in the fifties was like Paris in the twenties.”
A stunning beauty with a talent for repartee, she made her way easily into Manhattan’s literary salons, and her presence did not pass unnoticed by a long list of editors, publishers, film producers, actors and writers — most of whom made a play for her, quite a few successfully.
Her conquests, she said, included the actor James Dean, a close friend until he fell hard for the Italian actress Pier Angeli; the authors James Jones, William Gaddis, Evan S. Connell and Philip Roth; and Hugh Hefner, whom she had persuaded, in a clever gambit, to feature her as a centerfold and reprint, as part of the package, her first published short story.
“Of course he was no egalitarian,” Ms. Denham wrote. “But he possessed one of the finer male characteristics I was aware of: He liked my writing.”