Louis Anthony Agnello Jr.'s life story would make an amazing book.
At one time, he was known as the "Stripper King of New York" and also as the "King of Bling." He studied acting with Lee Strasberg.
But he has been arrested. Mugged. Shot. He's walked a salacious path and he's walked the straight and narrow.
Today, Agnello is a novelist with a debut book titled "The Devil's Glove." He'll be in Savannah and Rincon on March 29 to sign copies.
The book came to him in a dream: A white-haired man showed Agnello a movie of the events in the book. He told Agnello it was his job to write the story down.
"The dream was about this heartbroken minor league ballplayer who believed that God had forsaken him in his quest to play in the major leagues of baseball," Agnello says. "He desperately and delusively asked for Satan's help.
"Satan eagerly granted his wish under specified conditions, and he soon realized that the price he was going to have to pay had taken away all the fun of achieving the goal in the first place. So he naively decided to break Satan's rules and found out the hard way that the devil doesn't aid rebels.
"He fails miserably and finds that he has a one-way ticket back to the minor leagues," Agnello says. "Mysteriously, he never makes it there; instead, he finds himself all alone, in a living hell."
Now there is a new condition to Satan's contract.
"He's forced to coach the devil's next victim, an 11-year-old boy with similar dreams and aspirations," Agnello says. "This nightmare scenario explores some vital issues, like what could we be coerced into doing to save our own skin and what would we be willing to do to have all our dreams come true?
"It was an exploration into the dark side of human nature," he says. "It also embraces our most valiant qualities and makes you realize how close we all are to God."
He has no doubt the dream was divinely inspired.
"I believe the message came from God and if not, from one of his messengers," he says.
Born in Flushing, N.Y., Agnello was a student at Western Connecticut State University when he became a stripper. In addition to performing solo, he sometimes appeared with Mr. Mike, the Stripping Monkey.
In 1986, the two appeared on "Regis and Kathie Lee Live." Not long after, they were mugged by a thief who held a knife to Mr. Mike's head and threatened to kill him.
At about the same time, Agnello dabbled in acting, appearing on the soap operas "Guiding Light," "Ryan's Hope" and "One Life to Live." He also finished college, earning a bachelor's degree in English in 1992.
"The days I spent with Lee Strasberg in New York City were truly magical," he says.
"The sad part for me was that I didn't realize where I was and that I was surrounded by the talent that the world sees every time they pop in a DVD.
"Bridget Fonda was there at the time and so was Adam Sandler. Some lesser names were there, too. Larry Romano, who played Richie on 'The King of Queens,' was my scene partner and Joe Maruzo, who played Joe Peeps on 'The Sopranos,' is still a friend and got me the guest appearance with Regis and Kathy Lee."
There also was a missed opportunity that Agnello regrets to this day.
"Al Pacino's acting coach offered me a job to drive Al and him around town and I foolishly turned it down," Agnello says. "I thought I was above all that because I was the top private male stripper in New York City at the time and was stripping for the Rockefellers and the soap actresses on their birthdays.
"Larry Romano took the job and became a working actor throughout the 1990s," he says. "Turning down a job with Al Pacino was the biggest blunder of my life. I didn't realize the doors that would have opened and the powerful people I would have met, but I've somehow landed on my feet again."
At one point, he began writing "The Devil's Glove."
"I finished about 80 percent of the first draft in 1991 and 1992," he says.
But Agnello put his manuscript away. After stripping for 13 years, he retired and formed a management company for strippers.
Agnello found himself in hot water after he sent a stripper to a party for high school football players in Chappaqua, N.Y. The case received national media attention, in part because Bill and Hillary Clinton lived in Chappaqua.
"I became known as the Stripper King of New York because Jeanine Pirro, then District Attorney of Westchester County, N.Y., needed me to be a Lex Luthor, large-than-life criminal so she could look like a superhero when she went on her crusade to put me in prison," he says.
"It was all just hype.
"I ran a mom-and-pop-sized striptease agency that got caught up accidentally in a national scandal," he says. "Anything that had sexual overtones with Bill Clinton in the neighborhood was national news.
"Some morally inappropriate parents hosted a stripper party for a high school football team and Pirro wanted to hang them from the highest tree," Agnello says. "I believed it was blown all out of proportion and opened my mouth on national television, challenging Pirro by saying, 'Why don't you arrest some real criminals, Jeanine?'"
The outburst caused even more problems.
"She never forgot about it and two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she directed a $1 million prosecution of little old me," Agnello says. "She charged me with five serious felonies and got back a $1,000 fine, a misdemeanor conviction and no jail or probation for me.
"I would have pled guilty to the Manson murders for that, figuratively speaking, slap on the wrist," he says.
"I became a walking, talking legendary outlaw in the public's eye and therefore became the larger-than-life Stripper King of New York."
The whole thing was a case of mistaken identity, Agnello says.
"Pirro had me connected with the Gambino crime family simply because my last name was Agnello, the same name as John Gotti's son-in-law, Carmine," Agnello says. "But that's another book."
Because of his newfound notoriety, Agnello renamed his business World Famous Cousin Vinny's Gorgeous Strippers. He also became known as the King of Bling because of his jewelry.
"I was attempting to be the striptease agent for the hip-hop generation," Agnello says. "I was always reinventing myself. "I believed the old adage that you're not anyone without a handle," he says. "Cousin Vinny would forever be my handle."
"I wrote a screenplay with a really wonderful character named Vinny Roberts," Agnello says. "He was my alter-ego. He was bold and brazen and everything I wished I could be."
At the time, Agnello still dreamed of being an actor.
"I didn't want the stripper agency to interfere with my acting dreams so I called myself 'Vinny Roberts' while working there," Agnello says. "The customers for years called me 'Cuz' and that's how I dreamed up my Cousin Vinny handle."
In 2007, Agnello opened a Subway franchise, operating it as a sub shop by day and a strip club by night. The Subway corporation stripped him of his franchise and a judge ordered him to pay $90,000 to its corporate parent, plus another $7,900 for its legal fees.
But Agnello tells it differently.
"I was attempting to go mainstream," Agnello says. "Before they learned that I was the Stripper King, everything was great, but problems arose immediately upon their discovery. They immediately trumped up allegations to warrant kicking me out of their training program, although at the time I had a 99 average.
"Only after I promised to expose their discrimination toward me to my media connections did they acquiesce," he says. "Begrudgingly, they allowed me to take an open book test."
Agnello passed the test and was allowed to take over the franchise.
"I was ill-prepared and poorly trained, so I broke many rules," he says. "That was exactly their plan to get rid of me. Their district manager wrote me up for every violation of the franchise agreement he could think of."
As a result, Agnello was terminated. "Hard times would follow because I lost everything," he says.
"I didn't get a penny back on my $250,000 investment. I even defaulted on loans.
"A lawsuit is currently outstanding in this civil matter out of Bronx, N.Y.," Agnello says. "Before I completed this novel, I had to resort to driving a cab in Sarasota, Fla., and was even on public relief for a while."
In August 2009, Agnello was escorting some strippers to a bachelor party in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., when two masked men approached and fired shots.
One bullet hit Agnello's left upper thigh and another was blocked by the wad of credit cards he was carrying in his pocket. At the time, he was wearing $100,000 worth of jewelry and police determined the shooting was a botched robbery.
But he says otherwise.
"When I started venting my spleen about this flagrant violation of my rights on radio and in the press, I was lured to an ambush where I was shot twice," he says.
"Nobody asked for money or jewelry as the press speculated and no one was ever apprehended for the shooting.
"It was the most humbling moment of my life and I got a great new appreciation of what the downtrodden went through in life. I remember a day and night that I worked 15 hours and cleared $17 after expenses.
"I used to talk up the self-published version of the book to my passengers and showed them pictures from my soap opera and stripping days," Agnello says. "My patrons couldn't believe my story until they saw the proof with their own eyes."
The shooting turned Agnello's life around.
"In 2011, I went back to the manuscript that had been printed out from a floppy disc years ago and remembered what a truly remarkable story it contained," he says.
"The best thing though was that I remembered the ironic twist ending. I finished it because I promised the messenger I would.
"This book is bigger than me and contains some of the most important messages ever," he says. "I believe it is a bible for the troubled and addicted souls of this world and it will save lives. If it saves just one troubled person from bringing their life to a premature end, then I have done my job."
Even now, he insists he's not an author, he's a messenger.
"My characters seem so real because they are," he says.
"You might as well look in the mirror, because you'll find yourself in everyone of them.
"This is a message book that gently guides the reader to truth," Agnello says. "It's not preachy, but you and everyone else who reads it will be affected by the character's actions and decisions."
A sequel to "The Devil's Glove" is in the works.
"I have plans for an autobiography but I do not believe my Christian publisher will want anything to do with it," he says. "It will not be PG-13 rated and will be way too racy for my spiritual fans."
A film version of "The Devil's Glove" could be in the works. "Any producers interested in the project shouldn't have a hard time finding me," Agnello says. In the meantime, he's thrilled with the reaction to his book.
"I couldn't be more proud of the responses I'm receiving," Agnello says. "I feel like I've touched every reader's heart and made them delve into their souls.
"I hope the world will view life differently after they finish this special novel and I thank God every day for giving me the privilege to enlighten the world to these special messages," he says. "My greatest hope is that I can save some troubled lives before it's too late."