Pubdate: Sat, 15 Dec 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Author: Elaine Woo


Widow of Aldous Huxley Preserved His Legacy

Laura Archera Huxley, a lay therapist, author and widow of Aldous 
Huxley, who shared his vision of human potential and devoted the 
nearly five decades since his death to preserving his legacy and 
helping others -- particularly children -- achieve happiness, died 
Thursday at her home in the Hollywood Hills. She was 96.

The cause was cancer, said Dan Hirsch, a longtime friend.

Huxley met her husband in 1948, 16 years after his anti-utopian novel 
"Brave New World" had established him as a formidable thinker, writer 
and social critic. She married him in 1956, a year after the death of 
his first wife, and over the next seven years was his muse and 
partner in the explorations of consciousness that helped to spark the 
psychedelic movement of the 1960s.

After his death in 1963, on the day of President Kennedy's 
assassination, she was determined to keep his works from slipping 
into obscurity.

"What Laura Huxley did was devote her life and energy and vision to 
making sure this very important writer in the Western canon was still 
in print and widely published," said Jonathan Kirsch, the attorney 
for the Huxley literary estate.

One of her last projects was to bring "Brave New World" to the movie 
screen. It is now in development with a major motion picture studio, 
Kirsch said.

Huxley also was the author of several books, including an early self- 
help guide, "You Are Not the Target," a 1963 bestseller. She also 
wrote "This Timeless Moment," a 1969 memoir of her life with Aldous; 
"Between Heaven and Earth" (1974); "One-a-Day Reason to be Happy" 
(1986); and "The Child of Your Dreams" (1987).

In 1978 she founded a nonprofit group now called Children: Our 
Ultimate Investment, which aimed to foster optimal development of 
what she called the "possible human." It collaborated with schools in 
California and in Britain, working particularly with teenagers to 
prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Huxley, who never had children of her own, once described its goal as 
"bringing children up loving the world, rather than fearing it as 
many children do."

When she met her husband, Huxley was nearing the end of the first 
phase of her life -- as a concert violinist. Born in Turin, Italy, in 
1911, she was a musical prodigy who performed for the queen of Italy 
when she was 14.

She came to the U.S. in the 1940s to make her American debut at 
Carnegie Hall. She wound up in Los Angeles, where she played for the 
Los Angeles Philharmonic for a few years. In 1948, spurred to make 
great changes in her life after the death of a close friend, she gave 
away her violin and went to work as a film editor at RKO studios.

She met the famous writer when she was trying to promote a film she 
wanted to make about the Palio di Siena, an annual horse race through 
the streets of Siena, Italy.

Director John Huston told her that if she could get Aldous Huxley to 
write the screenplay, he could help her obtain financing.

She wrote to the author, who had spent time in Italy and was then 
living in the desert outside Los Angeles. When she got no reply, she 
was a bit miffed.

She found his phone number and called him, unaware that the number 
belonged to a post office near where he lived. "They asked me if it 
was an emergency," she recounted to the London Guardian in 2002, "and 
I said, 'Of course it's an emergency.' " The message got through, and 
she became a close friend to both Huxley and his wife, Maria.

After Maria died of cancer in 1955, he proposed to Laura in a 
roundabout way, asking if she had "ever been tempted by marriage." 
When she said yes, he asked, "Do you think it might be amusing to 
travel to Yuma and get married at the drive-in?" She again replied 
affirmatively and they were married at a drive-in wedding chapel in Arizona.

By then he had already begun experimenting with psychedelic drugs, 
particularly mescaline. (His 1954 book on his experiences, "The Doors 
of Perception," inspired Jim Morrison and his bandmates to name 
themselves The Doors.)

He invited Laura to take LSD with him while listening to Bach's 
Fourth Brandenburg Concerto and they experienced "aesthetic revelations."

But unlike their friend, Timothy Leary, who became the guru of a 
generation that turned on and dropped out, Huxley said she and her 
husband believed that while LSD had great potential for expanding 
consciousness, it should be used "very carefully and religiously."

As a character in his last novel, "Island" (1962), said, such a drug 
"can take you to heaven but it can also take you to hell."

When Aldous Huxley was dying of cancer, he asked his wife to give him 
a dose of the drug and she complied with two injections a few hours 
apart. He died peacefully shortly after the second dose. As she wrote 
of his last moments in her memoir, "I had the feeling that he was 
interested and relieved and quiet."

When he was writing "Island" she was working on her first book, "You 
Are Not the Target," a distillation of ideas she had been developing 
since the late 1940s about how to promote emotional health. She 
described her philosophy as recipes for life and offered exercises 
that would help people relieve stress and find joy.

One such exercise recommended tensing one's stomach muscles after 
encountering a rude driver.

"It will reduce your waistline, increase circulation, liberate 
poison," she said.

Another exercise was called "You Are Attending Your Own Funeral" and 
encouraged participants to review their life and let go of regrets.

She created her foundation after the granddaughter of a lifelong 
friend came to live with her for a week in 1978. Huxley told The 
Times in an interview that year that the child's visit "threw me into 
a state of expanded consciousness. I wandered through the house 
feeling great love and compassion."

Karen Pfeiffer, the child who opened up new vistas for Huxley, helps 
direct the foundation in Los Angeles. She recalled Huxley, who became 
her legal guardian, as "the most beautifully eccentric person I've ever known."

Among Huxley's many brainstorms was a room in Venice that she called 
the caressing room, where people could come to hold babies. She 
regarded it as a place "where the new and the old will meet and 
loneliness will dissolve," she wrote in a description of the project 
in 1978. She said there should be such a place on every city block.

Well into her 90s, she worked out an hour a day on a treadmill and 
could balance herself on a rubber exercise ball. She practiced yoga 
and extolled the benefits of seeing the world upside down, standing 
on one's head.

Asked many years ago why she never had children of her own, she 
replied, laughing, "I never thought I was old enough to have one."

In addition to Pfeiffer and Pfeiffer's daughter, Kaya, she is 
survived by a nephew, Piero Ferrucci of Florence, Italy, and a niece, 
Paola Ferrucci, of Turin, Italy. 
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