Lorrie Hull

Alcor Member Profile
From Cryonics May 2014

By Chana Phaedra

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Lorrie Hull

From her early days in West Bend, Iowa, to the bright lights and glitz of Hollywood, S. Lorraine (“Lorrie”) Boos Hull-Smithers, Ph.D., has lived in pursuit of her dreams for 85 years. Born into a Christian family, Lorrie says she had a “wonderful childhood” and fondly recalls playing piano and organ for church services as a girl. As a teen she was valedictorian of her high school class. Later, she began modeling and acting and decided to major in theater at Drake University. While in college, at the age of 20, she eloped with her first husband and became a mom to two children, Dianne and Don.

After graduating with a BFA in 1956, Lorrie moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to teach acting as a professor at Ripon College. While there, she saw Robert Ettinger of the Cryonics Society of Michigan (later to become the Cryonics Institute) being interviewed by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show about his book, The Prospect of Immortality, and about cryonics in general.

“What Dr. Ettinger said about cryonics really appealed to me,” Lorrie reminisces almost 50 years later. “I joined his organization immediately. I was motivated to sign up for cryonics by a love of life and curiosity regarding my family in the future and the world.”

That zest for life and love for family ultimately resulted not only in Lorrie signing up herself, but also in her obtaining memberships for several family members. Over time, Lorrie filled out membership paperwork for, paid dues on, and paid for insurance policies for up to seven members of her family, “being motivated by the hope that we all could be reanimated and rejuvenated in the future.”

As an acting teacher Lorrie found herself drawn to a set of techniques for teaching actors how to create in themselves the thoughts and feelings of their characters. These techniques, known as the “system” as originally developed by Constantin Stranislavski, were later adapted by Lee Strasberg into the “Method” for American actors. An ardent teacher of method acting, Lorrie was eventually offered an opportunity to teach for Lee Strasberg himself in Hollywood. Seizing the opportunity, Lorrie packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles. It was a decision that would shape the course of the rest of her life.

With Lee Strasberg With Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio.

Having moved to California, far from the vicinity of the Cryonics Institute, Lorrie was put in touch with Jerry Leaf, who met her for dinner several times to advise her regarding cryonics. She fondly remembers him today as her favorite cryonicist and an all-around nice and caring man. “After meeting him, I changed my membership from Cryonics Institute to Alcor” Lorrie says. On a more somber note, she still laments that Jerry was a heavy smoker who eventually succumbed to a heart attack and was cryopreserved at the age of 50. “I begged him to give up smoking,” she bemoans.

Lorrie and her daughter Dianne actively attended local cryonics group meetings and gatherings during an exciting and sometimes confusing time in cryonics, with a few organizations rising and falling as people attempted various schemes for providing cryopreservation services and long-term patient care. After becoming an Alcor member, Lorrie recalls Jerry Leaf helping her deal with the complications of executing the necessary paperwork for the additional members of her family to become members.

Lorrie’s other fond memories of the early days include the grand opening of the Riverside facility, attending several Thanksgiving Feasts, and a party at Saul Kent’s house at which she was interviewed about her interest in cryonics. At some point along the way, she and Dianne even found themselves, along with Dianne’s toddler son Brendan, at a Thanksgiving Feast held at the home of Timothy Leary. Lorrie laughs now to think of chatting in the kitchen with Fred and Linda Chamberlain, Dianne tending to Brendan, all while Leary and a few others (“not all members, of course!” Lorrie adds) were “smoking up a storm” in another room.

Meanwhile, Lorrie spent 12 years as the senior faculty member for Lee Strasberg. Over those years, she developed a deep understanding of method acting and was the only instructor chosen by Strasberg to teach his course, “Understanding of the Method.” Lorrie had obtained a M.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1971, and afterward began compiling what she knew about Strasberg’s Method into what would ultimately become her doctoral dissertation (her Ph.D. was awarded in 1976).

She would go on to edit and rewrite her dissertation (over the course of 14 years) into the seminal text on method acting, Strasberg’s Method: as Taught by Lorrie Hull, which was first published in 1985. The book is widely regarded as essential to method actors, and Drake University bestowed an Alumni Achievement award upon Lorrie in 1990 in recognition of the impact of her work. In addition to her book, Lorrie has also hosted two instructional DVDs, “The Method” and “The Method II,” which have sold many copies worldwide.

And though she had gone through a divorce from her first husband in 1977, things seemed to come together for Lorrie again when she was introduced to Bill Smithers, an actor and director whom she had met at the Actor’s Studio. They were married in 1995.

Lorrie also enjoys hosting television programs. For nine years, she hosted a program called “Alive After 65” on a local public access channel in Santa Barbara. When her co-host became incapacitated, the producer asked her husband, Bill, to step in. He did, and they have since been hosting a program together called “Just Between Us,” where they interview a wide cross-section of interesting people about their life’s work.

Aschwin de Wolf S. Lorraine “Lorrie” Boos Hull Smithers, Ph.D and her husband, Bill Smithers, co-host the Santa Barbara public access TV show “Just Between Us.”

One such interviewee was UCSB stem cell researcher Dr. Dennis Clegg. Lorrie is especially enthusiastic about the applicability of stem cell research to future rejuvenation technologies, so she invited Dr. Clegg to speak about his research on the show. As she does on several other episodes, during the interview Lorrie talks about Alcor, her wish to be cryogenically preserved, and “the rays of hope for cryonics via research, including [that on] stem cells.”

Lorrie feels that cryonics would benefit from “people with expertise in asking for grants...to send out numerous grant requests” as a means of buffering the coffers, particularly as a safeguard for long-time members facing underfunding concerns as costs have risen in recent years.

Today, Lorrie still teaches method acting classes, as well as seminars and workshops, in and around Los Angeles and New York City with her daughter Dianne. Dianne studied in California under Lee Strasberg and was discovered by Elia Kazan, who cast her in her first movie, The Arrangement. She spent several years acting on both stage and screen until her son Brendan was born. Dianne decided to quit acting so she could spend more time with her son, so she began teaching for Lee Strasberg as well, in both New York and California. Lorrie and Dianne were both Master teachers at the 1988 Paris Stanislavski Conference.

Aschwin de Wolf Lorrie’s daughter, Dianne (also an Alcor member), teaching a method acting class at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

Besides teaching together, Dianne also still has cryonics in common with her mother Lorrie. Lorrie maintains both Dianne and Brendan’s Alcor memberships and life insurance. While on a trip to visit her son Don’s family in New Orleans in the summer of 2012, Lorrie and Dianne stopped in Scottsdale, AZ, to visit Alcor and meet the staff.

When speaking with Lorrie, her children and grandchildren are a favorite topic. Dianne’s son Brendan, a recent graduate of Cal Arts, is a “remarkably talented composer, performer, and poet.” Don’s daughter, Emily, is a “caring therapist” who graduated from Louisiana State University and Houston University, and was recently named a Woman of the Year after starting a preschool for autistic children in New Orleans. She was also appointed chairwoman of the Louisiana Behavior Analysis Board by the state governor. And Don’s son, Evan, is a graduate of Louisiana State University with B.A. and M.A. Degrees, who lives and works in Baton Rouge as an accountant. And though her son’s family have since dropped their Alcor memberships (“they are Christian and believe in an afterlife,” Lorrie explains), Lorrie maintains the insurance policies on his children in case they decide to sign up later.

Recently, Lorrie’s family gave her a set of stone DVDs (a new, very durable data storage medium) for her birthday, which she has used to place several hours’ worth of family history in her Alcor memory box as well as Dianne’s and Brendan’s memory boxes. They contain everything from family Christmas letters dating back to 1959 to emails from the modern era, along with other information and memory “packets” for her other grandchildren, all carefully sorted, copied, and mounted using archival quality paper and plastic.

Commendably, though Lorrie’s husband is not interested in cryonics for himself and considers it “a waste of money” for Lorrie, she has taken steps to ensure that her (and Dianne’s and Brendan’s) arrangements are protected from interference. “I gave my daughter Power of Attorney and I persuaded my husband when we first married 18 years ago to go with me to a notary public to sign Alcor’s relative’s affidavit. I do not want any screw-ups after all these years of paying for insurances, dues, standby, and now underfunding for my cryonic preservation!”

To other members, either new to this journey or having come the distance along with her, Lorrie advises that “the hope for peace upon death and the possibility of returning are well worth joining Alcor.” And for someone so driven by a desire to continue loving and laughing with family and friends, we can all wish that Lorrie’s dreams will continue to come true.


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