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Dorris Halsey, 80; literary agent of Aldous Huxley

Times Staff Writer

Dorris Halsey, who was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II and years later became the literary agent of Aldous Huxley and other celebrated writers in Los Angeles, died Oct. 26. She was 80.

Halsey died at her home in the Hollywood Hills, business partner Kimberley Cameron said. The apparent cause was a heart attack.

Halsey and her late husband founded the Reece Halsey Agency, named for him, in 1957. She continued to manage the business after he died in 1980.

“Dorris was very capable, very resourceful, with friends and connections everywhere,” Laura Huxley, the widow of Aldous Huxley, told The Times. Halsey represented Huxley’s literary estate.

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She was known for her dinner parties, during which she often wore a leopard print caftan or another outfit of flair. “The cooking was superb and Dorris put together so many interesting people,” Huxley recalled this week.

Halsey and her husband represented several noted authors, including Henry Miller and Upton Sinclair in the authors’ later years, Cameron said.

More recent clients included Jeraldine Saunders, who wrote “The Love Boats.” The novel was the basis for “The Love Boat” television series of the late 1970s.

Born Dorris Vilmos in Budapest, Hungary, on Jan. 11, 1926, she went to school in southern France at the start of World War II.

When the Germans occupied France in 1940, Halsey was ordered to translate letters from French to German.

“She then got involved in the French Resistance and helped smuggle information to them,” Cameron said this week.

Halsey was caught by the Germans and imprisoned in France, where she shared a cell with 38 women. They were released at the end of the German occupation in 1944.

She graduated from the University of Toulouse, France, in 1946 and later moved to California, where she found a job at the Polyglot Institute, a language school in Beverly Hills. She met Reece Halsey when he enrolled there to study French, longtime friend Mary Strobel said in an interview with The Times this week.

The couple married in 1952 and had three children. They started their own business in an office on Sunset Boulevard near their Hollywood home. Halsey continued to go to the office nearly every day until her death.

Cameron became her business partner in 1992.

Halsey rarely spoke of her wartime experiences, but one friend, literary publicist Andrew Ettinger, keeps a saying of hers on his bulletin board. “If life gives you lemons ... just add vodka.”

Halsey is survived by her children, Richard Halsey of Hollywood, a film editor who won an Academy Award for his work on “Rocky”; Christina Halsey of Berkeley; and Carol Sheyhin; as well as four grandchildren.

A memorial Mass is scheduled at Blessed Sacrament Church, 6657 Sunset Blvd., for 9:30 a.m. today.

Contributions in her name can be made to AIDS Project Los Angeles, the David Geffen Center, 611 S. Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005.

mary.rourke@latimes.com


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