Alcor Member Profile: Gary and Maria Entraigues Abramson

By Nicole Weinstock
Cryonics January 2017

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Some of the most recognized love stories have emerged from the minds of writers, musicians, and historians: Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, and Odysseus and Penelope, to name a few. Though the arts may inspire the hearts of many, the sciences play muse to no small number of us. From Pierre and Marie Curie, to William Masters and Virginia Johnson, to Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd, a mutual passion for research, experimentation and discovery have inspired the union of many. Cryonicists Gary and Maria Entraigues Abramson are no exception. In fact, they left everyone else in the dust. Quite literally.

One of their most memorable dates took place on a mound of earth near the Los Angeles International Airport in 2012. Knowing they were both pilots and longstanding enthusiasts for all things aviation, Gary had invited Maria there to watch airplanes land. “She dressed up like a diva, looking glamorous,” recalls Gary. But Maria is no pushover, as is evident by her history of pioneering successes in entertainment and life extension alike. No sooner had they arrived than “she pulled out this pilot radio and said, ‘Hold on, I’m gonna dial in the LAX approach.’ That’s when I knew I loved her,” admits Gary, a warm laugh in his voice.

Maria and Gary pose at the Los Angeles International Airport with the world’s largest passenger airliner, the A380, behind them.

Like many great romances, theirs was born from a steady friendship, seeded at a Los Angeles Future Salon event in early 2012. The SENS Research Foundation’s co-founder and anti-aging icon, Aubrey de Grey, was scheduled to speak. “I had to go see him,” says Gary. Himself the owner and founder of Moonburn Creative, a full-service agency for all things digital marketing and design, Gary wanted to collaborate with SENS in an effort to advance their work (he succeeded, and still helps them today). “Well, you have to talk to our Global Outreach Coordinator, Maria,” said de Grey.

Gary and Maria pose with Aubrey de Grey, who introduced them in 2012.

De Grey’s introduction was fitting, given that he would later walk Maria down the aisle towards her future as an Abramson. They had known each other for years by that point, through her current role with SENS and her volunteer work with the nonprofit de Grey co-founded—the Methuselah Foundation—prior to that. It was de Grey who, at the 2006 SENS Conference in Cambridge, convinced her to consider an Alcor membership in a truly earnest light. It worked. Just one year later she finalized her decision at the 2007 Alcor Conference. “It was a no-brainer. The option of not being a cryonicist doesn’t look so good, no matter how farfetched cryonics could look.”

Maria and Gary spoke for the first time that evening, and swiftly developed a close friendship in the months that followed through their mutual interests in aviation, science, and technology. Maria’s experience in aerobatics—think acrobatics, but with planes—with no less than legendary pilot Sean Tucker, immediately struck a chord with Gary, a former aerobatics pilot. Her Alcor membership was also attractive to him.

Gary was not a member at the time, though he had known about cryonics for years. He had met several Alcor members through the various Future Salons that he had attended and was keen on joining, but for the cost of membership. It was Maria who introduced him to Rudi Hoffman, a well-known life insurance agent specializing in cryonics needs, who made his membership possible in the end. Gary signed his final papers at Alcor’s 40th Anniversary Conference in the fall of that year. “It seemed like an important measure given the intersection of loving life and emerging technological capabilities.” Ever since, he makes sure that both he and Maria faithfully wear their Alcor ID bands, should the unforeseen occur.

Their commonalities only grew in number with time. On their first date, Gary invited Maria to join in an evening of Cosmos, the 1980s television series developed to bring fundamental science knowledge back to mainstream audiences. Gary reminisces, “During the show, I interjected some comments, and she was shushing me. And I was like, ‘Wow, she’s really into Cosmos and technology and futurism.’ It was extraordinary. We just had so much in common.”

This Cosmos encounter was no trivial anecdote. That series harkens back to fond memories in both of their childhoods. For Gary, Cosmos immediately elicits memories of his mother. “I used to watch Cosmos on PBS, but it only came on at 10 or 11 at night.” Too young to stay up that late, but a staunch series devotee, he would never go to bed with the knowledge of missed episodes. His frazzled mother finally called PBS and begged them to play it earlier.

For Maria, their evening of Cosmos reminded her of watching episodes with her father as a kid growing up in Argentina. He was an engineer who, according to Maria, continuously nurtured her curiosity. “We were always trying to design some machine with perpetual motion.” She credits her early interest in aging to his influence as well. Even as a young child, aging “didn’t seem or look right,” explains Maria.

Sadly, Maria’s father died from emphysema and diabetes when she was just 19 years old. Nevertheless, she describes his passing as an event that triggered her move from Buenos Aires to the U.S, where she attended the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. Maria was far from your typical rising freshman. She arrived with a reel chock-full of household names in the entertainment industry. She had already acted alongside Juan Carlos Altavista on the popular Argentine TV show Supermingo, and toured with musician and singer-songwriter, Alejandro Lerner, to name just a couple of her early accomplishments.

Following Berklee, Maria and her then-husband moved to New York to work in music. After a year and a half, she heard that Oliver Stone—acclaimed writer, director and producer behind such films as Scarface (1983), Platoon (1986) and Wall Street (1987)—was looking for an unknown actress-singer to play Eva Perón in Evita, the movie. Maria knew it was meant for her.

Though her maiden name “Entraigues” refers to a quaint little town in southwestern France, there was nothing small town about the hot pursuit that followed. With passion in her heart, Maria got on a plane and flew to LA for the first time to audition. But upon arrival at the casting office, she was turned down because she didn’t have an agent. Determined, Maria showed up for several consecutive days in the office. One “hello” to the casting director who walked past—Maria had smartly researched her photo and name in advance—and she was auditioned. Even better, they cast her as Evita.

In the end, to her great disappointment, the movie (that version) did not survive. Yet this small taste of LA convinced her to stay. Her entertainment career took off. Over the years, she worked alongside director Alfonso Arau of Like Water for Chocolate (1992), Latin American idol and singer Luis Miguel, and several other notable artists.

Maria Entraigues
Maria at a music video shoot for the end title song she co-wrote called “Free Our Love” for the film The Magnificent Ambersons.

Her artistic work has been continuous ever since, even after she began working full-time for the SENS Research Foundation. As Global Outreach Coordinator, she serves as communicator extraordinaire for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) across the world. The acronym, SENS, refers to the foundation’s work to develop rejuvenation biotechnologies for the many diseases and disabilities associated with aging. To raise awareness of SENS, Maria builds strategic relationships with partners and other stakeholders, coordinates and engages in public (speaking) events, and spearheads fundraising opportunities to support the foundation’s burgeoning presence.

Maria speaks on behalf of the SENS Research Foundation—one of many such events for her.

Where was Gary during this whirlwind of family, school and career?

Born and raised in Florida, Gary was, in his own words, “curious and a handful.” Insatiable when it came to knowledge, he was frequently picking apart typewriters, clocks and other devices, building models, sketching ideas and designs—it’s no surprise he ended up in creative services. His father, a medical doctor and keen diagnostician, often took him on hospital rounds at his work, where Gary witnessed death, dying, and disease up close and personal.

The hospital was far from their only source of adventure. Gary’s father took his son on walks in the woods and deep into jungles, imparting his interest in wildlife, nature, and most importantly—adventure. It’s no surprise that on one of their many flights together, Gary convinced the pilot to let him sit in the cockpit as they landed the plane into Miami International Airport. It was “a life-changing event,” says Gary, who was 11 at the time.

When he later attended college at the University of Florida, Gary pursued aerospace engineering. But after receiving feedback from others about the lack of potential design opportunity, he switched majors, graduating with a degree in finance and a Bachelor’s letter of equivalency in economics. His professional trajectory took a turn when he attended a semester of college in Italy and was immersed in Renaissance art and architecture. Following college, he was inspired to attend a creative concepting school, and thereafter pursued a career in design, product development, and creative services, eventually founding Moonburn Creative.

In September of 2012, Gary and Maria experienced a turning point that cemented their partnership. Two years later, they wed. Adventurous aviation aficionados that they were, they tied the knot at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California. The museum houses more than 150 aircraft, over 50 of which can be flown. Some are the only surviving planes of their kind, given that many met their end in the smelters of the post-World War II surge in consumerism. It was perfect.

The newlyweds pose at their Planes of Fame wedding in Chino, CA.

The wedding plan was simple to begin with, but happily became a “full blown affair,” as Gary puts it. The couple welcomed guests from all over, including many Alcor members and Alcor President and CEO, Max More. Aubrey de Grey walked Maria down the aisle towards her future husband and their officiant Mike Kope, President, Founder, and CEO of the SENS Research Foundation. The bride wore a traditional Spanish dress, complete with a veil (a “mantilla”) and high comb (a “peineta”), while carrying a fan. “I’d never had a wedding before and I realized that this was really my first marriage. I wanted the whole thing that I’d never had,” Maria confesses.

The evening did not disappoint. Colin Hay from Men at Work came up to sing, among others from Maria’s circle of musical friends. She too sang, as did Gary, the best surprise of all. The original slow jam that he performed was a showstopper. “It was so good,” adds Maria. “I’m the entertainer, but I swear, he shadowed me completely.”

The pièce de résistance was the chrome taildragger, complete with streamers attached to its wings, in which they taxied away at the evening’s close. An airplane with one wheel in the back and two up front, the taildragger requires more control by its pilot than the newer tricycle-gear airplanes. It was a fitting choice for this dauntless, trailblazing couple.

When they arrived at the opposite side of the airport where their nuptial aircraft lived, they took in their first moments alone as husband and wife. “It was total quiet,” says Gary. “It was a really surrealistic moment of togetherness and the fact that we had really started this journey together.”

Life after marriage for the Abramsons has been what we all hope for, and perhaps quite a bit more. Both Maria and Gary work from home, a setup that might drive other couples to the brink, but that miraculously brings them closer. Avid travellers, they’ve gone on a number of trips to Mexico, Argentina, Spain, England, and Germany. “We always look for anything that has to do with science or aviation,” says Maria. In Germany for example, Gary surprised her with a tour of the Airbus factory in Hamburg. This plant does the final assembly of the A-320, and the A-380, the world’s largest passenger airliner.

The Abramsons pose in front of the original 1903 Wright Flyer.

The Abramsons also continue to attend aviation events together. Other outings might take them to Maria’s singing performances, world music shows, the Alcor Conference, and various science and technology events.

Despite all this activity, Maria and Gary are careful to carve out quality R&R à la Netflix. In addition to their bread and butter sci-fi series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica and (of course) Cosmos, they also watch—from first to last episode—West Wing, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and other popular shows to round off their repertoire.

Amidst their many personal and professional commitments and interests, health and longevity are huge drivers behind the Abramsons’ lifestyle choices. They live as if cryonics didn’t exist. Both Maria and Gary are committed to a paleo and sugarfree diet, genetic testing and rigorous regular bloodwork. Self-proclaimed biohackers, they also stay up to date on the latest information and technology to optimize their gene expressions, and ultimately, their wellbeing.

When it comes to the prospect of cryonics, they collectively acknowledge different challenges. Maria first mentions questions of consciousness: “Is it going to be me when I wake up?” Gary acknowledges the challenges of a rapid and quality cryopreservation, and the potential effects of social stigma on emergency first responders or other medical professionals outside of the Alcor network.

To that end, Maria hopes to encourage more people to accept cryonics as a common medical intervention. In her words, “I would like to be the example of somebody who loves life, and who is a sane person making a sane decision.”

Gary echoes her desire to reveal the rationale behind cryonics and normalize the practice of cryopreservation. “I like opening people’s minds to the possibilities of cryonics. It’s fun to peel away barriers until they’re only left with a simple choice to do it or not.”

Unsurprisingly, the couple agrees that the biggest priority in the next five to ten years of cryonics research should be the cryopreservation process: improving cryoprotectants and creating more opportunities for preservation farther from Scottsdale. The latter is an obvious concern given their shared passion for travel and family. Maria’s mother, for example, supports cryonics and would love to sign up, but is challenged to do so from her home in Argentina.

While the future is the proverbial “promised land” for most cryonicists and cryonicists-to-be, it can also be a source of anxiety for others.

Perhaps Gary explains it best: “The future for me is like nothing that could ever be conceived or visualized with modern sci-fi fantasy…. A lot of people don’t want to take that journey because they fear that it could be so unknown. You have to have a sense of adventure and be willing to lose connection with everything you know and are comfortable with.”

Gary poses with a leopard. Just another typical day for this adventurous animal lover…

A sense of adventure is something that Maria and Gary have in spades. With a smile in her voice, Maria says, “We have a big imagination.”

Gary adds, “Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.”

“But,” Maria interjects, “we still want to see it.”

Maria was interviewed by Discovery Channel for a Spanish/English show about the future called 2111, which includes her touring the Alcor facility. The section on “Longevity” which includes Alcor and cryonics is in this 12-minute video, in Spanish with English subtitles. Maria states “I want to clarify that the information about the finances to become a member are not correct, the total cost is about 200k and you don’t have to pay 80k in advance as it says here. You can get a life insurance policy to cover for the total cost and then pay Alcor monthly dues which are very low. Also another mistake is that the storage temperature, contrary to what was stated in the program, is actually minus 196 degrees celsius.” This episode aired in the U.S. in January 2013.

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