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Jean Pirie

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Jean Pirie (July 5, 1921 - January 4, 2006[1]) was a Chicago socialite and heiress, famous for launching the Chicago version of the Los Angeles nightclub "The Factory", along with partners Paul Newman, Sammy Davis Jnr., and Peter Lawford. She had a brief career in Hollywood as an actress, with a role in the 1968 movie "The Astro Zombies".[2]

Jean was born in Saint Paul, Minesota, to parents John Pirie and Clara Haskamp. She grew up in the Georgian Hotel, Evanston (Chicago), and studied at Northwestern University.

Her father John, originally from Cairnie, near Huntly, Scotland, was a director and shareholder in the American Bakeries Corp, and was a rich man. Before entering business, he was a captain in the U.S.Army Intelligence Corps in World War 1. Jean led a life of excellence and unrestricted indulgence, for all of her 84 years. Skiing each winter in St. Mortiz, Switzerland, and travelling to all four corners of the globe, with visits to Alaska, the Taj Mahal, cruises on the RMS Queen Elizabeth, Paris, London, and New York.

She was famous in Chicago for launching the club called The Factory in the old Chicago Historical Society building, 632 N. Dearborn, in 1970. Although, Sammy Davis Jnr., Paul Newman, Peter Lawford, Marshall Field and Pierre Salinger joined Jean on The Factory's board of directors, the club that was to be based on a wildly popular Los Angeles hot spot of the same name opened only for a short period, longtime friend John Kuehn said. Intriguingly, Jean was the only woman on the board of directors, which demonstrates how far ahead of her time she really was.

The party to launch the club made all of the papers at the time, and was hosted by Jean at her Penthouse at 1209 N.Astor Street, Chicago, with guests including Peter Lawford, James Coburn and Candice Bergen among many others.

Whilst the club was short lived, Jean seemed to have the right idea. The site is now home to the Excalibur nightclub.

Jean moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s, living in the house on Benedict Canyon that belonged to Cary Grant, 9966 Beverly Grove Drive[3]. The house was also famous for being the house which The Beatles lived in when they came to the city. Jean often commented that their fans would steal various artefacts from the house and garden for years after.

Jean funded various movies as an independent producer, and had a minor role[4] in the 1968 movie, "The Astro Zombies", by Ted Mikels.

She was definitely The Hostess with the Mostest, as the Chicago papers claimed.

Jean was married to Alonzo Kight, the President of BorgWarner Industries, who died in 2014, aged 99.[5]


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