They both died young, at the height of their fame, and tragically. They also lived in the San Fernando Valley during their youth.
Now both Marilyn Monroe and Ritchie Valens could have post offices named after them along opposite ends of Van Nuys Boulevard, if approved by Congress.
“I am proud to introduce two bills renaming post offices on Van Nuys Boulevard after two of the San Fernando Valley’s most famous and celebrated artists, Richie Valens and Marilyn Monroe,” stated Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Van Nuys) in a press release.
“Both artists represent the work ethic and creative spirit that defines the San Fernando Valley. Forty-six of my colleagues from California joined me in honoring these amazing talents from our great state,” according to the release.
“I think it would be pretty cool, if she was raised here,” said Iliana Ruiz as she exited the post office at 6531 Van Nuys Boulevard, which would be named after Marilyn Monroe.
While the blonde bombshell didn’t live in the San Fernando Valley after gaining fame and fortune in movies like “The Seven-Year Itch” and “Some Like it Hot,” Norma Jean Baker (her real name) did.
Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, the third child of Gladys Pearl Baker. (The identity of Monroe’s biological father is unknown and she most often used Baker as her surname.) In 1934, her mother suffered a severe nervous breakdown and was committed to a state mental institution for a stay that lasted six years.
Norma Jeane was declared a ward of the state. She stayed in different foster homes, but eventually came to live with her mother’s friend, Grace Goddard, and her husband, Doc. In 1939, the Goddards moved with Norma Jeane to a house on Odessa Street in Van Nuys.
The teenager attended Van Nuys High School, where she auditioned unsuccessfully for the Maskers drama club production of “Art and Mrs. Bottle.” In Van Nuys, she met her first husband, Jim Dougherty, whose family lived on nearby Archwood Street.
Norma Jeane married Dougherty, a Van Nuys High graduate, on June 19, 1942, 18 days after her 16th birthday, and they moved into a studio apartment on Vista del Monte Avenue in Van Nuys. Several months later, they moved into a small house on Bessemer Street, where they lived for almost a year while Dougherty worked at the Lockheed factory in Burbank.
When wartime service took Dougherty to the Pacific, Norma Jeane moved into a house on Hermitage Street in North Hollywood with his parents. With the help of her mother-in-law, she got a job at a defense plant at Radioplane Co., where a visiting Army photographer shot a photo of her that was seen by a modeling agent. Norma Jeane began morphing into Marilyn Monroe soon after.
The sleek and modern post office at the corner of Haynes Street and Van Nuys Boulevard is only two blocks away from Van Nuys High School and for Emily Graves, another customer, naming it after Monroe would be a fitting homage to the film icon.
“That would be okay because she went to high school here. I don’t think it would make a difference,” she said.
Other patrons seemed ambivalent upon hearing the news.
“It doesn’t matter to me, it’s just a post office,” said a woman who didn’t want to give her name.
Robert Clayton does care, however, and he doesn’t like the idea at all.
“A post office is a post office,” he said. “I don’t understand it.”
For Clayton, renaming a post office after someone, even one of the most iconic sex symbols to grace the big screen, is simply a bad idea. “Even if she was famous, it doesn’t qualify her” to have a post office named after her, he said.
Andy, a mail carrier who was not authorized to speak and thus didn’t provide his full name, sneered at the idea.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “Why do they have to name a post office. A post office is a post office.”
There was the similar reaction from Reynaldo about naming the Pacoima post office after the singer who brought “La Bamba” to the American audience, as Reynaldo was leaving that location at 13507 Van Nuys Boulevard.
“I disagree one hundred percent,” he said. “This is not a monument. It’s about respect for the country.”
Born in Pacoima on May 13, 1941, Valens — who attended San Fernando High School — was a rock and roll pioneer, one of mainstream America’s first popular Mexican-American artists and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement. His career lasted barely eight months, but he had several hits before he was killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, a date that became known as “The Day the Music Died.”
The accident also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
A 1987 biographical movie about Valens, titled “La Bamba,” renewed interest in the musician, who was later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Valens was still alive when the Pacoima post office opened in 1958 and surely walked along the intersection of Kewen Avenue and Van Nuys Boulevard, where it is located.
For Mariam, who has a P.O. box at the location, it’s a great idea.
“That’s cool. He’s a very important icon. He should be recognized,” she said.
“They already have the park (Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, at the corner of Paxton Street and Laurel Canyon Boulevard). They might as well name the post office after him,” said Itzel Valles.
“That’s great. It’s about time,” noted Angelica Perez. “I love Ritchie Valens. I think it’s an appropriate honor. He was amazing and represented the Hispanic culture. I love his music and who doesn’t like ‘La Bamba.’”
This wouldn’t be the only honor for Valens. Last year, Los Angeles Councilmember Monica Rodriguez announced that part of the I-5 Freeway, between state Routes 170 and 118, will be renamed The Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway.