Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THESE NORMA JEAN TIDBITS come to me from two sources: SimanaitisSays reader Bob Storck and SiriusXM’s “Radio Classics.” You may well remember her by another name, Marilyn Monroe. 

Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, 1926–1962, American actress, model, and singer. Famous for playing “blonde bombshell” roles. 

This autographed photo shows Marilyn Monroe with Ben Lyon (who was instrumental in her career and choice of name). The image is from “How Did Marilyn Monroe Get Her Name? This Photo Reveals the Story”.

Reginald Denny. The tale also involves Englishman Reginald Denny, World War I aviator, stage, film, and tv actor, and a pioneer with unmanned aerial vehicles. As early as the 1930s, Denny built radio-controlled model aircraft and persuaded the military that they could be used to train anti-aircraft gunners.

The idea was evidently more sound than the alternative of having particularly brave pilots tow target aircraft behind them. 

Wikipedia notes, “In 1939, he and his partners won the first military U.S. Army Air Corps contract for their radio-controlled target drone, the Radioplane OQ-2. In July 1940, they formed the Radioplane Company and manufactured nearly fifteen thousand drones for the U.S. Army during the Second World War.”

A Radiophone OQ-3 used for anti-aircraft gunner training. Image by Bill Larkin from Wikipedia.

Norma Jean, Pal of Rosie the Riveter. Late in World War II, teenager Norma Jean worked at Reginald Denny’s factory in Van Nuys, California. 

Norma Jean at work at the Radiophone Company in mid-1944. Images by David Conover for Yank, the Army Weekly. 

Wikipedia writes, “In late 1944, she met photographer David Conover, who had been sent by the U.S. Army Air Forces’ First Motion Picture Unit to the factory to shoot morale-boosting pictures of female workers.”

Another Norma Jean Reminiscence. The “Radio Classics” programs of British-Canadian-American actor Alan Young are regularly broadcast on SiriusXM. In fact, host Greg Bell had an interview with him back when Young was 92. 

Alan told a charming tale about Norma Jean: She was one of pretty young women riding on a float he had arranged for a parade, and afterward Alan and Norma Jean dated occasionally. On one date, Alan had to pick up something from his parents, with Norma Jean meeting them briefly. As Alan noted, back in those days such a meeting sounded serious, but actually they were just good friends.

Alan Young, born Angus Young, 1919–2016, British-Canadian-American actor, comedian, radio and tv performer. Image from 1944. 

Years later, Alan’s career had flourished and he was getting prepped in the makeup department of a movie lot. A voice from across the room called out, “Alan! Alan! How nice to see you!” 

The two chatted for a while about old times, after which the woman went off to her movie shoot. Then Alan’s makeup artist said, “Wow!! How long have you known Marilyn Monroe??”

Alan said, “About half an hour.” ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

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