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HISTORY OF THE VICTOR McLAGLEN MOTOR CORPS...

Back in 1935, Victor McLaglen was a very well-known star in the movie industry, having acted in films with such legends as John Wayne and other "heavies" in the business. He had starred in "The Quiet Man" and "Gunda Din" as well as many other famous films, and won an Academy Award for "The Informer".

One of Victor's personal interests included a Light Horse Drill Team that he sponsored. The team often led parades, escorted Victor on special occasions and performed at selected exhibitions. They were said to be quite spectacular, and Victor was very proud of them.

On the movie sets frequented by Victor McLaglen, there was a stuntman,  Nick DeRush,who was not only well known for his stunt work in the movies, but was also known for doing some rather strange things on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Nick and his buddies could often be found on the Santa Monica pier during the weekends, passing around the hat to anyone that would like to see him ride h is Harley off the end of the pier, into the ocean. As soon as he had collected e enough cash, he'd fire up his Harley and off he would go, into the foaming ocean water. After all the excitement, Nick's buddies would help drag the bike out of the water, take it home, clean all the sand and salt water out of it, and get it ready just in time to do the same thing next weekend. Whether Nick did it for extra cash or just the excitement, the stories about him lead you to believe he really enjoyed performing in front of a crowd.

Nick and Victor were talking one day on a movie set in between "takes", and Nick made a proposition to Victor. He told Victor that he had some motorcycle-riding buddies that could do anything Victor's horse drill team could do, maybe even better. He then challenged him to sponsor this new motorcycle drill team if Nick could prove what he said was true. After working up a pretty good drill performance, Nick and his buddies practiced until they got it perfect, and then put on a show just for Victor. Victor was really impressed by what he saw, and subsequently bought all the team members leather jackets and caps (these were the days before helmets), and instructed his Business Manager to start booking the group for shows.

The following year, 1936, the new motorcycle team performed in competition against the famous Mexico City Motorcycle Drill Team. The teams met in Los Angeles for the competition and both groups put on quite a show. In the end, the new Victor McLaglen Motor Corps won the World Championship Trophy and still has it today. The trophy was carefully restored by Tom & Barbara Scott former owers of Anaheim-Fullerton Harley- Davidson and is currently on display in a special cabinet built just for the trophy by , owner Mark Ruffalo at California Harley Davidson in Harbor City, California.

Leadership of the team has changed hands only three times in the group's over 67 years of existence. Nick DeRush was the first leader, and he held that title until 1942 when the team broke up because of World War II. After the war, the Motor Corps started up again, and Herb Harker took over the reins of command. Herb was the "Colonel" of the team for 32 years until he decided to retire and move to Illinois. When Herb decided to step down, he asked Harry Fisher to take over.

The team was down to about five members and sorely needed a "shot in the arm" to get it going again. Harry had previously been in charge of the Huntington Park Elks Motorcycle Stunt & Drill Team, leading about 35 local parades each year, and doing as many infield shows as he could conjure up. Herb figured that was just what the team needed, so he gave Harry a call. Having dropped out of the Elk's team temporarily for a few months, Herb's call found Harry ready to ride again. He told Herb that he would be happy to give it a try. When Harry joined the team, he brought with him many of his old buddies from the Elk's motorcycle team, as well as former members of the Victor McLaglen team.

Practices soon became as important as performances because Harry had not only attracted a total of 16 members, but he added 4 mini-bike riders and a Color Guard Division. The minibikes, donated by Dick Hutchings owner of the former LA Harley, were used as safety beside the stunts in parades to keep the spectators from running in front of the stunts as they went down the road, and the Color Guard Division added more color and diversity to the group. The team had really grown into a major production.

The team has set several world records:

  • In 1980, member Harry Fisher put 22 men on his 1964 motorcycle, setting a world record.
  • In 2005, member Mark Frymoyer rode backward on his Harley for 14.43 miles, setting a Guinness Book record,
  • In 2005, member Scott Griffin almost set a Guinness Book record by standing on the seat of his Harley for about 6 miles.

    In 1981, the team took their first major trip out of California when Bill Dutcher (of Americade fame) invited the group to go to Ruidoso, NM to perform. Following that venture, the team performed at Daytona Beach during Bike Week, Sturgis for the Black Hills Rally, and many other out of state shows. In 1995/1996, the team went on tour doing Cycle World's International Motorcycle Show winter circuit where they performed indoors in convention centers at Anaheim, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, Pontiac, and Denver. These shows required members to fly out of town Friday mornings and return home Sunday nights. The motorcycles were trucked around the country from show to show. It was a grueling schedule, but one all team members really enjoyed. They performed in front of over 250,000 motorcycle enthusiasts. This routine was repeated in the winter of 2000/2001 when they did the IMS circuit again. This time, it was Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, Dallas, and Minneapolis and again, it was a very successful tour. In between these shows, the team went to West Virginia for a Strawberry Festival, Lake George, N.Y. for Americade, the annual Yuma, AZ Prison Run, and scores of other events.

    The year 2001 brought a major change to the appearance of the group - new uniforms. After 20 years of the brown police-style uniform bedecked with a necktie, it was decided that it was time to update the look. The Southern California Harley-Davidson Dealers Association donated the new uniform, which is a royal blue and black shirt with silver embroidered lettering on the back, and black riding britches. Mark Ruffalo from California Harley-Davidson in Harbor City, California donated brand new helmets. And Mickey Jones (of Home Improvement & Justified TV fame) got involved with the group and produced a terrific documentary DVD about the team. Check out this website and see how you can order one. It talks about the history of the team back to 1935 and has lots of video of the current team performing.

  • Victor McLaglen Information

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