Members of the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps have been taking up residence in our parking lot in La Palma, Calif., most Sundays, practicing motorcycle stunt and drill team routines and drawing some attention from nearby businesses. This group, mostly made up of veteran riders on older Harley’s, motor up and down our parking lot in formation, climbing on each other’s shoulders and creating human pyramids, bridges and other pretty spectacular gravity-defying stunts.
We ran across a few members of this talented drill team on a flight from Sturgis a few years back and after a chat, offered our parking lot for their Sunday practice sessions. And they’ve been pretty consistent in using it. There’s a lot of talent in this group of motorcycle stunt men and women, even though more than a few of them are a little long in the tooth.
Turns out there’s quite a history to this group, the least interesting fact being they’re an official “World Champion” motorcycle stunt and drill team that still performs across the country at motorcycle shows. Back in 1936, the fledgling motorcycle team competed against the famous Mexico City Motorcycle Drill Team in Los Angeles and mopped the floor with them. In the end, the new Victor McLaglen Motor Corps won the World Championship trophy and the group still has it to this day.
But there’s a much better back-story. First off, you might ask, what does Victor McLaglen have to do with this group? Actually, if you’re under 50 years of age, you’re probably asking yourself, “Who the hell is Victor McLaglen?” Back in the mid-1930s, McLaglen was a big star. Big like Johnny Depp. Big like Vince Vaughn. Nah, we’re kidding. He was way bigger than either one of those guys. He worked in Hollywood with stars like John Wayne and he was a man’s man type of actor. He starred in “Gunga Din,” and “The Quiet Man,” and he even won an Academy Award for his role in “The Informer.”
Seems Victor sponsored a Light Horse Drill Team, which often led parades and such. But Victor had a friend named Nick DeRush who was a stuntman known for doing some pretty strange tricks with his Harley-Davidson. He used to take the bike to the Santa Monica pier and then he and his buddies would pass the hat to anyone who wanted to see him ride his Harley right off the end of the pier. When he’d collected enough cash, he’d run his bike off the pier and into the ocean. After the cheering subsided, his buddies would help him retrieve the bike from the water. They’d take it home, clean it up and be ready to make some bucks the next weekend.
Like we said. Strange dude, stranger tricks.
So Nick told Victor he should ditch the horses and sponsor a motorcycle drill team. Nick and his buddies put on a performance and Victor was impressed enough to buy the team leather jackets and caps, then started booking the group for shows. The group’s been performing ever since – with a short respite for World War II – and they continue to practice, most recently in the PM parking lot.
They’ll be performing at the Los Angeles Ride for Kids 2011 in Torrance, Calif., on Saturday, May 14 – a fundraiser for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s medical research and family support programs. More than 1,000 bikers are expected to participate in a scenic ride through the beach cities and around the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Registration begins at 8 a.m. at American Honda Motor Co., 1919 Torrance Blvd., in Torrance, and the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps is a highlight of the day.
For more information about these historic riders, visit http://www.thevmmc.com. For details on Saturday’s motorcycle event in Torrance, visit http://www.pbtfus.org/rideforkids/events/2011/losangeles.html.