McLaglen Motorcycle Team Will Lead the Way During Palisades Fourth of July Parade

Early in this year’s Fourth of July parade, watch for the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps, a legendary motorcycle stunt and drill team.

The Victor McLaglen Motor Corps actually started as a horse drill team in 1935, the year McLaglen won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in “The Informer.” He also starred in “The Quiet Man” and “Gunga Din.”

He was friends with stuntman Nick DeRush, who on weekends would go to the Santa Monica Pier. Nick made money telling spectators he planned to drive his Harley-Davidson motorcycle off the end of the pier—and then would pass the hat. Once he felt he collected enough cash, he’d do exactly that.

The Victor McLaglen Motor Corps performs at different events.

The Victor McLaglen Motor Corps performs at different events.

After his friends helped him pull the Harley out of the water, Nick would take it home, clean out the sand and salt water, and return the next weekend.

Nick and Victor were talking one day on a movie set and Nick said his motorcycle team could do anything the horse team could do, only better. Nick challenged him to sponsor the motorcycle team.

Victor said he’d consider it, but had to see what the team could do.

The motorcyclists practiced and then put on a show for Victor. The story goes that Victor was so impressed, not only did he offer to sponsor them, he purchased leather jackets and caps for matching uniforms.

In 1938, the McLaglen team performed in a competition against the Mexico City Motorcycle Drill Team and won the world championship trophy. (The trophy can still be seen at the California Harley Davidson in Harbor City.)

Nick was the team’s first commander, a position he held until 1942, when the team broke up because of World War II. After the war, Herb Harker took over as leader and held that role until he retired 32 years later.

In 1979, Colonel Harry Fisher became the team’s third commander. He had previously been in charge of the Huntington Park Elks Motorcycle Stunt & Drill Team, which led about 35 parades each year. When Harry joined the McLaglen team, he brought with him many of his old buddies from the Elks’ motorcycle team.

The Victor McLaglen team has set several world records, including when Fisher put 22 men on a 1964 motorcycle in 1980; member Mark Frymoyer rode backward on his Harley for 14.43 miles in 2005; and that same year member Scott Griffin stood on the seat of his Harley for about six miles.

The team has performed in New Mexico, Florida, South Dakota (Sturgis Rally), Washington, Illinois, New York, Minnesota and Colorado.

In 2001, the team’s brown uniform was replaced with a new outfit: a royal blue-and-black shirt with silver embroidered lettering on the back, and black riding britches.

The Southern California Harley-Davidson Dealers Association donated the uniforms and Mark Ruffalo of Harbor City California Harley-Davidson donated new helmets.

Three years ago, musician and actor Mickey Jones (of Home Improvement and Justified TV fame) produced a documentary DVD about the team’s history, titled “An American Treasure.”

The purpose of the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps is to raise money for recognized charitable organizations and to demonstrate motorcycle vehicle control and agility. The group has supported the following charity organizations: Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, American Diabetes Association, Wounded Warriors Project, Foundation for Burns and Trauma and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Fisher passed away in 2014, but members of the group still include assistant drill leader Mark Frymoyer, Tylor Hicks, Sam Watson, Scott Griffin, Frank Hicks, Guillermo Sevilla, Sr., Rene and William Sevilla, Rigo Soto, James “Butch” Swanson, Ruben Pantoja, Ron McCool, and Fernando and Luis Camarena.

Also riding with the group will be American Legion Post 283 member Michael Moore (not Palisades Senior Lead Officer nor the famed documentary film maker). Visit thevmmc.com for more information. 

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