"Hey!" Vince rips, head jerking to an Arab
in Sahara drag, shuffling through the wrought iron doors, thick albums
cradled in his arms. "Get a load of this. Abdullah of Hollywood!" Yassir
Arafat plays Marley's Ghost. It's Victor McLaglen's secret Arab
son.Before Victor McLaglen became a movie star, he served in the
British Army as Provost Marshall of Baghdad. He was patroling the desert when he encountered a Bedouin boy
whose tribe had been wiped out by bandits. Victor adopted the boy,
Abdullah Abbas, and took him back to London. When Abdullah reached the
age of 16, McLaglen unwittingly created a crisis by marrying a woman who hated Arabs.
Her brother had been killed by one. Abdullah, not wanting to complicate
McLaglen's life, stowed aboard an Italian freighter bound for Canada.
Victor had taught the boy to box, so he fought bootleg bouts across
America to San Francisco. There Abdullah was discovered by Alexander
Pantages, the owner of a theatre chain.Pantages had recently been
granted a reprieve from prison where he was doing time because Joe Kennedy
rigged a rape against him as part of his final bid to take over Hollywood.
Pantages now preferred the company of Bedouin pugilists who fight in rings
girls from Garden Grove who dance in mop closets,
and he booked Abdullah fights in LA. In the meantime (a Hollywood mean
time with calendar pages blowing bleak like autumn leaves), John Ford was
in England looking for a big, tough, hard-drinking Irishman. He spotted
Victor McLaglen in a pub, took him to Hollywood, and on the night Abdullah
broke both hands on a hard man's head, Victor was in the audience. He
found the boy a job at Warner Brothers
rubbing out stars.