Lascar Sal

Limehouse entrepreneur


Born Florence Margret McLaren in Chelsea, London. The daughter of a chorus singer named Emma McLaren and an unknown father, Florence was raised by her grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Seward. Florence’s overwhelming desire for the stage caused her to leave home at fifteen much to the considerable dismay of her grandmother, who felt that her granddaughter would only be corrupted by the immoral and sordid milieu of degenerate entertainers. Just look at Florence’s mother—currently being kept by a man twenty years her senior and having already given birth to one illegitimate daughter. But Florence was determined and so she was soon playing bit roles on various theater stages in the West End. At eighteen, she had been given the leading role in a musical. Sadly, it closed within a week.

Her first big break arrived when the impresario Lindsay Orton promoted her from the chorus to play a leading role in his 1910 revue Step Lively. According to Orton, despite having a weak voice, Florence had a mesmerizing stage presence. With her delicate beauty and wistful figure she absolutely charmed the audience. But when he was informed, during the run of the show that Florence was frequently attending opium parties, Orton fired her on the spot. He had lost one good actress to an opium overdose and he was not about to go through that whole horrid misery again. But, some months later when he discovered that owing to his rather vocal and public dismissal from Step Lively, Florence was having difficulties in obtaining another role, and so had given to selling herself in order to continue her opium and cocaine habits. He was overcome with guilt. Against his better judgment, he relented and decided to giver her another chance as he had an immediate need as well as an opportunity. The previous week, Rose Savile, the current lead in his show What The Maid Thought She Saw had informed him she was leaving for Scotland to star in a cinema production. Orton offered Florence the chance to take over the leading role if she promised she would stay way from narcotics. To his amazement Florence not only made good her promise abstain for opium but she made a striking impression in the part – was bittersweet in that the role was short-lived as she was to only to perform it during show’s closing week.

Lindsay Orton was hopeful that the critical reviews would be the beginning of a career and the inducement for her to begin to correct her proclivities for lurid sex and drugs. Only the night the show closed she disappeared.

Florence McLaren was last seen leaving the theatre, wearing a rather daringly diaphanous outfit, and was in the company of Richard Fields, her leading man.

Two days later Fields was found dead in a narrow Limehouse alley.

Florence seemingly had vanished.

Several years later Orton learned from a stage hand that a woman who ran a fan-tan Parlour in Limehouse, the Cocoa Rooms, and was known among the narrow lanes of Pennyfields and West India Dock Road as ‘Lascar Sal,’ bore an uncanny resemblance to Florence McLaren.

Upon venturing to the gaming establishment, which not only fronted an opium den but a brothel as well, he discovered that it was in fact being run by Florence.


When he confronted her, he was shocked to see the flashes of malice in her eyes as she explained that it was best he forgot Florence McLaren, and even more importantly Lascar Sal.

Lascar Sal

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