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Here’s a Real
Hollywood Trailer
The Sleek Airstream Goes to Hollywood and Steals the Show

Andy Rogosinski


Here it is,” says actor Anthony Edwards, beaming with delight as he invites a visitor into his “silver love sub.” He shows off the knotty pine walls, the black and white tile floor, the convection oven. “I don’t even have this at home!”

What is Mr. Edwards’s pride and joy? His Airstream trailer. The aluminum skinned Excella 1000 might look more at home in a trailer park than on the backlot of E.R., the prime-time hospital drama in which he plays Dr. Mark Greene. But here it is, Dr. Edwards’s office and retreat. “The roundness, the curvature of the interior makes a really pleasing environment to be in,” he says. “It’s very womb-like.”
 
Long hauled as the Rolls Royce of RVs for generations of well-to-do vacationers and retirees, Airstreams are going even farther: to the stars. They’re trundling out of the trailer park and into the Hollywood hills and studios, the Hamptons, and even the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. This year’s book touts an Airstream glitzed up with antique rugs, hanging beadwork and a cloud-painted ceiling as a “His and Hers House of Dreams” - $195,000, delivery included.
 
 

Streams of Consciousness

 
Sean Penn, Tom Hanks, Tim Burton, Andy Garcia, Francis Ford Coppola, to name a few, are Airstreamers. And none other than lifestyle guru Martha Stewart will soon be spreading the Airstream gospel. airstream  “I love their modern antiquity,” she says. “I’ve always wished I had one.” So she is borrowing her sister-in-law Cheri Herbert’s 1976 Land Yacht for a spring antiquing trip to Maine.

The two will hitch the trailer to Ms. Stewart’s Suburban, sleep on the built-in beds and cook in its compact kitchen – every moment captured by a photographer from “Martha Stewart Living” magazine. Although “the orange and brown plaid is not exactly my liking,” Ms. Stewart has been discouraged from bringing her glue-gun. But she is packing her down comforter, hibachi, two telephones, television, fax machine – and “my own eggs from my chickens and probably some homemade jam, or jelly.”

It Isn’t known whether Mr. Penn stocks his Airstream with homemade jelly, but he did live in it after his house burned down in a 1993 wildfire. Mr. Coppola, the director, works out of an Airstream motor home stocked with video equipment.
 

“As everyone says, it is a classic,” says Mr. Edwards, who had his Airstream gutted and redecorated in a 50’s motif, right down to the pink and silver dinette chair where he sits eating his oatmeal before heading for the set.
 
 

Glittering History

The Airstream’s ascension to trailer of the stars began in the 1930s. Wally Byam, an advertising man, invented it when his wife refused to go camping unless she could take her kitchen with her. The result was a trailer with built-in amenities that mimicked the sleek, bullet-shaped design of a commercial airliner, traveling the roads “like a stream of air.”
 
 
Wally Byam Airstream Meet
Mr. Byam, who died in 1962, was clearly on to something. Since 1931, Airstream, now owned by Thor Industries Inc. in Jackson Center, Ohio, has produced over 100,000 trailers – an estimated 70,000 of which are still on the road. The appeal is global; the Japanese are so taken with the Airstream that entrepreneurs there have opened two Airstream only luxury vacation parks where the trailers rent for the equivalent of $250 a night. But the traditional Airstreamer is an American retiree who can afford to spend $60,000 (the cost of a standard high-end Airstream) and travel half the year.

Then there are the nouvelle Airstreamers. Meet Barbara Jakobson: art collector, designer, board member of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and owner of a ’74 Airstream. “For people who prize American industrial design, Airstream … is one of the primary objects of this century,” Ms. Jakobson says. “It’s a genius piece of technology.”
 
Many actors, who practically live in their trailers on location, agree. In fact, an entire Tinseltown industry exists to service and refurbish celebrity Airstreams. Mr. Garcia has his Airstream shined up several times a year; Mr. Hanks has his 34-footer washed and waxed monthly.
 
After spying Mr. Hanks’s Airstream – which boasts a “really cool badge from NASA”- on location, actor Corbin Bernsen bought one just like it, which he redid with “masculine fabrics” and an elaborate entertainment system: big-screen TV, VCR, surround sound laser disk and a satellite dish. He also bought a matching silver Suburban to tow it – and stuck his own NASA sticker on the Airstream.
 
 “My kids love it,” says Mr. Bernsen, calling from his trailer on a break from “The Cape,” his TV show. “My big hope is one summer when I’m not working to take it across the country. Definitely all five of us can sleep in it.”
 
 

Shower of Praise

Then there is Matthew Modine, who fell in love with Airstreams as a kid growing up on his dad’s California trailer court. Rather than buy a new one (“They’re so expensive! You’re confusing me for Jim Carrey.”) He snatched up a derelict ’73 for about $600. Once gutted, “it was so beautiful – the openness reminded me of a submarine,” he says.
 
So along with the silver-painted aluminum walls, the panels of perforated aluminum and the silver-mesh shades. Mr. Modine’s trailer now boasts a 50-pound metal bathroom door studded with rivets – “to look more like the door to a Submarine,” explains Andy Rogozinski, who did the job at his Inland RV Service in Corona, Calif., where the actor stores his trailer. Mr. Rogozinski opens the sub door to show a visitor the stainless steel bathroom: “Now Matthew can sit on the john and take a shower at the same time!” Pic

Right now, Mr. Rogozinski is working on three trailers belonging to director Tim Burton: among them, a ’36 Clipper, which Mr. Burton is having completely restored as a Christmas present to his girlfriend, Lisa Marie. The trailer, which boasts a pair of slanted cat-eye windows, needs new aluminum panels (distressed to look so old), a new suspension system, new maple paneling and an extra ten inches of height – “ cause he’s a tell guy.” The job will cost close to $100,000.
 
And what exactly does Mr. Burton plan to do with all these trailers? “These are supposed to be my love pads.” says Mr. Rogozinski, rolling his eyes.
 
 
Star Track

Airstreams are even winning star billing – or at least drive-on roles – in movies, music videos, commercials and “Mademoiselle” magazine, which just used one in a fashion shoot. Monday nights, you can see an Airstream barrel through the credits of “Promised Land,” a TV show about a family Airstreaming cross-country.
 
Even that arbiter of hip, MTV, is now a member of the Wally Byam Caravan Club: the lobby of its new West Coast headquarters will feature a ’57 Airstream as a funky waiting room, nestled on a bed of Astro Turf.

The Modern’s Ms. Jakobson, for one, couldn’t be more pleased with her Airstream. “I’ve had luncheons in it. I’ve entertained in it,” she says. In fact, the only thing she hasn’t done is take it off the road.
 
“Frankly,” she admits, “I’d rather stay at the Ritz.”
 
 

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Photos shown on this page and used in this article courtesy of Bryan Burkhart