Trailers, but not trash

We call them caravans. Americans call them trailers. Hollywood's elite have started calling them home, says Gary Andrew Poole

Hollywood has a weird way of redefining low-brow habits and turning them into hip trends. For example, studio executives like to drive 4-wheel trucks - on their daily commute on smooth Los Angeles freeways. Or they wear cowboy boots and baseball caps to important meetings. Or down-dating as in Julia Roberts/Lyle Lovett or Claudia Schiffer/David Copperfield. But now comes one of the oddest "down-living" trends.

Within the last few years, movie stars have started buying trailers. That's right: smallish metal objects that are towed behind trucks. Trailers. Often they live in them while shooting a movie. That's the case with Tom Hanks, Tim Burton and Andy Garcia. After the Malibu fire, Sean Penn started living in his all of the time.

This being Hollywood, a certain kind of trailer has become the one to have, and it's called an Airstream. These aluminum-skinned mobile homes cost about $60,000 for a 34-footer, $25,000 for a 21-footer. But stars don't want a trailer made for a normal person, they want a luxury mobile. With that in mind, Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based "billionaire's department store", is selling a custom designed trailer that has "ceilings resembling a blue sky with clouds; walls are painted with romantic outdoor scenes; doorways have hanging beadwork; tables feature a marquetry design". In America, Airstreams are usually found in ratty trailer parks or retirement villages. The Neiman Marcus-designed trailer costs $195,000.

Which has made Airstreams into offbeat objets d'art. Hollywood types now have their assistants scouting for vintage Airstreams that they can buy from an unsuspecting, retired old person for $10,000 or less. The actor Matthew Modine has three Airstreams, one of which looks like a submarine inside, complete with a 50lb metal bathroom door studded with rivets.

Maybe it's California's many natural disasters - earthquakes, wildfires, and mudslides - that make stars show more than a passing interest in a mobile home. But there are benefits. Stars are on location constantly and want a comfortable place to stay. Plus, they want something cool. Thus, as Barbara Jakobsen of New York's Museum of Modern Art said: "For people who prize American industrial design, Airstream ... is one of the primary objects of this century!"

Like migrating birds, older Americans like to go south for the winter to retirement trailer parks in warmer climates such as Arizona and Florida. These polyester-wearing grey-hairs often live in silver bullet-design Airstream trailers, which can sleep two comfortably.

"I had a 34-footer," says Ron Reid, a retiree from Desert Center, California. He recently sold his Airstream for $40,000 because the market seemed to be picking up and because he wanted a smaller trailer. He practically cries when he thinks about his Airstream. He says he misses it because it was "quality-built" and had "no resistance" when he took it on long highway trips. When Mr Reid was told that Hollywood stars are now becoming "Streamers", he cursed himself ("Rats!") for not trying to sell to Tom Cruise.

The Airstream got its start in the Thirties. Wally Byam, who invented the Airstream, was a merchant seaman for three years before returning to the United States to earn a law degree from Stanford. He was editing a do-it-yourself magazine in 1931 when he ran plans for a build-it-yourself trailer. His readers said it didn't work. They were right. So Byam worked on improved prototypes until 1934 when he rolled out his first trailer. It looked like a sausage on wheels. It would, he declared, travel down the road "like a stream of air". At first, Byam was making wood-panelled trailers, then, in 1937, he made an aluminum trailer called a Clipper. To date, 74,000 Airstreams have been sold, says John Beaver, Airstream's director of marketing.

The chances of seeing Sean Penn and other movie stars at the annual international rally that culminates on Wally Byam's fourth of July birthday - where members wear navy-blue berets and have special identification numbers - are remote, but the trend is still a hot one.

Hence, MTV's West Coast headquarters is featuring a '57 Airstream as a waiting room. And the Hollywood Canteen has an Airstream on its patio. The Canteen is supposedly one of the best star-gazing restaurants in Hollywood with regular Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, and Drew Barrymore sightings, who are there, perhaps, to gaze at the vintage Airstream.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Asset Finance Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

    HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

    £350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

    Assistant Marketing & PR Manager

    £16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

    Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

    £50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment