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Family fun with the top down at unique RV resort

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So many of the films that Hollywood made in the ‘50s in particular were filmed down here. So I think that’s kind of fun, to have a little theme to a trailer. – Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold

ESCALANTE, Garfield County — Utah's most unusual RV park is back in business under new ownership, and that should please people who love to think back to the golden era of movie stars.

"It's fabulous," said T.K. Nichols of Salt Lake City as she prepared dinner in an Airstream trailer surrounded by reminders of the glory of old movies. "This is actually the only way that we would camp."

The Shooting Star RV Resort just outside of Escalante, Garfield County, is a slightly wacky mix of 1950s and '60s "retro" culture, movie star worship, and the mystique of a certain brand of RV. That would be the familiar, curvy, silver-sided trailer known as the Airstream, which has developed something of a cult status over the decades.

You can rent one or bring your own, which is why the resort has special appeal to Airstream enthusiasts. But customers are also invited to spend the night in competing brands — or a tent, for that matter.

Either way, the resort's unique mix of vintage 1960s cars, convertibles of course, and old-movie paraphernalia has special appeal to film buffs. In fact, the Airstreams offer a bit of the ambience of a 1950s movie location.

"The actors and actresses really did use the Airstreams when they were on site and on location," said Julie Brizzee of Salt Lake City. "It's kind of fun," she said while preparing dinner in one of the Airstreams.

The trailer labeled "Sugar's Shack" is chock full of reminders of one of the hottest stars of old movies, Marilyn Monroe. There are pictures of Monroe's famous face and posters for her classic films, particularly "Some Like It Hot," in which she played sexy singer Sugar Kane Kowalczyk.

"I love 'Some Like It Hot,'" Brizzee said. "It's a great old classic."

"Holly's Hideaway" is an Airstream for Holly Golightly fans. She's the character Audrey Hepburn played in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Sultry star Lauren Bacall is the inspiration for another Airstream trailer named "Mrs. Rutledge." Bacall played Vivian Rutledge in a classic called "The Big Sleep," in which she was embroiled with Humphrey Bogart in a tangled tale of mystery and romance.

For people who spend the night but aren't sleepy, the screenplay of "The Big Sleep" is available for bedtime reading, courtesy of resort management.

"We started reading it a little bit last night and going through some of the lines," said Monica Owen of Salt Lake City. "It makes me want to go see the movie."

Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold hauled his own Airstream to the Shooting Star RV Resort on a recent weekend, seemingly unaware that it also has a Hollywood connection. It's a small Airstream model known as the Bambi, coincidentally sharing a name with one of Walt Disney's most famous films.

"Everybody wants a little bit of Hollywood," Penfold said. "So many of the films that Hollywood made in the '50s in particular were filmed down here. So I think that's kind of fun, to have a little theme to a trailer."

Late in the day, as sunlight fades and darkness settles in at the Shooting Star, the movie theme really comes to life.

The vintage convertibles become comfortable theater seats as cartoons and feature films unspool on an outdoor movie screen.

"Yeah, this is way fun," said Christian Hall of Provo, seated behind a steering wheel watching Looney Tunes cartoon characters chase each other across the theater-size screen.

It's family fun with the top down.

"It's a very cool, unique experience — something I've never really done before," said Sahalie Donaldson of Orem. "But it's super cool."

Since it's meant to be a real drive-in movie experience, there's also a snack bar where customers can load up on popcorn and candy. The snack bar is in an Airstream trailer, of course, staffed by Michelle Levandoski and Troy Wittusen.

"I like seeing people's reaction," Wittusen said. "They have no idea there's something like this out here."

The Shooting Star was closed all last year, but Levandoski and Wittusen bought it, moved to Escalante from Salt Lake, and reopened it early in the summer. "There are very few drive-in theaters anymore," Levandoski said. "So a lot of people that come here are intrigued."

On this recent night, the feature film was, appropriately, "The Great Outdoors," in which the opening line has the John Candy character exclaiming, "Nature all around us, boys! Take it in! Take it all in!"

That, of course, is part of the appeal of the Shooting Star RV Resort. The owners hope customers will use it as a jumping-off point to enjoy an amazing variety of scenery around Escalante.

Email: hollenhorst@deseretnews.com